The Greatest Summer Ever: Ruben Amaro
Steve Eby | On 21, Apr 2015
Throughout the 2015 season, Did the Tribe Win Last Night will take a look back at the 1995 Cleveland Indians for the 20th anniversary of their fourth pennant winning season. Included will be historic game recaps, headlining stories and a ranking of the team’s most influential players that truly made 1995 The Greatest Summer Ever. Today looks back at player #27: Ruben Amaro.
Ruben Amaro is and will always be remembered as a Philadelphia Phillie, spending five of his eight Major League seasons as a player in the City of Brotherly Love and then more than a decade and a half as a member of their front office and eventually their General Manager. In Cleveland, however, Amaro should be remembered for being a member of the exciting 1994 and dominant 1995 Indians teams and a man who cemented his face on Tribe highlight tapes forever.
During Game Six of the ’95 ALCS against the Seattle Mariners, Amaro was the man who scored first on a wild pitch from Randy Johnson that Kenny Lofton alertly scored on as well. With Lofton at second and Amaro at third, Johnson fired a pitch that skipped off Dan Wilson‘s glove and rolled to the backstop. Amaro scored easily, but the lightning-fast Lofton blazed the Kingdome turf and put the pennant-winning game squarely in the Indians hands.
Not just a footnote on an Indians ‘s highlight film, Amaro filled in nicely during the summer of ’95 as a reserve outfielder, in particular during a midseason stretch when Lofton was hampered by injuries.
Amaro batted just .200 with one homerun and seven RBI during the ’95 season, but also appeared in just 28 games. Primarily a pinch runner by the time fall rolled around, the athletic and quick-footed Amaro made the Indians postseason roster ahead of veteran and future Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, who had struggled to hit all summer long. The roster spot allowed Amaro to become the answer to a Kenny Lofton trivia question and gave him an opportunity to shine at the Kingdome for the second time that season as it was also the place where Amaro had his best game as an Indian on July 28.
The Friday night showdown between the first place Tribe and the .500, third place Mariners was met with particular interest from the Cleveland side as the newly acquired Ken Hill was making his first start as a member of the Indians. Traded to the Tribe just the day before from the St. Louis Cardinals, the 1994 All-Star pitched well enough to earn his first victory as an American Leaguer, but the bullpen struggled and threw away Hill’s hard effort.
The Tribe jumped out early in the top of the first inning as an Omar Vizquel single, Carlos Baerga double and an intentional walk to Albert Belle loaded the bases off of Seattle starter Bill Krueger. A strikeout of Manny Ramirez gave Krueger a punchers chance of escaping the damage, but a two-RBI single up the middle by Herbert Perry gave the Tribe a rare 2-0 Kingdome advantage. Coming into the game, the Indians had lost 11 of their previous 13 games in Seattle dating back to 1992 and were only 8-21 there during the 1990’s.
Hill consistently fell behind in the count, but was able to work around some baserunners in the first three innings. It took until the bottom of the fourth for the M’s to tie the ballgame up at 2-2, with the big blow coming via an RBI double by third baseman Mike Blowers.
Still tied in the top of the sixth, the Indians regained their advantage off of reliever Bob Wells. After Perry grounded out to start the inning, Winfield gapped a double into left-centerfield. An intentional walk to Jim Thome brought Sandy Alomar to the plate and the catcher untied the game with a single to center. With a 3-2 lead, Amaro then slapped a double down into the right field corner that plated Thome and pushed Alomar to third. The Tribe got another insurance run immediately after, when Omar Vizquel brought home Alomar on a sacrifice fly.
After working a scoreless bottom half, Hill handed the 5-2 lead over to the Julian Tavarez, who was in the middle of an outstanding rookie year. Uncharacteristic of his 1995 season, Tavarez struggled and coughed up the three run lead by giving up a two-RBI single to Edgar Martinez and a sac fly to Jay Buhner. It took the potential victory away from Hill, but gave Amaro another chance to shine in the top of the eighth.
Thome, who went 3-3 in the contest, led off the frame with a single and was pushed to second on an Alomar sacrifice bunt. This set the stage for Amaro, who brought Thome around by dropping a single into centerfield for the game-winning RBI. Closer Jose Mesa allowed two singles and a walk to load the bases in an interesting ninth, but he struck out pinch hitter Luis Sojo to close out the game for his 28th save of the year.
In addition to bringing home the game winning run, Amaro drove home an important insurance run in the contest and also made a difficult, rally-killing catch on a dead sprint in the top of the first. It was unquestionably Amaro’s best game as a member of the Tribe and showcased the skillset that convinced Mike Hargrove to add him to the playoff roster.
After the 1995 season, Amaro signed as a free agent with Philadelphia–the place he had also spent the 1992 and 1993 seasons. Amaro had his best success as a role player for the ’96 Phillies, batting a solid .316 in 117 at bats. Amaro retired after the 1998 season and instantly joined the Phillies front office.
Working as an Assistant to the General Manager for the better part of a decade, Amaro got his big break after the 2008 season when the Phillies won the World Series. Amaro was named General Manager of the team after Pat Gillick retired from his GM duties, although Gillick stayed on to become the team’s President.
Next: Dave Winfield
Photo: Pacific Baseball Cards