April 4, 2001 – 455 Game Sellout Streak Ends
The period between June 12th 1995 (Game 42) and April 4th 2001 will always represent one of the great love affairs between a City and its team. In 1995, John Hart and Dick Jacobs has cultivated a team of home-grown talent that was coming into its prime, the County’s smokers and drinkers had funded the beautiful new retro-modern Jacobs Field via the infamous “sin tax.” And most importantly, the Browns had just moved to Baltimore–leaving both civic affections and corporate season-ticket dollars adrift and looking for a new love. From 1995 onward, the Indians were a juggernaut, dominating public discussion and affection in Cleveland.
Five years on; however, the shine on the new stadium had begun to wear off. The Browns had returned as an expansion team to a new–if hastily constructed–home on the lakefront, and much of the core of the late-90s team had departed by this point. Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Sandy Alomar, Paul Shuey, and Chuck Nagy were the only veterans present throughout the entire 455 game run. The Indians were sellers at the trade deadline during the 2000 Season, moving promising outfielder Richie “Big Sexy” Sexson and veteran David Justice prior to the trade deadline.
After a long winter, Cleveland loves a reason to take the day off and perhaps do some day drinking. Along with St. Patricks Day and Dyngus Day, the Home Opener has long been an excuse to skip work or school and turn Downtown Cleveland into a party. That was the case in Monday the 2nd when 42,606 packed into the Jake to watch the Indians lose to the White Sox in Game 1.
Two days later on April 4th, Chuck Finley faced Cad Eldred in Game 2. After 11 years with the Indians, 2001 was catcher Sandy Alomar Jr.’s first year with the White Sox. In the top of the 2nd, Sandy launched a home run off Finley, scoring Herbert Perry (another former Indian). In the bottom on the second, Eldred gave up a leadoff walk to Jim Thome and consecutive singles to Ellis Burks and Jacob Cruz. Russell Branyan struck out swinging with the bases loaded (this would become a familiar refrain in 2001). Ed Taubensee, Alomar’s replacement behind the plate was hit by the next pitch, forcing in Thome. Consecutive singles by Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel, and Sandy’s younger brother Roberto Alomar gave the Tribe a 5-2 lead.
The Indians would manufacture another run in the bottom of the 4th, and extend the lead via a Russell Branyan home run in the bottom of the 5th to cruise to an 8-4 victory. The streak ended with only 32,763 fans present for the first night game of the year. At the time, the stadium seemed empty after 455 consecutive sellouts. In fact, this would be a near-capacity crowd today as Progressive Field’s seating has been reduced to 35,041 with various renovations.