Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Five Great Indians Home Openers! -Another Story Blog

In honor of the Indians 24th home opener at Jacob’s Field set to occur this afternoon, I thought it might be fun to look back on what I consider to be the five greatest home opening games in the ballpark’s history.

5. April 4th, 2014. The 20th anniversary of the ballpark doesn’t look to be overly impressive or exciting upon first look at the score. The Indians won handily 7-2. However, for over half the game the Tribe’s offense had been shut out, and they headed into the bottom of the sixth trailing the Minnesota Twins 2-0. Then catcher Yan Gomes had a seven pitch at bat to start off the inning, culminating in a solo home run, cutting the deficit in half. A walk and sacrifice bunt later, and Nick Swisher teed off on a pitch, scorching it into the right center field stands, netting the Indians a 3-2 lead, a lead they would continue to add on to as the game went on.

4. April 6th, 2007. A piece of humorous Cleveland sports lore is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary. Technically there is no record of this game ever happening, because well, it technically wasn’t an official game. However, those of us who tuned in or were at Jacob’s Field for this home opener will never forget the events that did transpire. It was cold, and snowy most of that Good Friday afternoon, but at just after 4pm the snow slowed to just about non-existent and the game began. Amidst snow flurries for the next four and two thirds innings, the Indians built a 4-0 lead over the Seattle Mariners. Then the snow began to really come down hard, and with two outs, the Mariners had the bases loaded and Jose Lopez at the plate. That is when Mariners manager Mike Hargrove chose to go out and plead his case with the umpires that his hitters couldn’t see the ball due to the snow. As Hargrove strategically stalled for time, the snow thickened ever more, the umpires called for the game to be delayed, and the rest as they say is history. The snow didn’t stop in Cleveland for two more days, causing the postponement of the entirely scheduled four game series, as well as moving the next scheduled three game series with the Los Angeles Angels to Milwaukee’s Miller Park. The Mariners would need to come into Cleveland three separate times throughout the summer of 2007 to make up the games. Had the Indians been allowed to get that final out in the top of the 5th inning, one game would have been official at least, but then, there wouldn’t be this chapter addition in the bizarre stories of Cleveland sports lore.

3. April 10th, 1998. On Good Friday afternoon,the Indians opened the home portion of their 1998 schedule, and had gotten a 5-4 lead to closer Mike Jackson headed into the top of the ninth inning against the then Anaheim Angels. With two outs, a single by Garrett Anderson tied the score at 5-5 and sent the game into extra innings. Despite the blown save, the Tribe was resilient, and as they entered the tenth against Angel’s closer Troy Percival, a pitcher they had a lot of success against in the 90’s, there was good reason for optimism. With two men on and one out, Jim Thome stepped up to the plate and hammered Percival’s 1-1 pitch deep into the opposite field bleachers for a walk off three run homer, sending the sell-out crowd into a roar of euphoria. My personal memory of this game, was waiting around the television with my parents while we talked with my grandparents on the phone. Our plan to all go out to a fish fry was temporarily halted when the game went into extra innings. The agreement was that if the Indians didn’t score in the 10th, we would meet at the fish fry and listen to the rest of the game via the radio. All of that discussing and deciding was brought to mute when Thome connected, sending us out to dinner on a thrilling note!

2. April 12th, 1999. It was a chilly but sunny afternoon. Dave Burba pitched for the Indians and did well, holding the Royals to just two runs. However, the Tribe’s offense was non existent, and through seven innings they trailed 2-0. Then in the bottom of the eighth, Kenny Lofton walked, and Enrique Wilson, not known for his power by any means, had a hard fought seven pitch at bat, ending with him lining a 3-2 pitch over the right field fence for a two run homer, knotting the score at 2-2! In the bottom of the ninth, the Indians loaded the bases with two outs, but Roberto Alomar grounded out and sent the game into extra innings. In the bottom of the tenth, after a walk and single put runners on first and second, Travis Fryman stepped up and launched a high fly ball that just carried over the wall in right center field, sending the sell-out crowd home happy!

1. April 4th, 1994. Simply put, the inaugural game at Jacob’s Field is still the greatest home opener the corner of Carnegie and Ontario has ever hosted. Randy Johnson took a no hitter and 2-0 lead into the eighth inning, with Indians legend Bob Feller, the only pitcher to ever hurl an opening day no hitter, pacing nervously in the press box, as his distinction began to undergo serious threat of slipping away. Johnson walked Candy Maldonado to start the bottom of the eight and then Sandy Alomar broke up the no hit bid with a single! Manny Ramirez followed that by hitting a long drive off the wall in left field for a double, allowing both runners to score and knotting the score at 2-2! The game headed to the tenth where the Mariners regained the lead 3-2, before a young Jim Thome pinch hit with a man on and one out in the tenth and lined a double down the right field, moving Manny Ramirez to third. An RBI groundout later by Omar Vizquel re-tied the score at 3-3. Finally in the bottom of the 12th, Wayne Kirby slashed a single down the left field line, scoring Eddie Murray with the winning run! It was a game that featured a little of everything, and set the tone for the type of games Jacob’s Field would host over the next 22 years!

What type of excitement will this ballpark host in 2017? We begin to find out today! Go Tribe!

Footage from The "Snow Opener" in 2007

First Game At Jacob's Field (Part 1)

First Game at Jacob's Field (Part 2)

Home Opener 2014 Highlights

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