As the year comes to a close, like we have done the last three years, WFNY will take a look at what we view to be the 10 biggest sports stories affecting our local sports scene. Each day through the rest of the year, we will be counting down from ten to one. We started with #10 – The Colt Concussion, next was #9 –Key Cavalier Wins. Yesterday we broke down #8 – the Baron Davis Trade. Today, we talk some Tribe.
# 7 – Carlos Santana’s April Grand Slam Signals the Tribe as Contenders
It was a Friday night in late April on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. The red hot, first place Cleveland Indians welcomed in the team that most expected would win the division, the Detroit Tigers, for a big three-game set. Big crowds weren’t expected as nobody really knew if this team was for real, despite their 16-8 record coming in. The game would be one that the 15,000 plus in attendance wouldn’t soon forget.
The Tigers jumped on Tribe starter Jeanmar Gomez for two in the first, taking the wind out the sails of the home crowd. But what we would come to learn about the 2011 Indians, this team was never out of it, especially at Progressive Field.
They trailed 3-0 and had just two hits against Max Scherzer, but got to him in the sixth, thanks to a two-out, two-run single by our man Shelley Duncan. Even though they had scratched and clawed their way to within a run, the Tigers put two back on the board in the seventh and led 5-2.
Scherzer came back out for the seventh and was touched up by a solo homer from Matt LaPorta. With two outs, Scherzer walked Grady Sizemore, bringing Asdrubal Cabrera to the plate as the tying run. It was one of the many times during the season we would see A.C. come through in the clutch. With two Tiger relievers ready in the pen, Cabrera crushed a two-run shot to the seats in right, tying the game at five. We would stay that way until the bottom of the ninth.
Against the newest Tigers set up man, Joaquin Benoit, the Tribe went to work. Jack Hannahan, who was a star in April, singled to open the frame. Sizemore singled to right, putting the winning run in scoring position with nobody on. Asdrubal was intentionally walked to set up the drama.
First, Shin-Soo Choo had his shot. He struck out. The “here we go again” sentiment was running through Tribe Nation. But nobody would ever remember Choo’s K again. With the crowd on their feet, begging for a moment to top all moments, Carlos Santana absolutely crushed a Benoit pitch deep into the Cleveland night for a walk-off Grand Slam. The joy the team shared at home plate was not to be missed (look at that photo above. Its one of my favorite’s).
Ladies and Gentleman, I bring you the great Tom Hamilton. (fast forward past Matt Underwood’s call to the 39 second mark)
The Santana bomb still gives me chills, but it wasn’t going to stop there. The Tribe’s walkoff heroics at Progressive Field lasted all summer long. They had a whopping 11 walkoff wins at home, five of which came via the long ball. But it was the Santana Slam that spawned a deeper appreciation for the “What If?” campaign that the Indians wisely ran with.
If Santana’s was the start of the 2011 magic, the best of the best has to be the Travis Hafner walk-off granny on July 7th against the Toronto Blue Jays. Again, do yourself a favor and forward yourself to the 26 second mark of this clip.
Tom Hamilton – the man loves his Indians.
Happy Holidays everyone!