“Titanic” hits theaters on November 1, 1997, a week after Cleveland was almost king of baseball.
As for the giant boat, it was the unsinkable GOAT before it went down in history as something else.
Willie Blair didn’t know what hit him. Jacobs, in his fifth inning on the field, was rocketed through the head by Cleveland’s designated hitter Julio his Franco. The Detroit pitcher lay motionless on the mound.
“I could have killed him,” Franco said after the game. “I’m going to pray that the Lord will get over him.”
The 0-2 loss sank Cleveland’s record to 14-14. The team stumbled all the way through August before Blair returned from a broken jaw and faced them again.
This time, Blair pitched eight innings in a game that the Tigers won 13–3. Halfway through, Manny Ramirez lost interest and was picked from second base. It really looked like they were going nowhere this season with a record of 59-56. The actual team, Baltimore, he was 71-41.
1997 World Series – Part 1:25th Anniversary Special – Cleveland won the 1997 World Series
Playing for Cleveland in the 1980s, Franco was the face of funk in 1997.
He returned to town in 1996 and batted .322 with a 99-62 team. The first round of the 1996 playoffs turned with the bases loaded on a ball that Franco smoked over his fielder’s head in the center of the Orioles. Brady Anderson’s stumbling lucky catch changed everything.
Franco was released at the end of July, unlike 1997.
Orel Hershiser warned that 1995 would not last long. To achieve a 100-44 record, the aging pitcher advised everyone to enjoy Halley’s Comet lineup across the ’95 sky.
Albert Bell, Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga, Eddie Murray, the 95 gear that returned in 1996 disappeared in the opening round of 1997.
David Justice, Matt Williams, Marquis Grissom and Tony Fernandez arrived as replacements. Few were replacing well-known names with unknown ones.
– Justice homered Atlanta in a 1-0 win over Cleveland in the final game of the 1995 World Series.
– Williams had just stepped away from a string of league MVP contenders with the Giants.
– Grissom has collected MVP votes in four of the last five seasons.
– Fernandez was named to the All-Star Team four years in a row with the Blue Jays.
General manager John Hurt seemed proud of the roster he handed over to manager Mike Hargrove.
Hart was a Florida man who led his Orlando high school team to a state championship in 1981. He opened up about the ’97 team in an informative interview with the Orlando Sentinel. excerpt:
“In ’94 and ’95, after 40 years of playing in the Second Division, we achieved one of the most dramatic turning points in sport. You know what we went through. …bad stadium, no spectators, no players.
“Being in the series in ’95, I think people have come to realize that we have a great park, a lot of fans, and a Beacon franchise.
“Like the success of the past few years, I couldn’t enjoy my work because of distractions. There was too much fire, too much ego. I wasn’t holding it.”
Hart had an ego the size of the Everglades. Hargrove was a proud, stubborn Texan. He decided there could be trouble.
The ’97 batting order finally came. Novice veterans mix with emerging homebrews.
A first-round draft pick in 1991, Ramirez hit 555 career home runs at age 25.
Jim Torme, 27, was a Round 13 draft pick en route to Cooperstown with 612 all-time home runs. 311 batting average, 38 homers, 116 RBIs, 122 runs scored, and 123 walks in his 1996 run.
Former 17th-round pick Brian Giles got his chance in the outfield, but Bell and Lofton sat out.
Catcher Sandy Alomar and shortstop Omar Vizquel were each in the prime of their 11-year careers in Cleveland.
Alomar, 29, has been with Cleveland since 1990.
Vizquel, 30, is still young on his feet, stealing 43 bases and winning his fifth consecutive Gold Glove.
The lineup is 8 or more points out of 10. The pitchers are about AA6.5.
In 1999, shortly after Hart fired him and the Orioles hired him, Hargrove told The Washington Post that he was “short on starting pitchers” during his nine years as Cleveland’s manager.
“None of those horses,” said Hargrove.
Hart took his shot in the ’90s, bringing in oldies like Jack Morris, Hershtheiser, Dennis Martinez, and Dwight Gooden who were aces on other teams.
The person most likely to win an ace in his prime was Jack McDowell, who was 30 in 1996, four years after winning the Cy Young Award. White In his seven years with the Sox, McDowell’s ERA was his 3.50. In 1995 he was 3.93 with the Yankees. In Cleveland’s 38 starts, it was 5.11.
McDowell’s eighth start of 1997 was on May 12, his last start at Cleveland.
It was one of those lucky years when a decent record in a weaker division was enough. His 15-7 win streak that spanned August and September saw Cleveland beat Bell’s new team, his No. 2 Whites, behind him by seven and a half games to the Sox.
Cleveland hit the following rotation in October:
– At age 30, Charles Nagy, who had a 33-11 record over the past two years, was running out of steam.
– Hershiser, 39, nearing the end of a borderline Hall of Fame career.
– Jarrett Wright, the 10th overall pick in the 1995 Draft, is just 21 years old.
– Chad O’Gear, who went 37-35 in the major leagues.
– Bartolo Colon, 24-year-old rookie, removed one year from pitching for Canton’s Class AA Affiliate.
Colon started in Chicago on September 14, but trailed 2–0 after exiting after six innings. If the White Sox hold on, they will be drawn within 5 1/2 games of Cleveland.
A deep lineup played its part in the 7-run eighth inning. 3-4-5-6 Hitters Ramirez, Torme, Justice and Williams started the rally. The 7th and 9th hitters Alomar and Vizquel had two hits.
From there, the team advanced to a playoff series against New York. It was tied one game at a time, with the Yankees winning 6-1, before action moved to Cleveland.
In Game 4, desperation had been on Jacobs Field since Derek Deter doubled Hershiser in the first inning on Sunday night. The Yankees led 2-1 in the bottom of the eighth when Mariano Rivera retired Justice and Williams.
The mood shifted from mausoleum to madness when Alomar tied 2-2 on the front row behind right field (the next article will focus on Alomar’s view 25 years later). Vizquel’s walk-off RBI single in the ninth won the game 3-2.
On Monday, the attack gave Jarrett Wright a 4-0 lead and a 4-3 win. It qualified for the American League Championship Series against Baltimore.
Again, a sense of doom swept over me like a fog. The Orioles won Game 1, and in Game 2 he led 4–2, with two outs in the top of the eighth inning. Flame-throwing Armando Benitez beat Jeff Branson and Fernandez but walked Alomar. Benitez began swinging on his pitch, with pinch-hitter Jim extending the count to 3-2 on his Tome and payoff his pitch.
The Orioles dugout lost it when it was determined that Thome had his swing checked.
Orioles manager Davy Johnson said after the game: “Armando was shaking. We were all shaking because we thought he had taken a swing.” “That’s no excuse. The next one is someone who can beat you. Marquis swung a good bat and was scarier than Torme.”
Grissom hit a three-run homer into the deep end of Oriole Park to win 5–4.
After three games at Jacobs Field, the series returned to Baltimore, with Cleveland leading three games to two.
Orioles ace Mike Mussina shut out nine innings in Game 6, but Nagy fought back in the best game of his life. The bullpen tied the score 0-0 into overtime.
With two outs in the top of the 11th, Fernandez threw the first pitch toward the warehouse. The old pro didn’t smile until he crossed his plate home. Davey Johnson looked as if his ship had hit an iceberg.
Fernandez retired with 168 plate appearances in 43 postseason games. This was his only postseason home run. He wasn’t even supposed to be in the game. He was in a platoon with Vip Roberts at second base, and it was the night Roberts played before removing the line drive from his thumb during infield practice.
“Divine intervention,” Roberts called.
Closer Jose Mesa had to go through the bottom of the 10th inning.
Brady Anderson first with two outs, Mesa got Roberto Alomar in what was dubiously called a strike 3, and the Orioles half would have been sent off if the series hadn’t ended with a 1-0 Cleveland win. provoked a protest.
Every ALCS game was a thriller, especially Game 4 at Jacobs Field. The Orioles were leading 5-2 early on, but Justice hit his key on the rally to top Cleveland with his 7-6 after eight innings. Rafael Palmeiro homered Roberto Alomar in the top of the ninth to tie the score at 7-7.
In the bottom of the ninth, Roberto’s brother Sandy hit a two-out single to give Ramirez an 8–7 win.
A horn rang in the middle of the night.
Masayoshi returned, singing, “This town is my town.”
“The excitement for ball clubs in this city is unbelievable,” he said. “I thought there would be excitement in Atlanta, but the excitement here is much better.”
Who cared about the choppy regular season? Unsinkable Cleveland heading into the World Series.
Next: “I wish I could have won MVP,” says Chad Ogea 25 years later, but we can think of better 1997 World Series memorabilia.