Espinoza’s Race Home Makes Him Memorable Flash in Indians’ Pan
Signed by the Houston Astros as an amateur free agent in 1978, Espinoza didn’t become an Indian until 1993 when he signed as a free agent. He would play in 344 games over four seasons for the Indians. He hit .252 with 11 home runs and 74 RBI in those four seasons. However, he may best be known for his antics and one memorable slide.
Espinoza was a clubhouse clown for the Indians. He was the loose, a down-to-Earth guy in the dugout. One of his favorite things to do was to blow a bubble and then stick it to the top of a teammate’s hat. While Espinoza and others would be cracking up, the victim would have absolutely no idea. The reactions when the player finally found out what was on his hat ranged from rage to joining his teammates in laughter.
In 1995, the Indians made their first World Series since 1954. It was a dream season, but the dream was quickly turning ugly as the Indians returned to Clevelanddown 2-0 to Atlanta. In Game 3, the Indians and Braves were tied 6-6 in the bottom of the 11th inning. Carlos Baerga hit a leadoff double off the wall in right-center field. Espinoza came in to pinch run for Baerga and after an intentional walk to Albert Belle, Eddie Murray stepped up. Bob Costas’ call of the winning single still resonates with Indians fans everywhere.
“He lines it into center. Here comes the pinch-runner Espinoza. The Indians are back in the World Series!”
Espinoza slid safely into home as Marquis Grissom’s throw from center field was airmailed. Jim Thome was waiting and Espinoza appeared to slide right into Thome’s arms. The mob scene began and the Indians were alive. They would lose the series in six games, but the image of Espinoza’s slide remains.
Espinoza’s MLB career began withMinnesotain 1984. He would play in 70 games over three seasons with the Twins. In his limited playing time, he hit .242 with no homers and 10 RBI. He was in the Twins organization until they granted him free agency after the 1987 season, in which he spent the entire season in the minors.
The New York Yankees saw potential in Espinoza, so they signed him before the 1988 season. It would be his longest-tenured stop of his career. In 447 games with the Yankees, Espinoza hit seven homers and 94 RBI while hitting .255. However, it wasn’t enough for the Yankees to retain Espinoza and they released him before the 1992 season. That’s when the Indians entered the picture.
Espinoza spent the entire 1992 season in the minors for the Indians, but would be in the majors for the next four seasons. However, Espinoza was included in the emotional trade that sent fan-favorite Baerga to the New York Mets in exchange for Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino. Despite hitting .306 with four home runs and 16 RBI in only 48 games with the Mets, it wasn’t enough for the Mets to bring him back and he was released by the team before the 1997 season. The Seattle Mariners signed him a few days later, but his tenure there was short lived. He only played 33 games for the M’s, and he hit a dismal .181 with no homers and seven RBI. The Mariners released him on July 14, and that was the last time Espinoza played professional baseball.
That ends the tale of Alvaro Espinoza, another tale of a player who went down in infamy for one memorable moment. If that doesn’t scream “Cleveland,” I don’t know what does.