The Greatest Summer Ever: Paul Sorrento

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 #14 Paul Sorrento.

When the Indians traded for Paul Sorrento in March of 1992, they acquired a nice first base prospect with a good glove and a big swing.  Sorrento had helped the Minnesota Twins win the World Series the previous year, so the Indians were also adding someone with playoff experience to their team that had some lofty long-term goals despite coming off of a 105 loss season in ’91.

Sorrento was inserted immediately into manager Mike Hargrove’s starting lineup.  In the ’92 season, he hit a respectable .269 with 18 homeruns and 60 RBI.  1993 was almost identical, as Paulie hit .257 with another 18 homeruns and 65 RBI.  In the strike shortened ’94 season, Sorrento’s average climbed to .280 and he added 14 bombs with 62 RBI.  If nothing else, Paul Sorrento could be counted on for consistency.

Another part of his game that Paul Sorrento could be counted on to provide, however, was a lot of strikeouts.  Sorrento never got cheated at the plate.  He would swing a lot and he would always swing hard.  This all-or-nothing approach resulted in a bunch of K’s, but it also resulted in a lot of homeruns.  Over his 11 year career, Sorrento struck out 844 times (a 162 game average of 125) and blasted 166 homeruns (an average of 25 per 162 games).  In 1995, Sorrento appeared in only 104 games due to the player’s strike and a second half platoon with rookie Herbert Perry, but Sorrento still smashed his 25 bombs for the season.

Sorrento had a knack for coming through in the clutch and he made the most out of many of his homeruns.  For his career, Sorrento blasted nine grand slams, tying on the all-time list with big-name hitters like Yogi Berra, Orlando Cepeda, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Sammy Sosa and Jim Thome.

Two of Sorrento’s slams came in the summer of 1995.  The first came on May 9 in record-setting fashion when Sorrento took Kansas City Royals’ starter Doug Linton deep to give the Indians an 8-0 lead.  The reason that the lead was record-setting was because the Indians had the 8-0 lead with nobody out in the first inning.  At the time, this was an American League record for runs scored in a game before making an out (the Boston Red Sox broke the Tribe’s record in 2003 by scoring 10 runs against the Florida Marlins).  The Indians went on to win the game 10-0 behind the strong pitching of Orel Hershiser.  The second grand slam came in a bit more of a close game.

On August 2, 41,947 fans were on hand to watch the first place Indians face the last place Twins.  Minnesota was already 28.5 games out of first place and had Dodger castoff Jose Parra on the mound to face the dangerous Tribe lineup.  The Indians countered with starting pitcher Chad Ogea, who was in the middle of a terrific rookie year.

The Twins struck early off of Ogea, scoring an unearned run in the top of the first when future Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett singled to right field.  A throwing error on the relay by second baseman Carlos Baerga allowed Rich Becker to score and gave Minnesota an early 1-0 lead.

The second inning provided even more thunder from the Twins.  First baseman Dan Masteller and his .198 batting average lined the first pitch of the inning into the right-centerfield gap for a leadoff double.  Catcher Matt Walbeck followed by beating out an infield single to shortstop Omar Vizquel, who was at least able to hold Masteller at second base.  Omar’s efforts were for naught, however, as third baseman Scott Stahoviak drove Ogea’s 2-1 pitch deep into the bleachers for a three-run homer and a 4-0 Twins lead.

When you were a visiting team in Cleveland in 1995, your luck could change very quickly, however.  Albert Belle led off the bottom of the second with a homerun deep to left, cutting the Minnesota lead to three.  Designated hitter Eddie Murray followed with a fly out, but Jim Thome grounded Parra’s 2-1 pitch through the right side for a single.  A wild pitch sent Thome to second and right fielder Manny Ramirez singled into left.  Thome, not known for his record breaking speed, was held at third with Sorrento coming to bat.

Only needing a fly ball to cut into the lead, Sorrento struck out, leaving the Indians needing a hit from their #9 hitter to bring home Thome.  Catcher Sandy Alomar batted ninth that day, and Alomar came through with a single through the left side for a two-out RBI single.  The next batter, Kenny Lofton, hit a line drive down the right field line that scooted past Puckett.  Ramirez scored easily and Alomar was able to race home from first on the clutch triple by the speedy Lofton.  With the score now tied 4-4, the Tribe took a 5-4 lead when Vizquel beat out a bunt single to third, scoring Lofton.

With all of the momentum in the Tribe dugout, Ogea promptly gave all of it back to the Twins.  After getting future Indian Marty Cordova to strike out to start the third, Ogea walked DH Ron Coomer.  A single by Masteller moved Coomer to third, putting runners at the corners with just one out.  Walbeck followed by grounding the ball to Sorrento at first, who forced Masteller at second, but Vizquel’s relay throw was not in time to get Walbeck.  Coomer scored on the fielder’s choice to tie the score back up at five.

The 5-5 score held until the bottom of the fourth.  Twins manager Tom Kelly went to his bullpen and veteran righty Greg Harris to face the Tribe.  Sorrento led off the inning by blooping a single in front of the centerfielder, Becker.  After Alomar struck out, Lofton continued his big day by blasting another ball into the right-center gap, scoring Sorrento, giving the Tribe a 6-5 lead, and putting Lofton at third with his second triple of the day.  Lofton was stranded at third when Belle flew out to end the inning a few batters later.

Mark Clark came into the ballgame to replace Ogea shortly after the Twins tied the ballgame in the third.  Working into the top of the fifth, Clark had not allowed a run, but was still allowing runners to reach base.  He walked the first man he faced in the ballgame, allowed a single the next inning before working out of it, and walked another man in the top of the 5th.  With Clark flirting with danger, the season-long slump that Clark had been in, and the Twins hot bats that day, the one run lead did not give Tribe fans a whole lot of comfort.

Things did get more comfortable quickly for the Tribe faithful, however.  With Harris still in the game, the switch-hitting Murray was able to work the count full before drawing a leadoff walk.  The ever-patient Thome followed by drawing a free pass of his own after working the count full for a second batter in a row.  The next batter, Ramirez, drew another base on balls, this time on a 3-1 count.  Kelly could watch no more and went to lefthander “Everyday Eddie” Guardado to face the lefty Sorrento.  Walking three straight batters on the 1995 Indians was like pulling the pin on a hand grenade and hoping it wouldn’t blow up.  This day, with nobody out and the bases loaded, Sorrento exploded.

Sorrento drove Guardado’s 0-2 pitch deep into the right field seats for a grand slam, all but ending any hopes that day for the Twins.  The Indians now held a 10-5 lead and all of the wind was out of Minnesota’s sails.  The Twins had fallen victims to the Jacobs Field magic, the thunderous Indians lineup, and their former first baseman’s mighty swing.

The Indians held on to their now massive lead and ended up winning the ballgame 12-6.  The Twins added a run off of Clark in the top of the eighth inning and Belle blasted his second homerun of the night, a 2-run shot, onto “Albert’s Alley” in the bottom half.  With this victory, the Indians put their record at 60-27, best in the Majors.

Sorrento finished the season with a .235 average, 25 homeruns and 79 RBI.  This made 1995 Sorrento’s most powerful season with the Tribe, but with his lowest batting average.  Still, all the homeruns and RBI’s make Sorrento arguably the most productive 8th place hitter in franchise history.

Sorrento’s good production followed him into the first round of the playoffs against Boston.  Sorrento batted .300 against the Red Sox and drove in a run in the deciding game three, but that game was the end of Sorrento’s productivity for the year.

Sorrento struggled through the ALCS against Seattle with a .153 batting average.  Limited playing time (with no DH in the National League) contributed to his struggles in the World Series against Atlanta where he batted .181.  Sorrento failed to drive in a run in either series.

After 1995, the Indians decided to cut ties with Paul Sorrento in favor of bringing back former Indian Julio Franco.  Franco spent the 1995 season playing in Japan, but seemed to be an upgrade in terms of batting average and getting on base.  Sorrento’s power, however, would be missed as Sorrento signed with the Seattle Mariners for the 1996 season.

The two seasons that Sorrento spent in Seattle were arguably the two best of Sorrento’s career.  In ’96, Paulie blasted 23 homers and had career-highs with a .289 batting average and 93 RBI.  In 1997, he hit a career best 31 round-trippers in his last season with the M’s.  Sorrento would finish his career in Tampa Bay as a member of the original Devil Rays.  Sorrento retired after two years in Tampa, following the 1999 season.  In January of 2012, Sorrento began his coaching career when he was hired to be the hitting coach of the Inland Empire 66ers, a class A affiliate for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Next:  Paul Assenmacher

Previous Entries:
#26 Dave Winfield
#25 Mark Clark
#24 Wayne Kirby
#23 Alan Embree
#22 Alvaro Espinoza
#21 Herbert Perry
#20 Ken Hill
#19 Jim Poole
#18 Chad Ogea
#17 Sandy Alomar
#16 Tony Pena
#15 Eric Plunk


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