Keeping 1995 alive in Chicago

August 30, 2010

For the past 15 years Cleveland fans have been wanting to relive the 1995 Indians. Well, everything but the ending. Turns out that anyone who wanted to relive that team needed neither a DVD player nor a hot tub time machine, but merely a trip to the South Side of Chicago.

If Manny Ramirez joins the Chicago White Sox — and it’s almost certain they will win him in the divorce of Los Angeles Dodgers owners — he’ll be the 10th member of the 1995 Indians team to eventually play for the White Sox. He’ll join another former 1995 Indian, Omar Vizquel, as the White Sox battle the Twins for first place in the American League Central.

Tribe fans have been begging the Dolan family for years to bring back one of the fan favorites from the Indians glory years of the 1990s. Let him play out his waning years in an Indians uniform. It will bring goodwill back to the Tribe, and maybe even a few fans back to Progressive Field.

Instead, those of us who wanted to remember the good teams might have been well-advised to follow the White Sox. Someone in Chicago must have followed the Indians of the 1990s. Since 1997 the White Sox have had at least one former member of the 1995 Indians all but two seasons. Some you remember, some you don’t, but one things clear — the heart and soul of that Tribe team all went through Chicago at one time or another.

Albert Belle was first. We remember when he left for the money, joining up with the White Sox in 1997 on a massive free-agent contract. He was joined on the ChiSox that season by Tony Pena. Belle lasted with the Sox until 1998. There was no former 1995 Indian on the 1999 squad. Two moved to Chicago in 2001 — Herbert Perry and Ken Hill. Hill pitched just two games for the White Sox, but he wore the uniform. In 2001, Kenny Lofton and Alan Embree joined Perry. Lofton and Alomar stuck around for the 2002 season. In 2003 and 2004 it was just Alomar on the White Sox. No 1995 Indian was on the team in 2005. In 2006 Chicago signed Jim Thome and Alomar rejoined the club. Thome stuck with them through last season. Vizquel joined at the beginning of this season. Now Ramirez is moments away from donning the White Sox’ pinstripes.

And let’s not forget Bartolo Colon, who started with the Indians in 1997, pitched in three different postseasons for the Tribe, and wound up going 15-13 for the White Sox in 2003.

Belle. Lofton. Thome. Alomar. Even Colon. Thay produced 603 homers, 1,814 RBI, 102 stolen bases, and 75 wins in Indians uniforms. Then they were gone when they still had plenty of productive years left.

So far, the only comeback we’ve seen in Cleveland is Kenny Lofton, who was last seen stopping at third base in the seventh inning of Game 7 of the ALCS — while Ramirez loped after a smash to left field that could have tied the game and, who knows, perhaps propelled the Indians back to the World Series. (Oh, and Jesse Levis, who came back in 1999 after three years in Milwaukee.) Part of the problem has been that the 1995 Indians who are still playing are just too damn good for the current iteration of the Indians. Vizquel’s batting .292 at 43 years old for the White Sox. Ramirez has been a headache for the Red Sox and the Dodgers since leaving the Tribe, but he’s won two World Series rings. Jim Thome, another guy we’d love to have back, keeps ripping homers. He’s up to 18 with the Twins this year.

Don’t count on any of them playing out the string for a losing Indians team next year, no matter how hard anyone begs. Why would quality players who can still contribute to teams in the pennant race want to waste time on one of the worst teams in baseball?

So if you want to party like it’s 1995, head down to Progressive Field before the White Sox leave town Wednesday. Ramirez will be there, and so will Omar. They’ll be in enemy clothing, but if you close your eyes and listen you can at least hear their names and pretend they’re not wearing White Sox uniforms, that one is a leap away from an game-saving diving play and the other is a swing away from a game-winning, and that the future is still bright for your Cleveland Indians.

1995 INDIANS WHO LATER PLAYED FOR THE WHITE SOX

  • Albert Belle: 1997-98, 302 games, .301 avg., 79 HRs, 268 RBI
  • Tony Pena: 1997, 31 games, .164 avg.
  • Herbert Perry: 2000-01, 201 games, .286 avg, 19 HRs, 93 RBI
  • Ken Hill: 2000, 2 games, 0-1, 24.00 ERA
  • Sandy Alomar: 2001-04, 2006, 265 games, .257 avg. 19 HRs, 94 RBI
  • Alan Embree: 2001, 39 games, 1-2, 5.03 ERA
  • Kenny Lofton: 2002, 93 games, .259 avg, 8 HRs, 42 RBI, 22 SBs
  • Jim Thome: 2006-09, 529 games, .265 avg., 134 HRs, 369 RBI
  • Omar Vizquel: 2010, 83 games, .292 avg., 1 HR, 25 RBI, 7 SBs (through Aug. 29)
  • Manny Ramirez: 2010

  • Don’t try this at home

    August 2, 2010

    We were all witnesses to what looked like another devastating blow to Cleveland sports Monday night. Prized Indians rookie catcher Carlos Santana was bowled over at home plate by Boston Red Sox rookie outfielder Ryan Kalish, then carted off the field.

    Any Clevelander with long-term memory immediately flashed to Ray Fosse being bowled over at home plate by Pete Rose in the 1970 All-Star Game. That collision broke a bone in Fosse’s shoulder. Some say it ruined a blossoming career.

    Before Monday Cleveland sports fans might have convinced themselves they just didn’t care anymore, not after everything that’s happened to our sports teams the last couple of years. Then the future of the Indians crumpled to the deck and was carted off the field.

    Cleveland fans crumpled right along with him, falling into the pose familiar to comic-book fans everywhere: hero on his knees, arms stretched toward the heavens while he’s screaming, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”

    In the past few months Cleveland fans have had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at them. Monday night, the kitchen sink ran over Santana, knocking him right out of his shoe. Santana stayed down for before trainers put a large orange splint on his leg and carted him off the field.

    No matter the outcome — after the game Indians officials said they didn’t believe Santana suffered any damage to his knee ligaments — Cleveland fans fear the worst. Monday night was a just-when-you-thought-it-couldn’t-get worse moment.

    Clevelanders can watch every Browns game this season, preseason included, and most likely not see a collision that looks worse than what Santana suffered.

    But look on the bright side, Indians fans. Kalish was out. The Indians won, 6-5. And Santana’s not dead, at least.

    Cleveland sports fans’ hopes? That’s a different story.