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1995 was another year of stolen bases and Gold Glove defense for Kenny Lofton

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Another classic season for a classic center fielder...

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images


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.

Previous entries:

#4: Kenny Lofton

Kenny Lofton was drafted in the 17th round of the 1988 MLB Draft by the Astros, but in December of 1991, they sent him to the Indians in what would prove to be one of the most lopsided trades in Tribe history. (Thanks, Houston GM Bill Wood!)

Lofton promptly set an American League rookie and Cleveland Indians franchise record with 66 stolen bases in 1992, finishing second in the AL Rookie of the Year Award voting to the undeserving Pat Listach. (Usually when hindsight makes an old award winner seem clearly underserving, you can look at the numbers and quickly tell what it was that persuaded voters, but looking at Listach's season, I can't figure out what it is the voters were drawn to. Lofton got on base more, hit for more power, stole more bases, scored more runs, and played better defense. It's baffling.)

By 1995 Lofton had established himself as one of the best players in baseball. He got on base, was a high-volume, high-success-rate base stealer, and a plus defender in center field.

Kenny picked up 10 hits during the first week of the season, including 4 in 14-7 romp over the Tigers. He had 4 hits again just four days later, this time against the Twins. The last of those hits came in the 17th inning, and was a walk-off single, ending the longest game (in terms of elapsed time) in franchise history, a 6 hour and 36 minute epic.

By the time the All-Star break rolled around, Lofton was batting .313/.356/.474. He was voted into the starting lineup for the American League team, and hit leadoff. He was bothered by injuries at that point though, and after playing only parts of three innings during the team's first few games after the break, Lofton landed on the DL.

He returned on August 1st, and got right back to getting on base and scoring runs. While his batting line had been strong during the first half, he'd stolen only 19 bases. On August 5th though, Kenny stole a pair (and hit a home run), and from that point on, he was a terror on the base paths again, with 34 steals in his final 53 games of the regular season. He finished with 54 thefts, enough to lead the American League for the fourth season in a row. He also led the league with 13 triples, helping him to a .310/.362/.453 line and 93 runs scored in 118 games played.

Lofton had a quiet ALDS against Boston, but he exploded against Seattle in the ALCS, batting 458/.517/.625, and reaching base safely at least twice in each of the six games. He also stole 5 bases, and in the 8th inning of Game 5, he made one of the most memorable base-running plays in franchise history, scoring all the way from second base on a passed ball.

Lofton stole another half dozen bases in the World Series, tying the record for most steals in a single postseason. (Lofton would eventually also set the career record with 34 postseason steals.) Lofton won another Gold Glove after the season, and continued to be one of baseball's best players for another half a decade, before settling into an extended journeyman stage that lasted until his final game (back for a third stint with the Tribe) in 2007, when he was 40 years old.