2015 Hall of Fame Class Brings Back Fond Memories of Great Indians Era

Major League Baseball in the 1990s and early 2000s was a unique time for the sport and will be remembered in many different ways.

Some major records were broken, both offensively and on the mound. There were a good number of stars that were revered. It seemed there were more great players during that period than at any other time.

Unfortunately, the era received a little bit of a black eye due to some of the major players having been caught for steroid used. However, that is not the case for all the top names of the 90s and first portion of this century. Last year and this year have proven that, despite guys like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and others being held out of Cooperstown for PEDs, history will look kindly at the era, as a whole.

On Tuesday it was announced that former second baseman Craig Biggio and pitchers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz will will take their rightful place in baseball’s museum of stars. That quartet joins last year’s inductees Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine as iconic names from an unforgettable era.

In Cleveland, it will be yet another walk down memory lane to a time when the Indians were the toast of the town, selling out game on a nightly basis and competing for division and World Series titles multiple times.

The newest Hall of Famers were etching their names as all-time greats when the Tribe was enjoying arguably its best run in franchise history.

You have to start with Johnson when it comes to thinking about those great players and their history against the Indians. The Big Unit pitched for the Seattle Mariners in the first game ever for what was then Jacobs Field. He took a no hitter into the eighth inning before the Indians finally struck against him and eventually won 4-3 in extra inning to send the home crowd home happy in the ballpark’s christening.

In 1995, the Indians had another memorable run-in with the big lefty. In that year’s American League Championship Series, the Tribe punched their first trip in 41 years to the World Series with a victory over the Unit.

Johnson did not take a lot of losses in his career, winning 303 times. He struck out 4,875 hitters, second only to the great Nolan Ryan.

Of course, after knocking off Johnson in the 1995 ALCS, the Indians run up against Smoltz and the Braves in the World Series. It did not end well for Cleveland as Atlanta won in six games. Smoltz made one forgettable start against the Wahoo Warriors, surrendering four runs in 2 and 1/3 frames, good for a 15.43 ERA. It was a rare postseason struggle for Smoltz who was normally at his best when the stage was the biggest. He had 2.67 ERA in 41 postseason appearances, going 15-4 with four saves.

Smoltz, a great starter, also proved a top-notch reliever. He spent three seasons as Atlanta’s closer in the early 2000s. With 213 wins and 154 saves, he is the only player in baseball history with more than 200 victories and 150 saves in a career.

Martinez was also a famous postseason thorn in the side for the Indians. Of course, he was nearly playing for Cleveland in 1997. Reports indicated that the Expos, who were set to lose the free-agent Martinez after ’97 campaign, talking to the Tribe about a deal involving Jarrett Wright. The Indians were not willing to part with Wright, a player with a ton of potential. As Wright helped the Tribe to the 1997 Series, it seemed like a good decision. However, Wright never did much after.

Meanwhile, Martinez won 219 games, with a 2.93 ERA and helped Boston to the 2004 World Series title, the Red Sox first since 1918.

Martinez met the Tribe in the 1998 and 1999 American League Division Series. Cleveland won in 1998 before falling to the Yankees in the ALCS. The Tribe lost to Boston in 1999. An epic Game 5 collapse that saw Martinez slam the door in relief triggered the end of Mike Hargrove‘s great run as Indians manager.

As for Biggio, the Indians did not have a lot of history with the career Houston Astros. Houston, at the time, was in the National League. Even with interleague play being added, meetings between Cleveland and Houston were not as frequent. However, Biggio will definitely be remembered by anyone who followed the game. In an era of muscle-bound hitters, Biggio had a smaller frame. That did not stop him from joining the elite 3,000 hit club, ensuring his ticket to Cooperstown.

When this great foursome is inducted into the Hall this July, it will be a great time for baseball fans to remember the 1990s and early 2000s for the great things that came out of what many feel is a tainted era. It will be a time for Indians fans to remember a time when winning felt like a birth rite. It is not, of course. However, the Indians have put together two straight good seasons. With a little push and a couple breaks, the Tribe could be in the postseason again this year. That would be an even more meaningful spark to remembering the “good ol’ days.”

Photo: AP Photo

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