No reservations about 95 Indians

With the start of the MLB season right around the corner, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the 2015 Tribe. The pitching should be solid enough to sustain a legitimate run at the postseason, and with talented players such as Francisco Lindor waiting for their chance, it just might be a season to remember.

Speaking of which, it only recently occurred to yours truly that it’s now been two full decades since the Indians took MLB by storm and went on a magical run, almost becoming world champs in 1995. Yep, there are now folks in their early 20s who were too young to experience the thrills of 1995. So for their sake – as well as mine – let’s take a peek back to the “good old days” before it becomes even more of a distant memory.

The Indians had looked promising in 1994. In fact, they were only a game out of first place when a players' strike cut the season short, canceling the playoffs and World Series that year. The same strike delayed the start of the 1995 season, and it cost the Indians 18 games, forcing an abbreviated 144-game schedule. As things turned out, it didn’t matter.

The Indians rolled through the 1995 schedule, winning 100 games in spite of the shortened schedule. At that winning percentage (.694), projected over 162 games, the Indians would have won 112. “Mr. Warmth” himself, Albert Belle, connected for 50 home runs, but that was only the beginning. Can you imagine your number eight hitter – where first baseman Paul Sorrento hit much of the time – hitting 25 homers? There were four other players on that squad who hit more than 20 home runs: Manny Ramirez (31), Jim Thome (25), Sorrento (25), and Eddie Murray (21). For good measure, second baseman Carlos Baerga hit 15 dingers, too.  

The 1995 Indians didn’t just beat their opponents; they pulverized ‘em. Without a weak spot in the batting order, I remember people referring to the Tribe’s offense as a “beer league” lineup, as the final scores in many of the games that year resembled the inflated results of so-called softball “beer league” numbers.

Even though the offense is what carried the team, when it came to pitching, most people forget how good it was. Charles Nagy and Orel Hershiser posted identical 16-6 records, and Dennis Martinez – who, along with Hershiser, had been acquired by GM John Hart to stabilize a young pitching staff – chipped in with a 12-5 mark. Out of the bullpen, Jose Mesa had a monster year, saving 46 games while posting a microscopic 1.13 ERA. Julian Tavarez chipped in with 10 victories in relief, as well.

The American League playoffs were awesome, with the Indians sweeping the Red Sox and then surviving a difficult test against Randy Johnson and the Seattle Mariners. The only bad thing to happen to the Indians in 1995 was the National League’s version of the Tribe, the Atlanta Braves. Running into Greg Maddux – he of the 19-2 record and 1.63 ERA – along with young stars Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, the Braves’ pitching was a shade better than the Tribe's, and we fell to them in six games. A World Championship for Cleveland fans was relegated to the back burner yet one more time, but it was still one heck of a ride.

Maybe this will be the year …

Jeff Bing

Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits. My forte is humor and horror...What a combo!

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Volume 7, Issue 7, Posted 10:00 AM, 04.07.2015