Bugs, biceps and beginnings -- A Progressive Top 10
Ballpark celebrates 20 years, and these moments stand out as its most memorable
By Anthony Castrovince
CLEVELAND -- Jacobs or Progressive, The Jake or The Prog. Whatever you call it, the ballpark "on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario" has seen its share of unbelievable action over the last 20 years. And the man who so often calls the action at that intersection has seen and described just about every inning along the way.
So, we asked Tom Hamilton, the voice of the Indians, to narrow down the many magical moments at Progressive, nee Jacobs Field, to a single Top 10 list.
10. Jason Giambi's walk-off homer vs. the White Sox, Sept. 24, 2013: "Because of how that game went down -- you were going to lose it, based on [Chris] Perez blowing the lead in the ninth. I felt like if we lost that game, there's no way we make the playoffs. I just felt that that home run saved the season."
9. Albert Belle's grand slam off Lee Smith, July 18, 1995: "That was a Sunday night game, and those were the two best teams in the American League at that time. The Angels were loaded, and it looked like the Angels and Indians were headed for a collision in October. That was just one of those electric nights. Smith had that great line afterward: 'Albert hit it in the pork and beans,' referring to the picnic plaza. That night was when you knew that club was really special."
8. The AL Central clincher, Sept. 8, 1995: "I was just so amazed at the emotion in the ballpark and the city. Even though you knew it was coming, it was almost like a city didn't believe it was going to happen until it actually happened."
7. The All-Star Game, July 8, 1997: "I didn't get to broadcast it, but [my son] Nick and I were at the game. He was 7. We were sitting next to Marcus, who was Nick's age [and] Sandy [Alomar's] boy, and Sandy's wife at the time, Christie. We were sitting next to them, and Marcus' dad hits the game-winning home run. That just typified Sandy's year. It was such an incredible year for Sandy."
6. The rally against the Mariners, Aug. 5, 2001: "Seattle was the best team in the American League that year. It didn't look like we could compete, and then you're down 14-2? That was one of those games that only happens once in a lifetime. I'll never see a rally like that, I'm sure, as long as I live."
Most walk off wins 1994-2013
Source: STATS, LLC
5. "The Bug Game," Oct. 5, 2007: "Fausto Carmona [now Roberto Hernandez] pitches the game of his life, Travis Hafner gets a walk-off base hit. That put us up, 2-0. You really had a sense that was a special team, and that kind of verified it. And I think it's because it was against the Yankees. Any time you're beating the Yankees, it's a big deal. We had not beaten the Yankees in the regular season that year."
4. Game 4 of the AL Division Series against the Yankees, Oct. 5, 1997: "We were four outs away from elimination, and in '97, we were kind of 'Eh.' And Sandy ties it in the eighth inning off Mariano Rivera, and then we win it on a walk-off base hit [by Omar Vizquel] to stay alive. That home run by Sandy basically saved the whole season. If he doesn't hit that home run, we're done."
3. Game 1 of the AL Division Series against the Red Sox, Oct. 3, 1995: "You hadn't had postseason baseball in 41 years, people were so amped up for it, Boston had a good club. I felt if we lost that game, in a five-game series with the first game at home, I don't know if you ever recover. And the way they won it: Boston takes the lead in extra innings, Albert ties it with a home run -- and that was the biceps incident [Belle pointed at his biceps after being accused of corking his bat by Red Sox manager Kevin Kennedy] -- and then Tony Pena swings, 3-0, and gets the game-winning home run when he had the take sign? That game, to me, was a microcosm of the season. Always coming from behind, always winning it in your last at-bat."
2. Game 3 of the World Series against the Braves, Oct. 24, 1995: "The first World Series game in Cleveland in 41 years. Again, it was a must-win [game]. You're down 2-0, and nobody had ever come back from being down, 3-0. So the whole night was just really neat [the Indians won in 11 innings]."
1. Opening Day for Jacobs Field, April 4, 1994: "I hadn't been here as long as other people, obviously, but when I saw where they were going to build the ballpark, I was like, 'What? This parking lot on the edge of downtown?' It was inconceivable to me. But then when you got there, the park was even better than you envisioned. The ballpark legitimatized everything. You had Eddie Murray now, Orel Hershiser, Dennis Martinez -- those guys don't come without that new ballpark. And you thought you were going to have a really special team. The president's here, Randy Johnson has a no-hitter [going], and Bob Feller is pacing in the halls because he has the only Opening Day no-hitter. It was almost like all the magical moments began with that game. Wayne Kirby gets the game-winner in extra innings? It just felt like Cleveland had arrived in the big leagues with that park and that team, and to win it in that fashion."