The 2013 season will mark the 20th year 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 while we wait for Opening Day.
16. 1996 ALDS Game 4—Albert Belle’s Last Blast
The Indians followed up their 1995 pennant with 99 wins in 1996, giving them the top seed in the American League playoffs. They would play the Baltimore Orioles, who were making their first postseason appearance since winning the 1983 World Series.
Postseason seeding has never been kind to the Indians, who have never had home field advantage in their five World Series appearances, despite having the better record in four of them. (In the other one, in 1997, the Indians had fewer wins, but were a division winner playing the wild card Florida Marlins.) The American League Division Series format at the time was two games at the lower-seeded team, and three at the higher-seeded team.
The Indians lost the first two games in Baltimore, and the series returned to Cleveland. The Indians took the lead in the first when a Kevin Seitzer groundout scored Kenny Lofton, but Baltimore tied the game in the second when Indians pitcher Jack McDowell hit Brady Anderson with the bases loaded. The Indians retook the lead in the bottom half on a solo home run by Manny Ramirez and an RBI double by Jose Vizcaino. BJ Surhoff’s three-run homer in the top of the fourth gave the lead back to Baltimore, 4-3, and Seitzer tied the game again with an RBI single in the bottom of the fourth.
In the bottom of the seventh, Orioles reliever Jesse Orosco walked the bases loaded. He was lifted for Armando Benitez, who for his troubles got to face Albert Belle. Benitez got ahead of Belle, but on a 1-2 pitch, left one for Belle to send out of the park, a grand slam that suddenly gave the Indians an 8-4 lead. Seitzer hit another RBI single in the bottom of the eighth, and the Tribe lived to fight another day.
That home run was Albert Belle’s last in an Indians uniform. In fact, it was his last hit for the Tribe. He went 0-for-4 with a walk in Game 4 as Robbie Alomar’s extra-inning home run sealed the series for the Orioles. Belle, a free agent after that season, signed with the White Sox to become baseball’s highest-paid player, but he never came close to the playoffs after that.