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 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 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 57

June 14th, 1958 – Roger Maris’ Last Home Run as an Indian

Every baseball fan knows the name Roger Maris as the first to break Babe Ruth’s mark of 60 home runs in a season. Few know that he began his career with the Indians and developed that prolific power swing in the Tribe’s farm system.

While playing for the Three-I League’s Keokuk Kernals in 1954, manager Jo Jo White taught Maris to pull the ball. This transformed the talented prospect from a contact hitter into the power hitter that is remembered from his days in the MLB.

Maris helped the Indianapolis Indians win a minor-league championship in 1956 and then started the season in Cleveland in 1957. In his two years with the Indians, he slugged 23 home runs (14 in 1957 and 9 in 1958).

On June 14th, the Indians were in Washington to face the Senators (the ones that became the Twins) in Griffith Stadium. Maris was hitting in the leadoff spot. He started the game by taking Senators starter Hal Griggs deep with a solo home run. The Indians manufactured two more runs in the inning and were out to an early 3-0 lead.

They extended that lead in the top of the third via a Preston Ward home run, a wild pitch that scored Mickey Vernon from third, and Maris drawing a walk with the bases loaded.

The Senators got on the board with an RBI single in the bottom of the 5th, but could not sustain the rally.

Rocky Colavito lead off the 6th with another home run, and the Indians eventually scored four in the frame.

McLish was fading a bit when he gave up a solo home run in the bottom of the 6th to Neil Chrisley. Herb Score came in to pitch in the bottom of the 7th and recorded a nine-out save. The leadoff home run was Maris’ last as an Indian.

After the game, and under the wire of the June 15th deadline GM Frank “Trader” Lane made one of his signature moves. Lane dealt Preston Ward, pitcher Dick Tomanek, and Maris for Woodie Held and Vic Power. Lane had previously attempted to trade Maris for Yankees second-basemen Bobby Richardson. He was later quoted, ““Before I let the Athletics have him, I made sure they wouldn’t turn around and trade him to the Yankees. They assured me they would keep him themselves.”

After the 1958 season, the A’s did indeed send Maris to the Yankees and eventually into the record books.

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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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Game 55

June 16, 1965 – Luis Tiant One-Hitter

On this Wednesday night in 1965, second-year pitcher Luis Tiant was matched up with Phil Ortega and a forgettable Washington Senators lineup.

Tiant had been called up from AAA Portland halfway through the 1964 season after throwing a no-hitter and a one-hitter consecutively for the Beavers. In the big leagues he had shown flashes of brilliance, but was mostly overshadowed by his friend from the Indians farm system, Sam McDowell.

Against the Senators (the version that became the Texas Rangers) Tiant pitched brilliantly, working 1-2-3 innings in the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 8th innings. He worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the second after hitting the leadoff hitter Frank Howard with a pitch. Joe Cunningham reached on an fielding error by Indians second baseman Pedro Gonzales. With Cunningham at second and Howard on third, Tiant intentionally walked Ed Brinkman to get to the pitcher Phil Ortega. He struck out Ortega and escaped with the 0-0 tie intact.

In the bottom of the 4th, Leon Wagner came through with some run support when he rocked a three-run home over the Municipal Stadium wall.

Tiant gave up the only Senator hit of the game to Woodie Held–a single to lead off the top of the 7th. He would then help out his own cause, sending Leon Wagner home with an RBI single in the bottom of the 8th.

Luis pitched the rest of the 1965 season with some persistent soreness in his arm and finished with an 11-11 record. By 1968, he led the American League with a 1.60 ERA and hits per 9 innings with 5.3. He was selected as an All-Star in 1968 and would have two more All-Star seasons with Boston later in his career.

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Honorable Mention: May 31, 2018 – Lindor 4 Extra Base Hits