20 Years Ago Today, Indians Won First Home Opener at Jacobs Field
The day was April 4, 1994. It was a day fans of the Cleveland Indians had been waiting years for. Ever since the announcement that a new, state of the art facility would be built in the area dubbed the “Gateway District,” excitement for the future had never been higher. The old Municipal Stadium had seen many memorable moments in the history of the Indians, but the dilapidated old building had become a symbol of the teams continuous failures on the field.
However, on that cool, spring day back in 1994, everything changed.
From the ceremonial first pitch thrown out by then U.S. President Bill Clinton, to the pomp and circumstance of the first Opening Day of a new era, everything about that day was special. That included the outcome and the journey everyone in attendance and watching at home took to get their.
Starting for the Seattle Mariners was the ever intimidating Randy Johnson. Standing at 6’10″ tall with a upper 90′s fastball and knee buckling slider, “The Big Unit” was a force to be reckoned with. On a day that was meant to be a celebration for the city of Cleveland, Johnson nearly spoiled everything by taking a no-hitter into the 8th inning.
For the Indians, the newly acquired Dennis Martinez took the mound. El Presidente pitched well in his Indians debut. In 7 innings of work, Martinez allowed 2 runs on 3 hits and four walks. He also struck out four.
The Mariners got things going early. In the top of the first, they plated the very first run in the history of Jacobs Field. Edgar Martinez scored on a sacrifice fly to right field by Eric Anthony. Martinez had reached base initially when he was hit by a pitch on a 2-2 offering from Martinez. Luckily for the Tribe, that was all the damage the Mariners would be able to do. While they were able to load the bases, that one run was all they would get out of it.
Things would remain relatively quiet until the third inning. With two outs and no one on base, Eric Anthony struck again. This time it was for the first hit in the history of Jacobs Field, a solo home run to right field that put the Mariners up by a score of 2-0.
With each and every passing inning, it looked as if the Indians might never get a hit. As Randy Johnson settled in and became more comfortable on the mound, he became more dominant and intimidating.
However, in the bottom of the eighth inning that would all change. Following a leadoff walk to Candy Maldonado, Sandy Alomar found a hole on the right side for the first Indians hit of the day. It wasn’t the most emphatic hit ever, but it let everyone relax. The first hit by an Indians at Jacobs Field was officially in the books. It was time to play some baseball.
On Johnson’s very next pitch following the Alomar single, he uncorked a wild pitch that allowed both runners to advance 90 feet. With runners on second and third with nobody out, Manny Ramiez did what he would do throughout his career. Ramireze delivered a double to left field, scoring Maldonado and Alomar and tying the game up at 2-2. Of course, Manny would be picked off second base by Dan Wilson a few moments later for the first out of the inning and what once looked like a promising inning ended rather non-dramatically.
The game would remain tied until the top half of the 10th inning. With Ken Griffey, Jr. on second base with two outs, Keith Mitchell singed to left. Griffey raced around to score, giving the Mariners a brief 3-2 lead. I say brief because the Indians came right back to tie the game up in their half of the tenth inning.
It was one inning later when history would be made. With one out in the inning, Eddie Murray, the grizzly veteran who would eventually get his 3000th hit with the Indians, doubled to deep center. He would then advance to third base on a fly ball to center by Paul Sorrento. That set the stage for one of the most iconic moments in the recent history of the Cleveland Indians. I can still envision the play like it was yesterday. With two outs, Wayne Kirby slapped a 3-1 pitch down the left field line. Murray essentially walked home giving the Indians the much needed 4-3 victory.
It was the first of what would become many magical come from behind victories at Jacobs/Progressive Field over the years. Out of all of the special moments that have occurred, game #1 was easily the most memorable of them all. Oddly enough, this would not be the last time the Indians and Mariners would produce a memorable moment. In 1995, they would engage in one of the most competitive ALCS’s in baseball history. A few years after that, the Indians would complete one of the greatest regular season comebacks in baseball history. What the future holds for both of these teams moving forward is anyone’s best guess.