The 1995 Cleveland Indians were an incredible team. They are rightfully famed for their other-worldly offense, but their pitching was excellent as well. As we all know, they fell in the World Series that October, making them arguably the best team ever among those that didn't win the Fall Classic.
It's been 20 years since that team brought the city of Cleveland to its feet and ended decades of frustration. Throughout this anniversary year we'll be celebrating them, as the current version of the Tribe hopefully makes its own run to the American League pennant. Each week I'll look back at one of the key players from that season, counting down to the very best of them.
#21: Tony Pena
Tony Pena, who had been an All-Star and Gold Glove winner earlier in his career, was approaching his 37th birthday by the time he signed with the Indians before the 1994 season, joining the team as a backup to young rising star Sandy Alomar Jr. Pena wasn't expected to play a significant role for the Indians in 1995, but Alomar missed the first 56 games of the season due to knee surgery, and so Pena became the starter, and wound up appearing in more games at catcher than anyone else that season.
'95 Indians Countdown
'95 Indians Countdown
Pena got off to a slow start during the first couple weeks, but homered on May 10, kicking off a great three-week stretch in which he batted .341/.408/.568. He cooled back off in June, and at the end of that month Alomar returned. The two split catching duties for a short time, but by mid July Alomar had taken back over as the primary starter. Pena had his moments, though his overall offensive numbers for the season were fairly poor. He didn't let the pitching staff miss a beat though, and deserves at least a bit of the credit for the Tribe's league-leading ERA that season.
Pena's biggest moment in a Tribe uniform was still ahead of him though, and it was a very big moment.
On October 3, 1995, the Indians played their first postseason game since the 1954 World Series. More than 44,000 people squeezed into the Jake for the occasion. The Tribe fell behind 2-0, but came back to take the lead in the 6th. Boston then tied in back up in the 8th, and it remained knotted at 3-3 into the 9th and then 10th innings. At that point Alomar was lifted for a pinch runner. The Red Sox went ahead in the top of the 11th, but Albert Belle tied the game in the bottom half. The Indians put a man on third with no outs in the 12th, but couldn't get him in. There were two outs in the bottom of the 13th when Pena came to the plate and did this:
Pena may not have been one of the many monsters of the '95 lineup, but the city had been waiting 47 years for a postseason victory, and Tony delivered it.