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 with an AL Pennant. Throughout this anniversary year we'll be celebrating them, as the current version of the Tribe hopefully makes its own run to the postseason. Each week I'll look back at one of the key players from that season, counting down to the very best of them.
- 25. Wayne Kirby
- 24. Alan Embree
- 23. Albie Lopez
- 22. Jim Poole
- 21. Tony Pena
- 20. Herbert Perry
- 19. Mark Clark
- 18. Paul Assenmacher
#17: Paul Sorrento
Paul Sorrento was acquired by the Indians in a trade with the Twins just before the start of the 1992 season, in exchange for Curt Leskanic and Oscar Munoz. Sorrento wasn't much of a defensive player, and never ran the bases well, but from the start of his time with the Tribe, he hit. He had two singles in his first game with the team, and homered in his second. By 1995 he'd spent three years as a good hitter with the team. He'd spent most of the time during those years as the #5 hitter, but by '95 the development of so many offensive weapons on the team pushed him down to the #8 spot most games.
On Opening Day of 1995, in his first plate appearance, Sorrento hit the first of the team's five home runs that day, a total which tied an American League record for Opening Day. It was also the first of the franchise-record 207 home runs the team would hit that season.
Sorrento was on fire for the season's first six weeks, posting a batting line of .303/.394/.775 in 104 PA, with 12 home runs in 89 at bats. On May 3 he had 3 extra-base hits and drove in 6 runs; on May 9 he hit a grand slam against the Royals; on May 21 he homered twice, including a two-run shot that tied the game in the 8th; on May 26 he homered twice again, on June 4 he had the childhood dream game, coming to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the 9th and the team trailing, and hitting a walk-off blast.
Sorrento cooled off quite a bit after that, posting below average numbers over the rest of the season and slipping into a timeshare with Herbert Perry during the final month. Still, those first six weeks were so good, he still ended the year with 25 home runs and a .511 slugging percentage.
I mentioned that for most of the games Sorrento started, he batted 8th. For just his appearances in that spot in the order, Sorrento's slugging percentage was .584, second only to Bobby Girch in 1979 for best slugging percentage in MLB history for a player batting 8th with at least 250 PA. His 20 home runs from that spot are only two shy of the MLB record set by Del Crandall in 1955.
The '95 Indians had a great offense because of the guys we haven't gotten to yet in this countdown, but part of what made it an historic group was that even way down at #8, they had a guy who could've hit cleanup for some teams.