Nostalgia League: Opening Day results
Opening day is always a great day to be alive. For a city like Cleveland, opening day announces to the masses that the long hard winter is over and now the spring and summer will be filled with the sights, smells and sounds of the ballpark: hot dogs with ballpark mustard, the freshly mowed grass groomed with bright white lines reaching from home plate to the outfield wall, and the roar of the crowd.
On Sunday April 3rd a total of 378,815 fans jammed into three parks on the shores of Lake Erie to see 9 games with 18 teams, all Cleveland favorites. Soon the fans were treated to the sound of a 90+ mile an hour fastball cracking the fresh leather of a catcher's mitt, the sight of a base runner motoring around the bases, and the sound of the crack of the bat inducing the crowds to stand on their toes to see if the ball has enough distance to clear the fence.
El Tiante the K Machine
The cavernous Cleveland Stadium was a pitcher's park and fans showed up in droves to see the '68 Wahoo’s take on the 1999 Tribe. Alvin Dark - the '68 manager - sent Luis “El Tiante” Tiant on the mound against Bartolo Colon.
It didn't take the home fans long to start hanging up K's on the railing beyond the right field fence and hanging them up they would as Tiant punched out second baseman Robbie Alomar, shortstop Omar Vizquel and right fielderManny Ramirez Colon stepped on the mound in the bottom of the first and dispatched right fielder Tommy Harperwith a low and brilliant slider and the first four batters of the game were K'd. That was it with the strike outs but Colon got the '68ers out one-two-three.
The '99 Indians struck first as first baseman Jim Thome reached on an error by second baseman Billy Harris. Thome advanced to second when left fielder David Justice walked and scored when center fielder Kenny Loftondoubled down the right field line. El Tiante rebounded by striking out designated hitter Jacob Cruz and retiring catcher Sandy Alomar and third baseman Travis Fryman.
Tony Horton led off the bottom of the 2nd with a single but Colon retired the next two including striking out Leon “Daddy Wags” Wagner and looked to get out of the inning with a lead. Then on a 3-1 pitch, Colon's fastball caught too much of the plate and third baseman Max Alvis launched the ball into the left-center field bleachers for a 2-1 '68ers lead.
Tiant made Robbie Alomar and Vizquel victims five and six and had Ramirez down 1-2 but Manny stayed alive with three straight foul balls before flying out to center.
After striking out Harris, Colon plunked Harper with a curveball that didn't curve. Center fielder Vic Davalillo singled through the infield between first and second. Harper hit second and kept on going but Ramirez fielded the ball and fired to third, and as Harper slid and Fryman took the throw and got the tag down the umpire signaled safe. CatcherDuke Sims then hit a fly ball to right and Harper trotted home. Horton then singled to center and Davalillo scored. Left fielder Lee Maye ended the scoring with a two-run home run for a 6-1 lead.
Tiant punched out Thome before walking Justice and Lofton. Cruz hit a slow roller and beat it out to load the bases but Tiant reared back to strike out Sandy Alomar and Fryman and the '68 fans hung the ninth K on the railing.
Shortstop Larry Brown hit a solo home run to end Colon's night as Sean DePaula entered the game. El Tiante fanned Ramirez in the 5th, Thome and Lofton in the 6th, and Fryman and Robbie Alomar in the 7th for 14 strikeouts.
1999 reliever Chris Haney walked Harper to open the 7th and Davalillo singled him to third with Davalillo advancing to second on the throw. Duke Sims grounded out to second and Harper scored. 1999 manager Mike Hargrovemade the move for Steve Reed to stop the bleeding and after one out Maye doubled home Davallllo for a 9-1 lead.
Thome and Justice were Tiant strikeout victims number 15 and 16, but Jacob Cruz homered to lead off the ninth. Sandy Alomar followed with a double before Tiant claimed victim number 17 in the form of Travis Fryman. 147 pitches finally caught up with Tiant and Dark called on Horacio Pina.
After striking out Roberto Alomar, the winner of the dreaded Golden Sombrero, the wheels came off of Pina's night. A wild pitch and two waks loaded the bases and Thome made him pay with a double into the right-center gap emptying the bases and the game was an interesting 9-5 score. Dark had seen enough and called on Billy Rohr, who promptly retired Justice for the win. Every 1999 regular whiffed at least once in the game.
Boudreau's Bomb Makes Paige's Day
Catcher Jim Hegan hit a lead-off home run in the top of the 9th to tie the game at three to set up 1948 shortstop-manager Lou Boudreau who launched a three-run home run in the 11th inning to deflate the 1954 Indians and give Satchell Paige his first Nostalgia League victory.
1948 scored two runs in the 2nd on a sacrifice fly by Hegan and an RBI single by second baseman Joe Gordon. In the 4th inning the 1954 Tribe touched up a wild Bob Lemon. Designated hitter Dave Pope swung and missed at a 3-2 pitch but so did Hegan and Pope reached first. Then Lemon walked the bases loaded and when catcher Hal Naragon watched ball four it was a 2-1 1948 lead. First baseman Al Rosen then singled home shortstop Sam Dente in the fifth to tie the game.
Russ Christopher relieved Lemon in the eighth and two walks and an error loaded the bases with one out. Naragon then hit a fly to right-center and center fielder Larry Doby trotted home to put the '54 Indians up 3-2, which set up the ninth inning heroics for Hegan and Boudreau. Paige pitched a scoreless 9th and 10th inning and the Negro League legend got in the win column.
Rapid Robert Shines on Opening Day
The 1995 Indians did what the White Sox couldn't. They hit Bob Feller on opening day. Well it was only two hits but that's two more than the White Sox got off the 1940 starter. The Heater from Van Meter out-dueled 1995 starterCharles Nagy for a 1-0 win. Both Feller and Nagy went eight innings and both registered eight strikeouts, but a 7th inning double by third baseman Ken Keltner scored center fielder Roy Weatherly for the win. The 1995 Indians, known for late inning dramatics, did mount a threat in the 9th off of reliever Harry Eisenstat but the reliever induced pinch hitter Eddie Murray into a ground out to close the game out.
Coveleski Gets the Score
1920 starter Stan Coveleski out-dueled 1956 starter Herb Score for a 2-1 win. Coveleski pitched eight scoreless innings and 4th inning hits by catcher Steve O'Neill (double) and third baseman Larry Gardner gave the '20 Tribe a 2-0 lead. Despite a brief ninth inning rally off of reliever Dick Niehaus the reliever held on for the win.
Designated hitter Travis Hafner doubled home pinch hitter Jason Michaels to break a 3-3 tie in the 12th inning and the 2007 Tribe edged the Molly McGuires. Hafner homered in the first to score the drive in the first run and his 12th inning heroics accounted for the last run of the game. On the night Hafner was 3-for-5 with one run and two ribbies. Catcher Victor Martinez joined Hafner on the scoreboard with a solo shot in the 6th inning. 1913 right fielder Shoeless Joe Jackson went 3-for-6 and designated hitter Nemo Leibold drove in two for the Naps.
The Rock and the McLish
Right fielder Rocky Colavito homered and Cal McLish went eight innings in a 2-1 win over the 1976 Indians. McLish gave up one run and Humberto Robinson pitched a scoreless 9th for the '59 Indians. ‘76 starter Dennis Eckersley was almost as effective only surrendering two runs on four hits in eight innings.
It's Spelled Jhonny
Guess what happened on 1997 closer Michael Jackson’s way to closing out the 2005 Wahoo’s? Ben Broussardhappened. The first baseman drove a 2-1 pitch into the right field seats to tie the game at two and the Jake went wild. Then in the 10th inning, shortstop Jhonny Peralta singled home catcher Victor Martinez home for the winner. Peralta went 2-for-5 with a run and RBI while Broussard was 3-for-4. ‘97 left fielder Brian Giles and right fielder Manny Ramirez homered while second baseman Tony Fernandez went 3-for-4. ‘97 starter Charles Nagy went eight innings and was ready to win the game until Broussard's dramatics.
The Candy Man Can
The knuckleball was dancing in the cool weather of a Cleveland Stadium opener and the 1986 Indians gave starterTom Candiotti eight runs for the win. Third baseman Brook Jacoby drove in three runs and second baseman Tony Bernazard homered in an 8-1 win over the 1932 Indians. Left fielder Mel Hall went 2-for-4 with two ribbies in the win.
Naps Can't Get Uhle Down
1926 Wahoo’s starter George Uhle gaves up two runs in eight innings to take down Addie Joss and the 1908 Naps. Uhle made a fourth inning mistake to designated hitter Bill Hinchman who homered and then a triple to catcher Nig Clarke, but it was the 1926 Indians that collected ten hits off of the 1908 ace (Joss). Left fielder Charlie Jamieson went 3-for-5 and center fielder Tris Speaker went 2-for-4 to spot Uhle to the 4-2 lead. Sherry Smithcame in and pitched a perfect ninth for the save.
Incidently, I made the following prediction that it would be 1995 vs. 1954 in the finals. For me it was a lot of fun experiencing the season as it went. Hope everyone enjoys the series.