The Greatest Summer Ever: Chad Ogea
Steve Eby | On 09, Mar 2014
For the next 26 days, DTTWLN will profile and break down the roster of arguably the most exciting sports team that Cleveland has ever seen; the 1995 Cleveland Indians. The ’95 Tribe won 100 games in a strike-shortened 144 game schedule, won their first Central Division title and made the playoffs and World Series for the first time since 1954. Six players made the American League All-Star team, eight players batted .300 or better, and the pitching staff had the lowest ERA in the American League. The players have been ranked from the most important to the Tribe’s success to the 26th. Today breaks down #18 Chad Ogea.
Cleveland fans will always remember Chad Ogea for his effort during the 1997 World Series. During that series against the Florida Marlins, Ogea started game two and game six, with the Indians trailing the series by one game each time. Each time, Ogea played brilliantly. The word “played” was carefully chosen because it was not just Ogea’s effort on the pitching mound that made his series one for the ages.
Ogea did pitch brilliantly, allowing one run in each game and knotting the series up each time, but it was his bat that separated Ogea from everyone else. After taking an 0-2 with a sacrifice bunt in game two, Ogea flexed his batting muscles in game six against Florida ace Kevin Brown, lacing a bases loaded single, scoring two runs in the second inning, then slicing a leadoff double and scoring a run in the fifth. With all due respect to Sandy Alomar (.367 batting average with two homeruns and ten RBI), Ogea would have been the World Series MVP had the Tribe bullpen (*cough* Jose Mesa *cough*) not blown the lead in the bottom of the ninth inning of game seven.
What people don’t normally realize is that Ogea’s 1997 World Series came after a somewhat poor regular season. Chad lost more games than he won that season (8-9) and had an ERA of nearly five (4.99). Ogea’s best season actually came two years prior, when he was a rookie on the 1995 Indians.
At the beginning of ’95, Ogea’s role was a bit undefined. He bounced back and forth a couple of times between the Indians and AAA Buffalo before being called up to the Tribe for good at the start of June. Ogea started in the Indian bullpen and did not become a starter for the Tribe until the Indians had seen enough of Mark Clark’s struggles to put him into the rotation. It was during his time in the bullpen that Ogea became the unsung hero in one of the most memorable games of the season.
June 4 was a sunny Sunday afternoon at Jacobs Field when the Indians faced off against the Toronto Blue Jays. Jason Grimsley started for the Indians and Blue Jay ace and reigning Cy Young Award winner David Cone toed the rubber for Toronto. It had to be a “dream come true” for a young pitcher like Grimsley…to face a great pitcher like Cone…but that dream quickly turned into a nightmare for the young right hander.
Toronto leadoff man Devon White led off the game with a walk to bring up shortstop Alex Gonzalez. White promptly stole second base, and Grimsley proceeded to walk Gonzalez and the next batter, future Hall of Famer Paul Molitor. Former Indian Joe Carter, amongst a chorus of boos, singled home White and Gonzalez with a grounder through the left side that gave the Jays a 2-0 lead with no outs and runners on first and third. The next batter, John Olerud, laced Grimsley’s 1-0 pitch into leftfield for a single, scoring Molitor and moving Carter to second. It was now 3-0 Toronto, still with nobody out. Future Indian Roberto Alomar laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt, advancing the runners, but giving Grimsley the first out of the inning. Any positive feelings that Grimsley got from the out quickly vanished, however, as Blue Jays right fielder Shawn Green blasted a three-run homerun over the centerfield wall to build the lead to 6-0. With action in the bullpen, Grimsley walked third baseman Ed Sprague after running the count full. After that, Tribe manager Mike Hargrove had seen more than enough of Grimsley and summoned Ogea from the bullpen.
Initially, Ogea did not fare much better than Grimsley. The first man that Ogea faced, former Indian Lance Parrish, blooped a single into right, moving Sprague to third. The next batter, White, hit a sacrifice fly to Albert Belle in left, officially closing the book on the Tribe starter. Grimsley’s final line for the day was seven earned runs, three hits and four walks in one-third of an inning. With Cone on the mound, a 7-0 deficit seemed insurmountable, even for the mighty Indians.
For the first two innings, Cone did a good job with the Indians by holding them scoreless and not allowing a runner past first base. Ogea pitched a scoreless second inning but gave up another Blue Jay run in the third on another sacrifice fly by the centerfiElder White. With the score now 8-0 Toronto, Ogea needed to settle in quickly if he wanted to give the Tribe any chance of pecking away at the lead…and peck away they did.
The Indians made the score 8-1 in the bottom of the third when Omar Vizquel lined an RBI single, scoring Wayne Kirby from second. They chipped in two more runs in the fourth, as Kenny Lofton laced a two-run single that brought home Jim Thome and Paul Sorrento. Eddie Murray blasted a two-run homerun in the fifth, and Belle singled home catcher Scooter Tucker in the sixth for the Indians sixth run, running Cone out of the game.
In the meantime, Ogea was cruising through the Blue Jay lineup. He set down the Jays 1-2-3 in the fourth, including a strikeout of Carter. He got the bottom of the lineup in order again in the fifth, and allowed only a Molitor infield single with two outs in the sixth. With the Tribe within striking distance at 8-6 in the seventh, Ogea shut the Jays down again, allowing only a two-out double to Green.
Ogea had done his job. He kept the game from getting out of control and gave his team a chance to come back. Now, the Indians were only down by two runs with three chances to get the rest of them back.
The Tribe, however, did little with their first two chances. Blue Jay lefty Tony Castillo held the Indians in check in the seventh and eighth innings, setting down the Tribe bats in order each inning. Meanwhile, Ogea had given way to Julian Tavarez and he matched Castillo pitch for pitch in the top of the eighth and ninth, keeping the Indians deficit at two.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Castillo threw out switch hitter Carlos Baerga on a bunt attempt to start the inning. With the right handed Belle on deck, Toronto manager Cito Gaston went to his reliable righty Darren Hall to face the Indians cleanup batter.
Belle welcomed Hall rudely, grounding the ball to the second baseman Alomar for a single, on a ball that was initially ruled an error. Two pitches later, Murray grounded a single into right field, moving Belle to third. For the first time all afternoon, the Indians had the go-ahead run at home plate. Alvero Espinoza pinch ran at first base for the 39 year-old Murray, and Thome came to the plate as the possible winning run. The 41,688 in attendance had a collective heart attack when Thome grounded the Hall pitch to Alomar, who flipped it to Gonzalez at short for the second out. The pinch-running Espinoza was fast enough to break up the potential game-ending double play, as Thome was safe at first and Belle scored to cut the Blue Jay lead to one.
With two outs and the tying run at first, Sorrento strode to the plate to face the right handed Hall. Sorrento had already hit 11 homeruns on the season and the crowd was begging for Paulie to hit another. Sorrento did not take long to oblige. On the first pitch that he laid his eyes on, Sorrento crushed a titanic blast into the right field seats for a two run, game winning bomb. The impossible comeback was complete. The final score: Blue Jays 8, Indians 9.
Jacobs Field exploded with cheers as Sorrento rounded the bases. The faithful Tribe fans clapped, hugged each other and laughed in the faces of the bewildered Blue Jay fans that had made their way in from Toronto to watch their team that afternoon. As became tradition in all of the walk-off blasts in ’95, Sorrento was greeted at home plate by all of his smiling and laughing teammates and received the beating of a lifetime as his friends pounded the hell out of his helmet. It was one of the most exciting games in a 1995 season that provided plenty of excitement and it was most likely the highlight of Paul Sorrento’s baseball career.
Lost in the hoopla of an eight run comeback and a legendary walk-off blast that nearly landed in the second deck was the outstanding game that Chad Ogea had pitched. Tavarez got credit for the win, but Ogea is the real reason that the Indians won. Ogea pitched 6.2 innings that day out of the bullpen, allowing only one run and striking out three. He calmed down the Blue Jay bats that had been crushing Grimsley, and his dominance on the mound allowed the Indians to fight all the way back to win a game that they had no business winning after the top of the first inning. Sorrento will forever be remembered for his blast with two outs in the ninth, but Ogea was the real hero of that game.
Ogea’s heroics were not lost on his manager. Hargrove inserted Ogea into the starting rotation the following week when Mark Clark was optioned to AAA. Ogea had an outstanding rookie season the rest of the way, totaling eight wins and only three losses, tossing his first complete game on July 6 in an 8-1 win over Seattle, and posting a 3.05 ERA which is the lowest of his career.
Ogea’s outstanding season earned him a spot in the Indians bullpen on the postseason roster. Hargrove opted to go with a four man rotation in the playoffs, leaving Ogea off of the starting staff in favor of the four veterans ahead of him. Ogea appeared in only one playoff game in 1995, pitching two-thirds of a scoreless inning in a mop-up role against the Mariners in game four of the American League Championship Series.
Chad Ogea pitched for the Indians through the 1998 season, highlighted by his amazing games in the 1997 World Series. In November of ’98, the Tribe traded Ogea to the Philadelphia Phillies for journeyman reliever Jerry Spradlin. Ogea pitched in 36 games for the Phils in 1999 but arm problems ended Ogea’s Major League career after that season at the age of 28.
Tomorrow: Sandy Alomar Jr.