When the 1994 major league season ended abruptly because of a players’ strike, the White Sox were atop the new American League Central Division, with the Indians just a game back and leading in the new AL wild card.
The two teams were expected to continue to contend when the 1995 season picked up, but by the time the Pale Hose made their first visit to Jacobs Field on Memorial Day, they’d fallen into the back of the pack in the division – and the Indians were atop the Central, seven games ahead of the White Sox.
The afternoon game was a bad day for Indians starting pitcher Dennis Martinez, who gave up six runs – five earned – in six innings of work, including a two-run home run to Frank Thomas and a solo shot to Robin Ventura.
On the other hand, Wilson Alvarez was cruising for Chicago, giving up three hits in his first five innings. But it got away from him in the sixth. With two outs and runners at first and second, Alvarez was facing Manny Ramirez, who singled to left field, scoring Carlos Baerga and putting Eddie Murray on second.
Then up stepped Dave Winfield. He was one of the greatest athletes ever to play baseball – drafted by four different leagues in three different sports – but by the time he came to Cleveland (for what turned out to be his final season as a player), he didn’t have a lot left in the tank. In fact, his role – along with Martinez and Murray – was to serve as a clubhouse leader, mentoring the young talent the Indians had been stockpiling for the past five years.
Power, they say, is the last thing to go, be it boxers or baseball players. Winfield deposited the first pitch he saw into the left field bleachers for a three-run home run. It was his first dinger of the season, but 464th of his career (breaking a tie, ironically enough, with teammate Murray). Jim Thome singled to center field, but Tony Pena grounded out to short to end the inning. The Indians were on the board, but there was more coming.
Dennis Cook replaced “el Presidente” on the hill, and pitched a scoreless seventh inning. In the bottom of the seventh, Alvarez got Kenny Lofton to line out, but after a double to left by Omar Vizquel, Alvarez was done for the day, replaced by Jose DeLeon, who promptly gave up an RBI single to Baerga. Belle doubled to left, and a groundout by Murray scored Baerga. Ramirez walked and Winfield struck out to end the inning, but the game was now tied.
Thome doubled to lead off the home half of the eighth, and pinch-runner Wayne Kirby took third on a wild pitch. Kirby scored what turned out to be the winning run on a Pena double. Jose Mesa threw a one-two-three ninth for the save, and the Indians came all the way back for a 7-6 win.
It was the eighth win of the year for the Indians when they were trailing or tied after seven innings.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been around a team that has come from behind as consistently as this one has,” said Indians manager Mike Hargrove.
The Indians had three walk-off wins already that season, but the miraculous Memorial Day comeback gave fans a glimpse of what was to come that season, when it seemed like no lead against the Tribe was safe.
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