100 wins. One-hundred wins. I repeat it so I don’t forget it. I swear, for a person who was born in 1979 and started watching baseball for real in 1986, one-hundred wins never seemed like a remote possibility in Cleveland. Just three years after I started watching professional baseball as a youngster, I learned a lesson about just how horrible my favorite team had been over the years when the movie Major League came out. And yet after not getting to 0.500 in 1993, when Sandy Alomar was 27 and Jim Thome was 22, and scoring a 66-47 record in the strike shortened 1994 season, the Indians won an even one-hundred games in 1995. I know this shouldn’t be too far from our memories, but it is important to make sure it stays top of mind as we go through another rebuilding project.
The 1995 Indians took me and most of my generation from being wannabe fans into being absolute bona fide fanatics. A lot of people put all the onus of being a fanatic on the people who buy the seats and watch the games on TV. Only in places like Cleveland where we endure historic streaks of incapability do we realize that being a fanatic is more of a partnership than that.
After years and years of watching our team falter and refuse to live up to expectations, everything finally came together. The Indians won the central division by 30 games that year over the second place Kansas City Royals. Our Cleveland Indians had 14 more wins than the Boston Red Sox who were second best in the entire American League. The stats the Indians put up were hardly to be believed.
Dennis Martinez, Charles Nagy and Orel Hersheiser dominated the rotation combining for 48 wins and 17 losses. Jose Mesa appeared in seemingly every game of the year (62 in actuality) as he saved 46 games. He ended up not getting a loss for the season and had a 1.12 ERA with 58 strikeouts. A 22 year old Julian Tavarez appeared in 57 games as a reliever and due to the potent Indians’ offense scored 10 wins of his own.
And what an offense it was. Albert Belle led the team with 50 home runs. Manny Ramirez had 31, while Jim Thome and Paul Sorrento had 25 each. The Cleveland Indians had 131 home runs between just four players alone. As a team they hit over 200 bombs. And they did all this in just 144 games, mind you. The Indians had six of their regular nine players hit over 0.300 on the season. Kenny Lofton blazed for 54 stolen bases on the season. It is hard to believe that all this occurred and I watched it unfold that year.
Yes the 1995 Cleveland Indians went on to lose to the Atlanta Braves in the World Series. I know that crushed everyone at the time. Still, in hindsight even though the Indians never got over the top, my generation has one thing that other generations do not. We have some glory days that we can look upon fondly. Those who started watching the Indians in the 1960′s probably can’t say that. Either that, or they had to wait until 1995 like I did. Before that season it didn’t ever seem like a possibility that my Indians could make it to the World Series. It certainly never seemed like they would be able to get to 100 wins in a single year.