Without baseball, my appetite was filled by re-watching the Cleveland Indians usher in the Jacobs Field, all the way back in 1994.
Opening Day without the Cleveland Indians. What do without baseball?
Television stations scrambling for content gave us their best fix, as our hunger for baseball only promises to grow as we find ourselves staying at home.
My brother-in-law (a Reds fan), so graciously alerted me Game 7 was on FS1. And while turning the game off after Rajai Davis goes yard is an acceptable practice, I will never subject myself to the torture.
Besides, I was cooking up something else.
SportsTime Ohio replayed the 1994 season opener, which of course was the first regular season game played at Jacobs Field. I was 11. Life was simple. I was on spring break, had played some sandlot ball with friends earlier in the day, and then watched one of the most memorable Indians’ games in history.
1. The game was loaded with talent. By my count, five Hall of Famers played in the contest. The Mariners fielded their big three of Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez and Randy Johnson. The Indians lineup card featured Eddie Murray. A 23-year-old Jim Thome didn’t start, but got an at-bat later in the game.
Of course he doubled. It’s Thome.
Omar Vizquel may find himself in Cooperstown one day, and if the Hall ever eases its stance on steroids, Manny Ramirez will be there, too.
There were regular All-Stars there, as well. Names like Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, Tino Martinez, Jay Buhner, Dennis Martinez and Sandy Alomar were always in the highlight reels.
2. Speaking of Manny…well, he was being Manny. The slugger collected the Indians’ first two RBIs in Jacobs Field history when he smoke a double off the left-field wall against Johnson in the eighth.
In Classic Manny fashion, Ramirez was picked off second base moments later by Mariners’ catcher Dan Wilson. We didn’t know it then, but of course this would be the outcome!
3. Jacobs Field’s birth was a huge deal, not just for Cleveland, but for baseball. President Bill Clinton threw the first pitch. No president has started a sporting even in Cleveland since.
ESPN sent its national broadcast crew of Chris Berman and Buck Martinez to call the game.
4. The wall in left field is one of the ballpark’s best features, yet it doesn’t have a great name that’s stuck over the years. I remember “Mini-Monster,” a name thrown out to pay homage to Fenway Park’s Green Monster, but it hardly became a part of the lexicon.
Others will know it as the Pepsi Home Run Porch. Of course, that was something cooked up by a marketing department, and feels as authentic as Barry Bonds’ 70-home run season.
During the broadcast, Berman referred to it as “Jacobs’ Ladder.” I didn’t remember the reference, and too bad. I kinda liked it.
5. As one avid reader pointed out to me during the game, there was something pleasant about watching a baseball game without being bombarded without the modern terminology. No exit velocity, no spin rate, no batted balls in play. It. was. great!
Yeah, this comes off as grumpy anti-analytics guy, and I get it. If you have information, of course you’d use it. With so much money invested in the game, of course teams are looking for every advantage.
It’s still ruining sports, though, and particularly, our national pastime. Baseball is a kids game played by adults. It’s why the game has been romanticized by generations. And while I’m a relatively new Little League parent, I’ve yet to catch my 7-year-old calculating his WAR.
6. Wayne Kirby was the hero of that game, knocking in Eddie Murray during extra innings to secure the first win at the new ball park.
It was lost on me that Kirby was 29 at the time, and had spent 10 seasons in the minor leagues before finally working his way up as a regular fourth outfielder. He got his big break in the 1993 season, when he appeared in 131 games for the Indians during their final year at Municipal Stadium.
7. Randy Johnson made Bob Feller sweat, as The Big Unit threw 7.1 innings of no-hit ball, putting Feller’s mark as the only pitcher in MLB to throw a no-no on Opening Day in jeopardy.
Feller, who was 75 at the time, and was in attendance to help the Indians usher in a new era of baseball. Was he nervous about losing his unique record?
"“I have ever since 1940 because it’s about the only record I’ve got left,” Feller said, via the NY Times."
8. Who broke up Johnson’s no-no? It was the trusty Sandy Alomar, of course. Breaking up opening-day no-no’s, taking Mariano Rivera deep in the ALDS with the season on the line, hitting one of the most memorable HR’s in All-Star game history. Sandy Alomar doesn’t sweat. Sweat secretes Sandy Alomar.
Alomar also broke up a no-hit effort by Mike Mussina back in 1997, as his place as one of the Indians GOATs will never be in question.