This weekend, the Indians are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 1995 Cleveland Indian's team. That team was among the greatest in the history of baseball; certainly among the greatest baseball teams to not win a World Series!
Every night it seemed, they would find a way to win, especially when they were at home in the still new Jacobs Field! They won over a dozen games in walk off fashion, often setting off car horn celebrations echoing into the summer night air in downtown Cleveland! They had a lineup that boasted eight .300 hitters! They had a starting rotation made up of veterans pitching their butts off for one last shot at glory! The bullpen was almost equally untouchable! They won 100 games in a strike shortened 144 game season!
Alas I didn't watch much of those games during that glorious summer, but my grandfather began telling me about them. How the Indians were truly one of the most exciting teams he had ever watched, and he could remember the 1948 championship team. That summer, we would watch an inning or two of the games on TV, whenever I was at my grandparents house, and he began teaching me the rules of baseball, and the beauty that is the game!
By October of that year, as the post season began, I had become a fan! I remember the first playoff game, I remember watching the first innings of it on TV at my grandparents. The excitement around Cleveland was everywhere!
I have never lost my love for baseball, even now as the Indians have come close to, but never quite been as magic as that electric summer of '95. Echoes of that pulse still turn up once in while. Certainly it was present in the Tribe's unlikely return to the World Series in 1997, when they beat out both the Yankees and baseball's best team that year, the Orioles, to get there. Again in 2007 the late game heroics and playoff run brought to mind memories of 1995.
Most recently in 2013, Jason Giambi seemed to channel 1995 Indians magic when he belted a pinch hit two out two run game winning home run to keep the Tribe's late season playoff push alive! Not only Giambi seemed to conjure up such memories, but the fans seemed to as well at Jacob's Field that night, as they roared loudly, and didn't leave for a good ten minutes after Giambi has completed his victory lap around the bases!
I was there in person that night, and as I walked out of the stadium, serenaded by many a car horn, I felt that I finally was being given a small taste of what was nearly a nightly reality during the 1995 season: I was walking in a city full of boundless enthusiasm over a baseball team providing joy to fans in attendance and fans watching on their televisions and listening on their radios!
The 1995 Cleveland Indians started what is now known as the "glory days" of Indians baseball that lasted through 1997. While we will never have that exact same team again, we certainly still have a team, and one that is once again building into a force to contend with on a daily basis.
20 years has now passed, wow! I am looking forward to attending the celebration this weekend, thinking about my grandfather, now passed on, who taught me to love the game with that season as a backdrop! I was spoiled for sure, but then everyone who was a child back then was, believing no deficit was too large, and no lead was too small. It was special, and most certainly worth celebrating!
May we one day win that elusive World Series!
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