By Mike Harrington
CLEVELAND -- I'm at Progressive Field for tonight's American League Wild Card Game between the Indians and Rays (8:07 first pitch on TBS). First postseason game here since the Tribe failed to close out the Terry Francona-led Red Sox in Game 5 of the 2007 ALCS. In the odd circle of life, Francona is now a first-year skipper here -- trying to will his team to a win that would send it to Fenway Park and a series against the Red Sox that opens Friday.
This is the 35th postseason game the Indians have played here since the park opened in 1994. I've been amazingly fortunate to be at every one. Here's an off-the-top of my head list of the most memorable ones. The links are to my stories
1995 World Series Game 3 (Indians 7, Braves 6 in 11) -- I was sitting in the right field auxiliary press box and I swear that when the Indians stormed on to the field it was like watching the same scene from the playoff game on "Major League." The movie was only six years earlier and was based on the absurd concept of the Indians winning. This was life imitating reality for the first World Series game in C-Town since 1954. Reality of the job soon set in as the game went extra innings past midnight and a guy who didn't talk to the media (Eddie Murray) got the game-winning hit. Read my story here.
1995 ALDS Game 1 (Indians 6, Red Sox 5 in 13) -- There were two rain delays, Albert Belle flexing his biceps at the Boston dugout after a game-tying home run in the 11th and, finally, a walk-off shot by Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Pena on a 3-0 pitch at 2:08 a.m. Read my story here.
1997 ALDS Game 4-5 (a horse racing-style entry of wins over the Yankees) -- Game Four was the famous Sandy Alomar tying home run off Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning and the pinball single by Omar Vizquel in the ninth to win it. Game Five was a taut thriller that ended on a fly ball to Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Brian Giles in left. You could hear the car horns honking downtown for hours.
1998 ALCS Game 4: The Indians had the 114-win Yankees in trouble with a 2-1 lead before El Duque shut them down. Orlando Hernandez, just a few months removed from escaping Cuba, pitched a 4-0 victory that evened the series and sent the Yankees on their way to a six-game winning streak that included a World Series sweep of the Padres. Read my story here.
1999 ALCS Game 2: The Indians blasted the Red Sox, 11-1, in a sun-splashed late-afternoon affair to take a 2-0 lead and looked headed back to the ALCS. I can vividly recall walking down the stairs to the clubhouse with screaming fans and Springsteen's "Glory Days" pounding over the loudspeakers. It was a glory run that seemed like it would never end. But it really did when I found myself in the park four days later to see Pedro Martinez throw six no-hit innings of relief in a 12-8 Boston victory that cemented a stunning three-game comeback.
2007 ALDS Game 2: The midges struck from Lake Erie just as Joba Chamberlain came on to preserve a one-run lead for the Yankees in the eighth. He spit the bit on the lead and the Tribe won the game in the 11th. But all anyone remembers is the bugs. And they were everywhere. Read my buggy story here.