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Back in 1995, Manny Ramirez established himself as one of the best hitters in baseball

From promising rookie to one of the best hitters in baseball...

Doug Pensinger/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:

#5: Manny Ramirez

Manny Ramirez was the Tribe's 1st round pick in 1991. Two years later, in September of 1993, he made his MLB debut. The following year he turned in one of the best rookie seasons the Indians have had in the last quarter century and finished 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting. On Opening Day of the 1995 season, Ramirez was still only 22 years old, but he was about to embark on a season that would establish him as one of the best hitters in the game, a role he would fill for the next decade and a half.

It didn't take long for Manny to establish himself that year. In his very first at bat of the season, he knocked a single to center field, driving in the Tribe's first run of the season. In his second at bat he drove in another run with a double, and in his third at bat he homered. By day's end, Ramirez had the first 4-hit game of his career.

At the end of May Manny was batting .395/.465/.798, with 12 home runs and 32 RBI in the team's first 30 games. To that point he'd been the best hitter in the American League. Ramirez had a rough June, batting just .223 with only 2 home runs (though a strong walk rate allowed him to maintain some value, even during the slump), but in July he rebounded nicely. He was named to the All-Star team for the first of what would eventually be twelve times, and drew two walks in that game.

On the Sunday after the break, Ramirez was involved in one of the most memorable moments of the season. The Indians had fallen behind the A's in the 12th inning of a game at the Jake. Manny came to the plate against Oakland closer Dennis Eckersley, with two outs and a man on second.

This happened:

Eckersley's bemused smile and "Wow" as he walked off the mound pretty much said it all.

Ramirez finished the regular season with a batting line of .308/.402/.558, with 26 doubles, 31 home runs, and 107 RBI. His wRC+ of 145 ranked 6th in the American League. That a guy with those type of numbers might rank only 5th on a countdown of a team's top players speaks primarily to how stacked the Tribe roster was in 1995, but also to what an adventure Ramirez's base running and defensive efforts in right field were.

After the Indians lost the first game of the ALCS to Seattle, Manny did the heavy lifting in the Tribe's Game 2 victory, with 4 hits, including 2 home runs, and he also homered once during the World Series. Unfortunately, probably the most memorable moment of the postseason for Ramirez didn't involve a big hit, but instead was an early example of what would eventually become known as "Manny being Manny." In Game 2 of the World Series, with the Indians already down a game in the series and trailing by one run in the 8th innings, Ramirez singled. Unfortunately, with Jim Thome at the plate, Manny got himself picked off.

Manny Ramirez's career was a wild ride, with highs and lows more extreme than those experienced by almost any other player. He'd already been a top prospect and very good rookie, but it was during 1995 that he became the player he would be, when Manny became Manny.