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The legend of Sandy Alomar Jr.

Sandy Alomar Jr. is a Cleveland Indians legend. This game – #3 in our series of all-time great playoff games – is a big reason why.

Wait… this is only number three?

When I came up with this series, I had this game ranked number one. But I couldn’t honestly say it was the best Cleveland Indians playoff game ever. Maybe in my lifetime, but maybe not.

It’s close. On the one hand, this game was a win over the Yankees. And a Hall of Famer too.

On the other hand no one gave Sandy Alomar Jr. wedding gifts after the game.

Without further ado, the game

I was worried about the Yankees knocking out the Tribe in 1997. It just seemed to be the kind of thing they liked to do. I was even more worried after the first game, when the Indians slapped a five run first on the Yankees, only to wind up on the short end of an 8-6 game.

I remember thinking “This is exactly the kind of game we needed to win. Up by five? In Yankee Stadium? You can’t give this one back to them. We’re done.”

Jaret Wright won Game 2 in Yankee Stadium. But David Wells shut the Indians down in Cleveland in Game 3. Yankees 6, Indians 1.

In Game 4 Orel Hershiser opposed Dwight Gooden. The Yankees got two runs on four hits and a hit batsman in the first. Brian Giles saved the game when he threw Tino Martinez out at the plate on the fourth hit of the inning.

Hershiser gave up two more hits (no runs) in the second but then found his groove, allowing only two singles through the next five innings.

The Indians got one run back on a solo home run by David Justice in the second, but that’s how it stayed until the eighth inning.

With bases empty and one out the Yankees brought in first year closer Mariano Rivera (6-4, 1.88, 43 saves) for a five-out save.

I knew we tended to beat good closers, but it was names like Troy Percival or Lee Smith. But Rivera?

Actually, the Indians had some success against Rivera in 1997. In three games against the Tribe he had:

  • a “save”, where he gave up a solo home run to Jim Thome,
  • a blown save / “win” where he allowed two inherited runners to score but then benefited from a Yankee run and
  • a loss where he gave up a solo home run to Marquis Grissom.

In the ALDS he had one appearance and one (legit) save.

This appearance more closely resembled his regular season against the Tribe. With two outs Sandy Alomar, Jr. smacked a 2-0 pitch for an opposite field home run.  I don’t normally dance when I’m watching a game, but I did this time.

And that – plus a home run in the All-Star Game in front of the home crowd – is why Sandy Alomar Jr. is a Cleveland legend.

The game was still tied in the bottom of the ninth, but I had no doubt.  Marquis Grissom singled, Bip Roberts bunted him to second, then Omar Vizquel singled off Ramiro Mendoza’s glove (and past Derek Jeter). Game over.

Game 5, in Cleveland, was a 4-3 win. Young Jaret Wright won his second game of the series. And it was on to the ALCS.

Fans voted Alomar’s home run as the third most memorable moment in Progressive field history behind Tony Pena’s walk off home run against the Red Sox ALDS and Rajai Davis‘ Game 7 home run against the Cubs.

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Next: Indians Playoff History: #4) Midges!

Some day I’ll write an article about the Davis home run. But it surely won’t be when we discuss the top ten best Indians postseason games. Maybe if I do a series on teams we hate.

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