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
- 16. Eric Plunk
- 15. Ken Hill
- 14. Omar Vizquel
- 13. Sandy Alomar
- 12. Charles Nagy
- 11. Julian Tavarez
- 10. Chad Ogea
- 09. Carlos Baerga
#8: Eddie Murray
Eddie Murray came to be known as "Steady Eddie," because year after year he put up strong numbers. He sometimes gets labeled a "compiler," someone who put up great career totals because they stayed healthy and had a long career. That's something of an insult when applied to Murray though, because it overlooks the fact that he had some great seasons. By 1995 though, at the age of 39, Murray had certainly gotten well into the decline phase of his career.
Murray received mention on MVP ballots for the 9th and final time of his career in 1990, finishing 5th in the National League balloting. From 1991 through 1993 he remained an above average hitter, but not the same sort of threat he'd been before then. A free agent at the end of that season, he signed a two-year deal with the Tribe. He then went out and had the worst season of his career in 1994, posting below average numbers for the first time.
It looked like Murray's decline had entered a critical stage, and his time as a productive player seemed likely at an end.
Murray had other ideas though, and stormed out of the gate in 1995; during the season's first three weeks, he hit .426, with 5 home runs and 18 RBI in the team's first 17 games. On May 7 he picked up 4 hits, singling in a run in the 1st, hitting a 3-run homer in the 3rd, singling again in the 4th, and then hitting his second home run of the afternoon, tying the game in the 8th.
On June 30th at the Metrodome, with a single through the right side of the infield, Murray became the 20th player in history to reach 3,000 career hits.
Murray missed almost all of July, but came back on August 1st and picked up right where he'd left off. On August 19 against the Brewers Murray smashed a walk-off home run against the Brewers. A week later, against the Tigers, Murray showed off his veteran moxie and did something not nearly as common in his career as hitting a big home run: He stole home.
Murray finished the season almost as strongly as he'd started it, with a 1.056 OPS in his final 21 games, including 5 more home runs. His line for the season was .323/.375/.516, with 21 home runs and 82 RBI, and a wRC+ of 128. It was and is the best season at the plate any player in franchise history has ever had at the age of 39 or older.
Murry had 5 hits during the three games of the ALDS against Boston, including a Game 2 home run. He had 6 hits during the ALCS against Seattle, including a Game 4 home run. He homered again in Game 2 of the World Series, taking fellow future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine deep.
Murray's final hit of 1995 was perhaps his most memorable. It came in Game 3, with Cleveland hosting its first World Series game in 41 years. The game went to extra innings, and Murray came to the plate with runners on first and second and the game tied. Murray got the pitch he wanted, and sent a sold out Jacobs Field crowd home happy.