The Top 20 Moments in Jacobs Field History: Cleveland Opens Park in Style

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.

5. Opening Day 1994

After spending the better part of 60 years at Municipal Stadium, the Indians moved to Jacobs Field, farther up East Ninth Street where the highways all met. The new ballpark was more intimate than the cavernous Municipal Stadium, which could be filled with 80,000 screaming fans for the Browns, but didn’t draw as well for Indians games – not that the team was much to watch for most of the previous 40 years.

The Tribe opened the stadium with an exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but Opening Day on April 4, 1994 was a gala event. The unpredictable and unpleasant Cleveland weather was cooperative, offering sunny skies and relatively warm temperatures. President Bill Clinton and Ohio Gov. George Voinovich were on hand to throw out ceremonial first pitches, as was Indians legend Bob Feller.

The Tribe was hosting the Seattle Mariners, and it was a reunion of sorts for new Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel, traded from Seattle for shortstop Felix Fermin and outfielder Reggie Jefferson.

On the hill for the Mariners was Randy Johnson, an exceedingly tall pitcher with a whipping delivery of a fastball that made sluggers quake in their cleats. Johnson shut down the Indians lineup for the first seven innings, and the sellout crowd was starting to get a little nervous. So was Rapid Robert, who was the only pitcher to claim an Opening Day no-hitter. A Sandy Alomar single in the eighth – the first hit in Jacobs Field history – allowed Feller to hold on to that title, but the Indians were trailing 2-0 at that point.

The Mariners’ Eric Anthony got the stadium’s first hit in the first. He also drove in the first run, plating Edgar Martinez. Two innings later, Anthony got the first home run at the Jake, a solo blast.

Johnson walked Candy Maldonado before Alomar’s hit in the eighth, and both runners advanced on a wild pitch, and both scored on a double by Manny Ramirez, tying the game.

In the top of the 10th, Keith Mitchell was brought in to pinch-hit for Jefferson against Derek Lilliquist with two on and two out. He singled to score Ken Griffey Jr., but Eric Plunk was brought in to pitch to Dan Wilson, who grounded out to Vizquel.

The Indians tied the game up in the bottom of the 10th with a groundout by Omar Vizquel scoring Wayne Kirby, who was brought in to pinch-run for Manny Ramirez. And in the 11th, with Sandy Alomar at second and Eddie Murray at third, Kirby singled, scoring Murray and winning the game. It was the first Opening Day win for the Tribe in five years – and the first of many come-from-behind wins for the Indians at the Jake.

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