The 2014 season will mark 20 years of baseball at Progressive (ie Jacobs) Field. It’s been a relatively short history (although with the stadium building boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Progressive Field is the 13th oldest facility in the majors). Did the Tribe Win Last Night has compiled a list of the 20 most memorable moments in the field’s history. We’ll count them down for 20 consecutive Saturdays.
19. Kenny Lofton’s return – July 27, 2007
It’s still regarded as one of the best trades in Indians history.
Eddie Taubensee was a backup catcher behind Sandy Alomar Jr., and was expendable. So the Indians sent him to Houston for, among others, a speedy outfielder named Kenny Lofton, who played on a Final Four basketball team at Arizona.
Lofton rejoiced at the chance to play every day, and led off for the Indians until 1997, when he was dealt to Atlanta with Alan Embree for David Justice and Marquis Grissom. He declared free agency after that season, and was promptly re-signed by Cleveland. In 2001, he again was a free agent, and this time went to Chicago.
In his time in Cleveland, Lofton led off and patrolled centerfield, routinely turning home runs into fly outs and manufacturing runs on the basepaths. After he left Cleveland in 2001, he bounced around, looking for that elusive World Series ring. He was on the Giants team that went to the 2002 Fall Classic, and was with the 2003 Cubs when their postseason ended in a pile of smoking wreckage in the National League Championship Series. He played for the Yankees in 2004, as they dropped a three games to none lead to the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.
But after stops in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Texas, Lofton came back to Cleveland in 2007. The Indians were in a race for their first division title since 2001, and Lofton was going to be a part of it.
He made his Indians debut on July 27 – in left field! It was the first time in his 16-year career that Lofton was playing in left in a regular season game (he made an All-Star appearance in left field).
Lofton got three hits in a 10-4 win over the Twins. Jhonny Peralta hit two home runs, but after the game, the media wanted to talk to Lofton. It was his first game back with the Indians, so he didn’t know about the team’s post-win tradition: Free agent signee Trot Nixon would come up behind whoever was doing the postgame interview and hit them with a paper plate full of whipped cream. It was Kenny’s night. And it tasted like victory.