Game 8

April 10, 1998
Jim Thome Walkoff HR in Home Opener

This is the final Home Opener in our series and one of the latest in Indians history. The Tribe opened the season at a blistering pace, defeating Seattle in the first two games, sweeping a weekend series in Anaheim, and then splitting 1-1 with Oakland before returning to Cleveland on April 10th.

With the near-miss disappointment of the 1997 World Series still stinging, the 1998 campaign began with great hope, and with a 7-1 record heading into the home opener sold-out Jacobs Field was electric.

The 1998 Indians would go on to lead the Central Division wire-to-wire. This is the first and only time in franchise history that the Tribe has been atop the standings for the duration of the season.

Bartolo Colon matched up with Allen Watson in the contest. The Indians got on the board early when Kenny Lofton hit a leadoff double, stole third base, and was driven home by a Shawon Dunston sacrifice fly. Later in the inning, Travis Fryman would double, scoring David Justice.

The Angels scored in the top of the second when, with runners on first and third, Norberto Martin drove a single into right field scoring Jim Edmunds.

Colon began to lose his command in the 5th. He gave up a fly-ball out to Darin Erstad, and consecutive singles to Dave Hollins and Tim Salmon. Jim Edmunds punched a ball between second and short, scoring Hollins. Salmon rounded third and a rare throwing error by Kenny Lofton allowed him to score. Paul Shuey would replace Colon later in the inning.

The game remained locked at 4-4 until the bottom of the 7th inning, when David Justice hit a line drive single into short right field, scoring Omar Vizquel.

In the top of the 9th, Indians reliever Michael Jackson hit Dave Hollins with an 0-2 pitch to lead off the inning. A Jim Edmunds double put Hollins on third. Cecil Fielder grounded one back to the pitcher, catching Jim Edmunds in a P-3B-C-SS-3B rundown. Damon Mashore came in to pinch run for Fielder at 3B and was driven in by Garrett Anderson to tie the game.

Eric Plunk retired the Angels in order in the 10th. In the bottom of the 10th, Jim Thome clubbed a 1-1 pitch onto the home run porch in left field. Thome would go on to be the Indians all-time home run leader with 317, and would finish his Hall of Fame career with an MLB record 13 walk-off home runs (9 with the Indians).


Game 7

April 12, 1999
Travis Fryman Walkoff HR in Home Opener

During the 1998 American League Championship Series, Travis Fryman batted only .167. He had no RBIs and committed one fielding error. The Indians were ousted by the Yankees in six games, ending their hopes for a repeat World-Series appearance and leaving Fryman with a disappointing end to his first post-season appearance.

After a winter of sports talk radio griping about his playoff performance, Fryman was back at third base for the Tribe in 1999. After losing Game 1 of the 1999 campaign in Anaheim, the Indians won five straight on the road against the Angels and Twins and were finally home to face the Royals in Game 7.

Dave Burba was matched up against Jose Rosado. Both pitchers more or less cruised through the first two thirds of the contest. In the top of the 7th, with Royals on first and third, Burba was pulled for reliever Mark Langston. Langston got Carlos Beltran to ground into an inning-ending double play. In the bottom of the 7th, with runners on first and second, Scott Service replaced Rosado and got Sandy Alomar to ground into a very similar double-play.

Joe Randa led off the 8th inning, hitting a triple to center field on the third pitch. Johnny Damon followed, hitting a fly ball to deep left center. Kenny Lofton ran it down and threw Randa out at the plate for the dramatic 8-2 double play.

The turning point in the game was in the bottom of the 8th, when Enrique Wilson hit a line-drive home run down the right field line, scoring Kenny Lofton and tie the game at two runs a piece.

Paul Shuey replaced Langston and made the final out of the 8th. In 2 ⅓ innings, Shuey recorded four strikeouts through the bottom of the Royals lineup, holding on to the 2-2 tie.

The Indians threatened in the bottom of the 9th. Travis Fryman led off with a single to left. Richie Sexson lined out to center. Sandy Alomar grounded to short, advancing Fryman to second. With first base open, Royals reliever Jose Santiago intentionally walked Kenny Lofton. Santiago walked Enrique Wilson on six pitches loading the bases. The Indians seemed poised for some of the 9th inning magic that was so common in the late 90s, but Roberto Alomar grounded out to 2nd sending the game into the 10th inning.

Paul Shuey once again retired the side in the 9th. After a Manny Ramirez ground-out, Santiago walked Jim Thome. Wil Cordero singled to left and advance Thome to 2nd. Travis Fryman stepped in. He sent Santiago’s 0-1 pitch over the wall in right-center and sent the Home Opener crowd home happy.


Game 4

April 6, 2007 – Home Opener Snowed Out, Later Played in Milwaukee

Indians starter Paul Byrd took the mound after a one-hour and ten minute delay into a driving snowstorm. To the TV viewer’s eye, there was little difference in the conditions during and after the delay. Evidently, the umpires thought that they saw some relief in the radar signature. Byrd was working on a no-hitter through four innings, certainly assisted by the falling snow.

With two outs and two strikes in the top of the fourth, Mariners manager Mike Hargrove exited the dugout to make his case with the umpire crew. He urged that the game be delayed because his batters could not see the ball against the white background of swiftly-falling snow.

At this point–one-strike away from being an official game–the game was delayed. The sell-out crowd remained in the stands building snowmen for another hour and seventeen minutes. With no improvement in the weather in sight, the game (and eventually the entire series) was called due to weather. With over a foot of snow coating the field, the Mariners series was re-scheduled to open dates throughout the season. The 10-day forecast indicated that the April 10th game against the Angels was in jeopardy as well. MLB began looking for an alternate site for the series against the Angels.

On April 10th, flatbed trucks were busy removing snow from Jacob’s Field. 500 miles away in Milwaukee, over 19,000 fans came to Miller Park in Milwaukee to see the Indians “Home Opener.” The Indians did all that they could to bring the home field advantage to Wisconsin: John Adams was in the crowd with his drum, the staff had loaded the Indians hype videos and walkup music into Miller Park’s systems, and Slider took a ride down Bernie Brewer’s famous slide.

The game itself was a fairly standard affair. Kelly Shoppach hit a home run off Ervin Santana in the bottom of the 2nd. The Angels threatened several times, but CC Sebathia had a solid outing holding the Angels to only three runs through seven innings. The Angels scored two runs in the 8th and pulled within one when Casey Kochman scored Garrett Anderson on a two-out single in the bottom of the 9th against closer Joe Borowski. Eric Eybar came in as a pinch runner for Casey Kotchman who was on second. On a 1-1 pitch, Shoppach caught Eybar stealing to end the game.

After all of the drama of the last five days and a memorable win, all the Indians wanted to talk about in the post-game interviews was the Milwaukee crowd. “I thought it would be like five, maybe 500,” Borowski said. “I thought it would be like an American Legion game. I mean, come on, less than 24 hours’ notice? I didn’t think anyone would be here.”