July 16, 1995 – Manny Ramirez “Wow!” Home Run off Dennis Eckersley
The red-hot Indians were trying to complete a four-game weekend sweep of the A’s in mid-July of 1995. The Tribe were already running away with the Central Division, and every game seemed to have a new hero.
Oakland threw Todd Stottlemyre against “El Presidente” Dennis Martinez. Eckersley began his career in Cleveland as a hard-throwing starter. He threw a no-hitter for the Tribe in Game 41 of 1977. In 1987, he signed with his hometown Oakland A’s and became the most dominant closer of the era.
Rickey Henderson led off this Sunday afternoon game with a home run on the third pitch from Martinez. Four batters later, Geronimo Berroa took Martinez deep to left-center to put the A’s ahead 3-0.
In the bottom of the second, Tony Pena cut the lead to 3-1 when he grounded out to third with runners at the corners.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Indians loaded the bases on Stottlemyre, but Wayne Kirby ended the inning with a flyball out. Likewise, the A’s loaded the bases in the top of the 7th. Martinez was able to work out of the jam when Stan Javier grounded out to short.
The As went to their bullpen in the bottom of the 7th, bringing in Mark Acre to replace Stottlemyre. Following a Carlos Baerga single, Albert Belle rocked a two-run home run to deep left-center, tying the game at 3.
The A’s loaded the bases again in the eighth, but once again failed to score. Julian Tavarez and Todd Van Poppel pitched scoreless ninth innings, for their respective clubs and send the game to extra frames.
The bullpens continued to battle, until the top of the twelfth when Stan Javier scored Ricky Henderson on a sacrifice fly off of Alan Embree.
The Indians came to bat in the bottom of the 12th with pressure mounting. The A’s brought in Eckersley to slam the door. Carlos Baerga singled to left on Eck’s second pitch. Albert Belle and Jim Thome then popped out consecutively. The speedy Kenny Lofton came in to pinch run for Baerga and stole second.
With Lofton on second, Manny Ramirez stepped back in and fouled off a handful of Eckersley fastballs. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat Manny connected with one of those Eckersley fastballs in a big way. The two-run home run landed more than half way up the left field bleachers. As Manny rounded the bases, a TV camera caught the moment when Eckersley turned to see the ball leave the park and mouth “WOW!”
Interestingly, Eckersley is credited with coining the phrase I have used so often in this project “walkoff home run.” He initially used the term to describe the home run he gave up to Kirk Gibson in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.