The Cleveland Indians will take on the New York Yankees in the 2017 ALDS; just as they have done in 1997 and 2007- both Tribe series wins. There have been many great contests for the Indians over the years in the ALDS round. It felt only fitting to share some quick memories of our favorites.
The rules are simple. Write 100-200 words about our favorite Indians ALDS game was and why. We did our best to not repeat what anyone else has picked. Feel free to add yours to the comment section.
1995 Game 1: Boston Red Sox 4, Cleveland Indians 5 (13 Innings)
For anyone under 41 years old at the time, Game 1 of the 1995 ALDS was the first postseason game for the Cleveland Indians in their lifetime. Firsts often have indelible images that do not hold up to the fondness with which they are remembered, however this game was epic by any standard. Even the announcer crew was perfect- Bob Costas at his broadcasting height and the venerable Bob Uecker (aka Harry Doyle).
The game itself built drama before a pitch was even thrown with a 39 minute rain delay serving only to amp the crowd for the postseason christening of Jacob’s Field. Roger Clemens on the mound for the Boston Red Sox to oppose Dennis “El Presidente” Martinez for the Tribe. Falling behind on John Valentin’s two run home run in the third was only fitting for the squad who made a habit of late-inning comebacks throughout the season. However, giving up a late lead and falling behind the 11th inning was not part of the plan. It is helpful to have Albert Belle- game tying solo home run in the bottom half- when such detours befall a team.
Fittingly, Tony Pena served as the first in a long line of unexpected October heroes when he walked the game off with his own home run in the 13th.
It was the first postseason taste of my lifetime, it was also the best.
2007 Game 2: New York Yankees 1, Cleveland Indians 2 (11 Innings)
At some point after twilight this game transitioned from “playoff baseball” to “mythical event.” You may know it as The Bug Game though specifically it was the midges of Northeast Ohio that plagued the Yankees and reliever Joba Chamberlain. I was a senior in high school in 2007, and since this game fell on a Friday a number of my cross country friends and I got together at a friend’s house to watch it.
We were in and out for the first half or so enjoying the pool and barbeque, but by the time rookie sensation Chamberlain entered the game though we were locked in. The close ups on Joba’s bug-laden face felt like something out of a horror movie. Midges crawled on his neck and face while he dutifully tried to interpret his catcher’s signals. Gross. I directly credit the pests for Joba’s first wild pitch that allowed Grady Sizemore to advance to second base and the second wild pitch that allowed him to score the tying run in the eighth inning.
A literal act of God is tough to follow, but Travis Hafner delivered with his walk-off single in the eleventh inning. As the liner made landfall in right field we delighted in the walk off by jumping, screaming, and hollering in that way that only teenage boys can manage. Playoff wins are always fun, but they have an extra flavor when they’re against the Yankees.
For one night, at least, God didn’t hate Cleveland.
2016 Game 1: Boston Red Sox 4, Cleveland Indians 5
Sometimes, a game carries more meaning than its immediate result. Last year’s opening playoff game is one of those times. The game was fun in itself, with the trio of solo homers in the third inning off Cy Young Award thief Rick Porcello courtesy of Roberto Perez, Jason Kipnis, and Francisco Lindor. This game meant more, though.
It was the ushering in of an era, in multiple senses. The Indians’ main core was performing its opening postseason act. With injuries to Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, Game 1 was the barometer. Andrew Miller and Cody Allen struck out eight in less than four combined innings. The 2016 Indians shrugged off an early deficit, flexed their muscles at the plate, and slammed the door with strikeouts.
The game might not hold a candle to other division series contests on the excitement meter, but it represented a seismic shift in the franchise’s course.