Game 156

September 22, 1967 – Tony Horton Ends a Marathon with a Walkoff Homer

The Indians were playing out the string in 1967, having long been eliminated from the playoffs. Luis Tiant was matched up with Gary Peters of the White Sox this Friday evening in front of only about 5,000 of the Cleveland faithful. The White Sox were locked in a four-way battle for the American League pennant. Boston and Minnesota were tied at the top of the standings with Chicago one game behind. The Tigers were just one and a half games off the pace. 

However, a mid-season arrival was giving Cleveland fans hope for a better team in the future. In June, the Indians dealt Gary Bell to the Red Sox for Don Demeter and 22-year old first baseman Tony Horton. With the opportunity to play every day, Horton had blossomed. 

Second baseman Vern Fuller drew a walk to lead off the bottom of the second. Larry Brown knocked an RBI double into left to score Fuller and put the Tribe up 1-0. 

Tiant pitched brilliantly, giving up only three hits through the first eight innings. Peters also pitched well, but the Indians offense squandered some opportunities. 

Tiant let the 1-0 lead slip away in the top of the ninth when Don Buford doubled to right and then Smoky Burgess hit a pinch-hit RBI single into right to tie the game at 1-1. 

The Indians stranded runners at first and second in the bottom of the ninth to send the game to extra frames. 

Stan Williams was nearly perfect in relief for the Indians. The only baserunners he allowed were when Don Buford reached on an error in the top of the eleventh and a walk by Wayne Causey in the top of the thirteenth. 

Horton stepped in against Chicago reliever Roger Nelson to start the Indians half of the thirteenth. He launched the game-winning home run into the Cleveland night. 

Horton was one of the Indians most promising young players through the late 1960s. Terry Pluto would later call him “the most tragic Indian.”

Throughout the 1969 and 1970 seasons, Horton struggled through slumps and was particularly affected by heckling from the small Cleveland crowds related to his salary negotiations with the team. After being benched in the fifth inning of a game against the Yankees in August 1970, Horton returned to his apartment and attempted suicide. 

He survived, and recovered, but never played professional baseball again. He returned to his native California, went into business, and never looked back. In 1997, the New York Daily News reported the story for the first time with quotes from teammates and others involved in the story. The Daily News approached Horton for an interview, but he declined.  

Sam McDowell said of Horton, “From what I understand, the doctors told him he had to completely divorce himself from baseball. Baseball was what drove him to his state. He was so high-strung, with such a drive to succeed, and when he wasn’t succeeding it set him off.”

While we as fans make heroes and villains out of the players on the field based on their stores and statistics it sometimes takes a story like Tony Horton’s to remember that athletes are humans with their own lives outside the lines. 

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Game 137

September 5, 1969 (Game 1) – Rare Walkoff Win From One of the All-Time Worst Tribe Teams

The 1969 Cleveland Indians are regarded by many as the worst Indians team of all time. At this point in September, they were 39 games off the pace behind division-leading Baltimore. They weren’t re-building per-se. The last time the Tribe had finished within striking distance of a playoff spot was a second-place finish in 1959 and the next time they would finish in second was 1994. Although other teams lost more games in total, the 1969 team was almost entirely forgettable. 

The Yankees came to town for a weekend series that included a Friday double-header to make up for an earlier game that was cancelled by rain. The pitching matchup for game one was quite promising for two bad teams–Sam McDowell would face Mel Stottlemyre of the Yankees. 

Indians catcher Duke Sims drove in centerfielder Russ Snyder for an RBI single in the bottom of the first to give the Tribe the early lead. 

Sam McDowell

Frank Fernandez plated Horace clark with a sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth to tie things up 1-1.

McDowell scattered nine hits, almost evenly throughout the game. He got out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the eighth by getting a key groundout from Joe Pepitone. He struck out five and walked only two. 

Likewise, Stottlemyer gave up ten hits and four walks, but the Indians were not able to take advantage of most of those opportunities until first baseman Russ Nagelson singled to center in the bottom of the ninth. Steve Hargan came in to pinch run for Nagelson. Eddie Leon laid down a solid sacrifice bunt to move Hargan over to second. Third baseman Lou Camilli grounded out to first, and Hargan was safe on third with two outs. So far, the Indians were 2 for 7 with runners in scoring position, and the few fans that scattered Muni Stadium probably thought that Hargan would be stranded like the nine Indians baserunners before him. 

Ken Harrelson came on to pinch hit for McDowell and was intentionally walked by Stottlemyer. That brought up Jose Cardenal who had replaced Snyder in center field. Cardenal slapped a single into right field to bring home Hargan and win the game. 

They would go on to lose the second half of the double-header and 99 games on the season, but this walkoff win was a bright spot for the home crowd. The Indians would finish with a worse record than both of the League’s brand-new expansion teams. The Kansas City Royals finished 69-93 while the Seattle Pilots edged out the Tribe with a record of 64-98.

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Game 112

August 8, 1961 – Four-Run Comeback Ends with a Walkoff Passed Ball

The 1961 Indians were a largely forgettable team, although they were playing above-.500 baseball at this point in the season. The lowly Washington Senators were in town. Just over 5,000 fans came to the lakefront to see Bennie Daniels take on Barry Latman. 

Washington scored first in the top of the fourth when Latman walked left fielder Gene Woodling. Two batters later, Bob Johnson put the Sens on the board with a two-run home run to dead center. 

An inning later, right-fielder Chuck Hinton tacked on another run with a solo homer to center. 

In the top of the eighth, Washington touched up Indians reliever Bobby Locke for two runs on three hits and an error. 

Bennie Daniels had given up only two hits through four, but issued two walks to lead off the bottom of the fifth. With Willie Kirkland and Bubba Phillips on base, Tribe catcher John Romano blooped a single into left field to score Kirkland and make it a 3-1 game. 

Facing a 5-1 deficit, Woodie Held led off the bottom of the eighth with a strikeout. Chuck Essegian pinch hit for the pitcher Bobby Locke and rocked a home run to deep left field off Daniels. Johnny Temple recorded a quick flyball out, and then two consecutive singles by Don DIllard and Tito Francona chased Daniels from the game. 

Senators reliever Mike Garcia came on to pitch with runners on first and second. He gave up consecutive two-out singles to Kirkland, Phillips, and Romano which tied the game. He was pulled in favor of Dave Sisler who recorded the final out of the eighth. 

The teams played through a scoreless ninth. In the top of the tenth, the Senators threatened. They had runners on first and third with one out, but Marty Keough popped a fly to second base. Johnny Temple made the catch for the first out, and threw home to get Hinton who was running on contact. The inning-ending double play was yet another break for the Tribe in a game where luck was on their side. 

In the bottom of the tenth, Sisler and backup catcher Gene Green could not get on the same page. Don Dillard led off with a double to center. Tito Francona walked and then both advanced on a passed ball with Willie Kirkland at the plate. Kirkland eventually drew a walk. With the bases loaded and Bubba Phillips at the plate another ball skipped away from Green. Dillard hustled home to snatch a victory on the second passed ball of the inning. 

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Game 108

July 31, 1963 – Back-to-Back-to-Back-to-Back Home Runs

The Angels and Indians were both in the basement of the American League in 1963. So, it is no wonder that only 7,822 turned the turnstiles on the Lakefront to see the second half of a Wednesday double-header. However, those few faithful fans witnessed something that has not occurred in Indians history before or since. 

The Angels jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when first baseman Lee Thomas took Pedro Ramos deep for a two-out solo home run in the top of the first.

In the bottom of the third, Ramos helped out his own cause with a solo home run of his own which evened the score. 

Back at the top of the order, Tito Francona singled, followed by another single from Larry Brown. With runners at the corners, Willie Kirkland walked to load the bases. The Angels had seen enough from starter Eli Grba and brought Don Lee in from the bullpen. Lee struck out Max Alvis and appeared to be out to a strong start, until Fred Whitfield rocked a home run into the upper deck in right field to put the Tribe ahead 5-1. 

Ramos tallied ten strikeouts through the first six innings, keeping the Angels to just the one early run. 

Reliever Paul Foytack had pitched the bottom of the fifth and returned for the sixth. He struck out catcher Joe Azcue and Al Luplow flied to right. The two-out magic returned for the Tribe as Woodie Held homered to deep left. Pedro Ramos stepped in and homered to left for the second time in the game. Tito Francona followed with a third straight homer to right. Finally, rookie second baseman Larry Brown got his first homer in the majors for back-to-back-to-back-to-back long balls. 

Foytack later remarked, “I was trying to brush [Brown] back. It shows you I didn’t know where my pitches were going.”

Ramos gave up four runs on four hits in the top of the seventh, but otherwise the Indians were content to cruise to a 9-5 victory and a place in trivia history. 

Only one team had ever hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back homers before. In 1961 Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, Joe Adcock, and Frank Thomas did it for the Boston Braves. The Indians were the first to complete the streak off a single pitcher. The feat has been repeated seven times since, most recently by the Nationals in 2019

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Game 96

August 8, 1960 – Only Manager-for-Manager Trade in MLB History

The Indians were visiting the Senators in the Nation’s Capital at Griffith Park.  Mudcat Grant was pitching for the Tribe against Washington’s Jack Kralick. Johnny Temple led off the game with a single to center. Ken Aspromonte put the Tribe ahead with a two-run home run to deep left. 

In the bottom of the first, Lenny Green knocked a triple into center field. After striking out Harmon Killebrew, Mudcat threw a wild pitch that allowed Green to score from third. 

Mudcat Grant helped out his own cause by leading off the top of the third with a single. He was driven home by Aspromonte to extend the Indians lead to 3-1. 

The Senators took the lead on a home run by Faye Thornberry in the bottom of the sixth, but the Indians constructed a rally in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs, Senators shortstop Billy Consolo mishandled a Johnny Temple grounder and Temple reached on the E6 and Tito Francona was able to score from second. 

Consolo committed a second straight error on an Aspromonte ground ball, further extending the inning. Harvey Kuenn and Vic Power hit consecutive RBI singles to give the Tribe the 6-4 lead. Mudcat grant had another RBI single in the top of the eighth that sealed the 7-4 victory. 

After Game 96 is when things got interesting. 

The Indians GM at the time was the infamous “Frantic” Frank Lane, or “Trader” Lane who dealt ballplayers left and right. Lane was already infamous for shipping Rocky Colavito out of town prior to the 1960 season. 

After the win in Washington, Lane traded manager Joe Gordon to the Tigers straight up for their manager Jimmy Dykes. Joe Gordon was a Hall-of-Fame second baseman in his own right who spent the prime of his career winning championships with the Yankees. Jimmy Dykes was also a talented infielder, playing primarily for the Athletics in the WWI era. He is still the franchise leader in doubles for the As. 

This is the only time in MLB history that a manager has been traded for another manager–and mid-season.

JoJo White served one game as manager, presumably to allow the managers to travel to their new cities. His only managerial experience was a win against the Orioles in Game 97. 

Ultimately it was just another Trader Lane publicity stunt. Both teams were sub-.500 before the manager swap, and both teams finished below .500 and out of the playoff race of 1960. 

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Game 93

July 21, 1968 – Mike Paxton Strikes out Four in the Fifth Inning

A matchup between the last-place Mariners and second-to-last place Indians in mid-summer 1978 would be entirely forgettable if not for an event that happened only for the 16th time in MLB history. Mike Paxton had gone 10-5 in his first major league season the year before with Boston and was a competent member of the Indians rotation in 1978. 

In the bottom of the second the Tribe got the offense going. Andre Thornton and Bernie Carbo drew back to back walks. Then catcher Gary Alexander singled to load the bases. Jim Norris flied out and everyone had to stay put. Second baseman Duane Kuiper grounded to short, scoring Thornton, while Carbo was forced out at first. Then Tom Veryzer singled, driving in Carbo. Rick Manning followed with a two-run double to center giving the Indians four runs on three hits in the inning. 

Paxton struck out Dan Meyer to lead off the top of the fifth, but the third strike was mishandled by Greg Alexander and Meyer took first on the passed ball. Paxton then retired Bruce Bochte (not to be confused with Bruce Bochy, Giants manager), Tom Paciorek, and Bill Stein all on strikeouts. This was only the sixteenth time a pitcher had retired the side with four strikeouts. 

The Tribe would score another seven insurance runs and go on to an 11-0 rout of the lowly Mariners. Mike Paxton would have his best season with a 12-11 record, but the Indians finished 74-85 and in sixth place. 

Five Cleveland pitchers have had four-strikeout innings. Guy Morton in Game 51 of 1916 and Lee Stange in Game 136 of 1964 preceded him. Paul Shuey K-ed four in Game  33 of 1994 and Chuck Finley in Game 12 of 2000. Finley is the only MLB-er to have two four-strikeout innings. The other was with the Angels in 1999. 

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Game 87

July 13, 1963 – Early Wynn Returns to Indians, Earns Elusive 300th Win

Hall of Fame pitcher Early Wynn came to the Indians in 1948 after 8 seasons with the Senators and two years serving in World War II. Early in his career he was known as an aggressive power pitcher who was quick to brush batters back off the plate. He once said, “A pitcher will never be a big winner until he hates hitters.” He was also known to knock runners down at first base, with bean balls disguised as pickoff attempts. 

Ten years into his baseball career, Wynn could no longer rely entirely on velocity and swagger. He credited Mel Harder with re-making his career. Harder taught Wynn how to throw a curveball, and he became part of one of the most talented pitching rotations in history along with Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, and Mike Garcia. 

He pitched for nine years with the Indians, leading the World-Series bound 1954 squad with 23 wins. Wynn was traded to the White Sox after the 1957 season where he pitched until the end of 1962. The White Sox released Wynn at the end of the season with 299 total wins. 

The Indians reached out to Wynn on June 1, 1963. He was at home in Venice, Florida unhappily retired. The 43-year old felt that he had more innings left in his arm. Wynn pitched a complete game in his first game back in the rotation, but either pitched no-decisions or was the hard-luck loser in four consecutive outings. 

On July 13, 1963 the Indians were visiting the Kansas City Athletics in Missouri’s Municipal Stadium and Wynn was on the mound again seeking his elusive 300th win. Second baseman Larry Brown put the Tribe ahead early with an RBI single that drove in Joe Romano. 

The A’s tied it up in the bottom of the fourth when George Alusik sent Wynn’s pitch over the Muni Stadium wall for a lead-off home run. 

Wynn led off the top of the fifth with a single, and advanced to second on a Dick Howser single. KC’s Moe Drabowsky walked Max Alvis to load the bases. Joe Adcock then knocked a single scoring Wynn and Howser. Another walk chased Drabowsky from the game, and Al Luplow knocked in another two runs before Romano was gunned out at home trying to score from first base. 

The Royals loaded the bases to lead off the bottom of the fifth, then Jerry Lumpe tried to stretch a double into a triple. Three runs scored–including a young Tony LaRussa who was on base as a pinch runner. 

Woodie held pinch hit for Wynn in the top of the 6th. With five innings in the books and a 5-4 lead, Wynn could not lose the game but his teammates would have to hold on for the win. 

Photo: Baseball HOF Collection

Reliever Jerry Walker gave up only three hits and two walks in his four innings of work. His talented pitching along with two further Indians insurance runs sealed Wynn’s place in the history books as the 14th MLB pitcher to achieve 300 wins.  

Wynn made one start after this game, and spent the rest of the year in the bullpen. He retired at the end of the 1963 season with exactly 300 wins, and a lifetime ERA of 3.54. He struck out 2,334 batters in 4,564 innings across parts of four decades. 

The 300 win club currently stands at 24 pitchers, and is not anticipated to grow anytime soon. Randy Johnson is the most recent addition, having earned his 300th win in 2009. Lefty Grove is the only other pitcher to have retired with exactly 300 wins. 

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Game 82

July 3, 1968 – Luis Tiant 19Ks in 10-Inning Complete Game

The Indians were hosting the Twins for a four-game series leading up to the Fourth of July holiday. After splitting the first two games, Luis Tiant was on the mound against the Twins Jim Merritt. 

Tiant pitched brilliantly, but was challenged early. With Twins on first and second in the top of the second he struck out Minnesota shortstop Jackie Hernandez looking to end the inning. 

Although he scattered six hits, no Twins baserunner made it past first again until the top of the tenth. 

Although not generating as many strikeouts, Merritt had an outstanding night as well. He struck out seven Indians, gave up only four hits and a walk. The pitching duel lasted into extra innings. 

In the top of the tenth, Rich Reese doubled to left field. Frank Quilici followed with a well-executed bunt that advanced Reese to third. With runners at the corners and no outs, Tiant struck out John Roseboro, Rich Rollins, and Merritt in quick succession to end the threat. 

Joe Azcue

Indians left fielder Lou Johnson led off the bottom of the tenth with a single, and advanced to second on an error. With Johnson in scoring position as a result of the miscue by Jackie Hernandez, Tribe catcher Joe Azcue stepped to the plate. Azcue knocked a single into right field, easily scoring Johnson and sending the Indians into the holiday on a winning note. 

Tiant would finish 1968 with a league-leading 1.60 ERA, and a 21-9 record. Seven of his 21 wins were shutouts. 

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Game 59

June 23, 1950 – Luke Easter Hits the Longest Home Run in Municipal Stadium History

In 1949, the Indians signed a contract with Luscious “Luke” Easter, one of the most prolific stars of the American Negro League. Playing in 1948 for the Homestead Greys against the New York Cubans, he hit a home run into the center field bleachers at the Polo Grounds– 475 feet from home plate.

At the beginning of 1949, only the Dodgers (Jackie Robinson),  Indians (Larry Doby), and St. Louis Browns (Hank Thompson) were integrated. Easter was send to AAA San Diego to get ready for the majors. He was only the second black player in the Pacific Coast League. When asked his opinion on integrating the PCL he told San Diego president Bill Starr, “Everybody likes me when I hit the ball.” Easter certainly hit the ball, recording several record-setting home runs in PCL stadiums.

Easter joined the Indians August 11, 1949 and became the 11th black player in the MLB. On June 23rd, 1950 Bob Lemon was pitching for the Indians against the Senators Bob Ross. Tribe shortstop Ray Boone opened up the scoring with an RBI single in the bottom of the 2nd. Washington tied it up in the top of the third Eddie Yost scored Sam Dente on a fielder’s choice.

In the bottom of the third with Dale Mitchell on second and Lemon on third, Easter hit a three-run home run off Senators starter Bob Ross making the score 4-1. Easter had another RBI in the bottom of the fourth when he scored Jim Hegan on a powerful line-out to left field.

In the bottom of the 6th, facing Joe Haynes, Luke Easter hit the most prodigious blast in the 61-year tenure of Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The Ball traveled well past the 470 mark in center, and cleared the auxiliary scoreboard. The distance traveled was estimated at 505 feet. The only other home run ever hit over the auxiliary scoreboard was by Mickey Mantle in 1960.

The Indians rode Easter’s 6-RBI day to a 13-4 victory.  He would go on to finish the 1950 season with a .280 batting average, 28 home runs, and 107 RBIs. Easter turned 35 in what was technically his rookie season in MLB.

After playing for the Rochester Red Wings and Buffalo Bisons in the International League well into his 50s, Luke Easter returned to Cleveland and was working as the chief union steward for the Aircraft Workers Alliance at the TRW plant in Euclid. One of his functions as steward was to cash paychecks for the union membership. On March 29, 1979, he was held up by robbers after cashing the checks. During the robbery, Easter was shot and was pronounced dead on arrival at Euclid Hospital. In 1980, the city park in Cleveland’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood was named after him and a bust was erected in the park.

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Honorable Mention – June 5, 2018 – Cody Allen Becomes Indians All-Time Saves Leader

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Game 56

June 17, 1965 – Sonny Siebert 15 Ks

This is the only place in the Project where consecutive games appear. The day after Luis Tiant’s 1-hitter, Sonny Siebert was on the mound for the Tribe against the lowly Senators.

In the bottom of the first, Siebert gave up one of only three Senators hits on the day–a single to right field by Frank Howard. He struck out Willie Kirkland to end the inning.

Senators pitcher Bennie Daniels lost control of the game early. He gave up a leadoff walk to Larry Brown. Vic Davillo reached on an error by Senators shortstop Ed Brinkman. Max Alvis laid down a perfect bunt and beat the throw to first. With the bases loaded, Rocky Colavito, Leon Wagner, and Duke Sims all hit RBI singles, giving the Tribe an early 4-0 lead.

Confident with this lead, Siebert pitched brilliantly for the rest of the game. He struck out the side in both the 5th and 7th. He scattered three hits and one walk, but no Senator advanced past first base after the first inning.

These were games 4 and 5 of a 10-game winning streak, the team’s longest streak of the year. The Tribe would ride a 22-7 record in June to first place in the standings by July 2nd. The second half of the season was less successful; however, and ultimately came to a 5th place finish in the AL.

Only eight Indians pitchers had recorded 15 strikeouts in a game up to this point, including Sam McDowell only two weeks prior. The mid-60s Indians were among the greatest strikeout-throwing rotations in team history, if not baseball history. McDowell, Siebert, and Tiant set many team records that would not be matched until the 2014 Indians set a new MLB record for most strikeouts in a season by a pitching staff.

This game bears a lot of resemblance to Shane Bieber’s recent start against the Orioles. An up-and-coming second-year pitcher striking out 15, scattering a few hits, and dominating a team that was hitting poorly.

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