Game 141

September 28, 1995 – Dennis Martinez Breaks Kirby Puckett’s Jaw with Curveball

Dennis Martinez signed with the Indians prior to the 1994 season with 18 years of major league experience under his belt. He was the first Nicaraguan native in the MLB, had found lasting success with both the Orioles and Expos, pitched a perfect game, and overcome alcoholism.

El Presidente was already only the seventh pitcher to record 100 wins in both the American and National Leagues.He had taken the mound for the Tribe on Opening Day both in 1994 against Randy Johnson in Game 1 at Jacobs Field  and in 1995. 

The Indians had clinched their first playoff berth in a generation in Game 123 of 1995 and were tuning for the ALDS as the strike-shortened season was coming to a close. 

Martinez took the mound for a getaway Thursday game in Minneapolis against Frankie Rodriguez. The start of the game was rocky for El Presidente. He hit Chuck Knoblauch with the game’s second pitch. 

Two batters later, a second wild pitch broke future Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett’s jaw. Puckett had played 12 seasons for the Twins without ever spending time on the DL. In the offseason he was diagnosed with glaucoma. The rapid degradation of his eyesight ended his major league career. Although the hit-by-pitch injury was unrelated, this episode was a somewhat unfitting end for one of the beloved figures of 90s baseball. 

Knoblauch later said, “He did his leg kick and then he just froze. It’s almost like he didn’t see it or something. He didn’t really turn his head.”

After Puckett was taken off the field, Marty Cordova drove in Knoblauch to give the Twins a 1-0 lead. 

Rodriguez plunked Albert Belle with the first pitch of the second inning. Eddie Murray then singled to left to put runners at the corners for Jim Thome. Thome doubled in Belle and Murray advanced to third. Manny Ramirez followed with a line drive single up the gap that scored two. 

A two-run home run by Matt Lawton tied things up at 3-3 for a time, but the Indians would pull ahead in the top of the fifth and not look back. They rode homers by Alvaro Espinoza and Eddie Murray to a 12-4 win. 

After the game, Martinez remarked that he had considered asking Manager Mike Hargrove to take him out of the game.  “It’s the worst I’ve ever felt in my life. Because when I knocked him down, it did not hit him in the helmet, it hit him right in the face. I felt like the lowest man in baseball when I was on the mound.”

Despite the unfortunate outcome in the first inning, Martinez had pitched quite a year. In his age 40 season, he recorded a 3.08 ERA. That figure has not been matched by an Indians starting pitcher save for Cliff Lee’s Cy Young season in 2008. His 245 career wins held the mark for most by a Latin-born pitcher until he was surpassed by Bartolo Colon in 2018. 

Baseball Reference Box Score


Game 3

April 8, 1993 – Carlos Baerga Switch-Hit Home Runs in Same Inning

1993 started off with a disappointing 9-1 loss to the Yankees on Opening Day. The Indians bounced back in Game 2 for a 4-2 victory. The final game of the series fell on a surprisingly warm 71 degree early April day and saw Mike Bielecki facing Sam Militello. The Indians 1993 lineup will be familiar to fans of the late-90s playoff run, since it was the year when many of the core players began to come into their own and attract national notoriety including Kenny Lofton, Albert Belle, and Sandy Alomar Jr.

The Indians jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the 1st, and chased Militello after scoring another three runs in the bottom of the 3rd.

In the top of the 4th, Paul O’Neill hit a solo home run off Bielecki to put the Yankees on the board. In the bottom of the 6th, speedy Glenallen Hill had a leadoff triple and was driven home by a Felix Fermin bunt. The Yankees added three runs in the bottom of the 7th to make it a 5-6 game.

The bottom of the 7th was an offensive explosion that would be often imitated by the hard-hitting Jacobs Field teams of the later 90s. Alvaro Espinoza pinch hit for Jeff Treadway to lead off the inning with a single to right field. Carlos Baerga stepped in from the right side of the plate. On the 10th pitch of the at-bat, he launched a 380 foot home run to right-center. On the next pitch, Steve Howe hit Albert Belle. Angry words were exchanged, and Howe was clearly rattled. He gave up three consecutive singles to Paul Sorrento, Reggie Jefferson, and Glenallen Hill.

Steve Farr was brought in with two on and no outs. He immediately retired Sandy Alomar and Felix Fermin, but then lost his command. Kenny Lofton hit a single through the 3B hole, scoring Jefferson. He worked Espinoza into a full count, the crafty utility man homered to deep left field, clearing the bases and bringing Baerga back to the plate.

Always a talented switch hitter, this time Baerga stepped in from the left side of the plate. He sent the 2-0 pitch into the bleachers and became the only player to ever homer from both sides of the plate in the same inning. Baerga scored the 15th and final run of the game.

To date, 60 players have hit two home runs in the same inning in MLB history. Baerga’s switch-hitting feat has been matched twice to date, by Mark Bellhorn in 2002 and Kendrys Morales in 2012. In my mind, this is a baseball anomaly that is heightened in stature because it is both an individual and a team accomplishment. Hitting two consecutive home runs is a notable individual feat–and a very good day for any ballplayer. Likewise, batting around in an inning is not an everyday occurance and represents a very good day for a team. Hitting home runs from either side of the plate takes an exceptional switch-hitter. Combining all of this into one inning is truly a historic event.