There is a lot of excitement surrounding the 2013 Indians. The trades, the free agent signings, and the potential for success that this season holds has the fans on edge. There is a buzz about this team we haven’t experienced in years and it’s mildly refreshing. Now, after a promising first week of the season, the Indians are set to finally open their home schedule against the dreaded New York Yankees.
However, before we can look forward to this year’s home opener festivities, it’s important to remember a significant moment from the past. You see, twenty years ago in April of 1993 the Indians played their final home opener at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. With Jacobs Field (now Progressive Field) set to open the following season, it was the final time anyone would get to experience the pageantry of Opening Day in the place the Indians had called home for more close to six decades.
That day twenty years ago was one filled with both joyous celebration and heartfelt remembrance. Like most Opening Days, players from yesteryear were brought out to celebrate the occasion with Bob Feller, the most well known and historically significant Indian at the time, throwing out the final first pitch. The Indians also had to remember the lives of pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews. Both pitchers lost their lives during Spring Training in a tragic boating accident and the team honored them with a moment of silence and a commemorative sleeve patch.
As for the game itself, the Indians and Yankees fielded the following starting lineups:
The lineups were interesting for two reasons. First, the Yankees had yet to become the Yankees of the mid-to-late 90’s. Bernie Williams was a young up-and-coming player and Derek Jeter was still two years away from making his big league debut. They had some guy named Spike playing shortstop for crying out loud. Paul O’Neill and Wade Boggs were in the fold a key veteran acquisitions. Even Don Mattingly was still filling the three-hole in the lineup.
Second, the Indians were very much in the formative years of what would eventually become an offensive juggernaut. Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga, and Albert Belle were all in their customary spots in the batting order with Paul Sorrento and Sandy Alomar providing support. With the exception of a few key changes (primarily Omar Vizquel and Eddie Murray) the 1993 lineup and 1994 lineup were very similar.
As for the game itself, it was anything but memorable for the Tribe. When everything was said and done, the Yankees had thumped the Indians by a final score of 9-1. No, the game was not as close as the final score would indicate.
Jimmy Key dominated from the get go. Over the course of eight innings of work, he allowed only one run on three hits while striking out three and walking none. With the exception of the bottom of the third inning, the Indians just couldn’t solve the complex puzzle that was Jimmy Key.
Meanwhile, Charlie Nagy struggled mightily. In 5.2 innings, he allowed seven runs on 11 hits and was hit solidly all around the park by the Yankees, particularly in the top half of the sixth. In that frame, the Yankees lit up Nagy for 5 runs and chased him from the mound before he could finish the inning. The biggest blow came off the bat of Matt Nokes. With two on and one out, Nokes drilled a three run homer that would put the game completely out of reach.
Admittedly, it’s a bit sad that the Indians couldn’t come through on the final Opening Day the old Municipal Stadium would ever see. Then again, maybe it was more fitting. After all, the Indians had spent so many years in that stadium racking up loss, after loss, after loss that anything other than a loss may have seemed out of character.
So while the Indians couldn’t give their fans something to cheer about on Opening Day 20 years ago, they would more than make up for it in the years to come. An extra innings victory in the first ever game at the new stadium, the late inning heroics, the playoff appearances, and the copious amount of memories we have all been able to create in the twenty years since were well worth it. Let’s just hope that the next 20 years at Progressive Field are just as exciting as the first 20.