Late on the night of Oct. 26, 1997, in the seventh game of the World Series, the Indians held a 2-1 lead against the Florida Marlins. It was the bottom of the ninth at Pro Player Stadium with closer Jose Mesa on the mound … and you know the rest. The Marlins tied the game and then won in the 11th inning.
It’s been 20 years — and another heartbreaking Game 7 extra-inning loss for the Indians — since then. Here’s what the guys in that box score are doing now.
Shortstop Omar Vizquel spent 11 of his 24 seasons in Cleveland before retiring in 2012. The fan favorite spent the past four years coaching first base for the Detroit Tigers, but in November his contract was not renewed. Vizquel, now 50, will be on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the first time in 2018.
Most people remember the error by second baseman Tony Fernandez, which put the winning run on in the bottom of the 11th. But Fernandez also had two hits and both Indians RBIs in the game. A Toronto Blue Jay for most of his career, Fernandez spent only one season in Cleveland. He was inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.
Right fielder Manny Ramirez, who hit 236 home runs during his eight seasons in Cleveland, was named World Series Most Valuable Player … in 2004, when the Boston Red Sox ended their 86-year title drought. The end of his 19-year career was marred by positive tests for performance-enhancing drugs. In 2017, Ramirez played in Japan for the Kochi Fighting Dogs (with a contract that included unlimited sushi).
In 1997, his first season in Cleveland, left fielder David Justice hit 33 home runs with 101 RBIs. But after 2 1/2 seasons, he was traded to the New York Yankees before retiring in 2002. Justice and his first wife, actress Halle Berry, split up before he arrived in Cleveland and eventually divorced in 1997. The 51-year-old father of three lives in San Diego with his wife, Rebecca.
Third baseman Matt Williams, who hit 32 home runs with 105 RBIs during his only year in Cleveland, eventually won a World Series in Arizona in 2001. After his playing career, Williams managed the Washington Nationals for two seasons and now serves as a studio analyst for NBC Sports Bay Area.
A six-time All-Star with the Indians, catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. enjoyed his best season in the big leagues in 1997, hitting .324 with 21 home runs and 83 RBIs. During that World Series, he hit .367 with two home runs and 10 RBIs. A free agent in 2000, Alomar played seven more seasons after leaving the team. After two years as a coach with the New York Mets, Indians manager Manny Acta hired him in 2009. The 51-year-old has been a coach with the Tribe ever since.
During his 13 seasons in Cleveland, first baseman Jim Thome hit .287 with 337 home runs and 937 RBIs. The five-time All-Star retired in 2012 with 612 career home runs, good for eighth on the all-time list and a statue outside Progressive Field. The Illinois native is a special assistant with the Chicago White Sox and will also appear on his first Baseball Hall of Fame ballot in 2018.
Center fielder Marquis Grissom spent one season of his 17-year career in Cleveland, but earned American League Championship Series Most Valuable Player honors against the Baltimore Orioles. Grissom, now 50, returned to his native Atlanta after retiring in 2005 and runs the Marquis Grissom Baseball Academy. “I had coaches pick me up and take me to practice. They fed me, kept me out of trouble,” he says. “I feel obligated to do the same thing.”
Rather than pitching scheduled starter Charles Nagy, manager Mike Hargrove went with the hot hand of rookie Jaret Wright, who went 6.1 innings, giving up just one run on two hits. The then-21-year-old never reached the heights he attained in 1997, pitching for the Indians until 2003 and then four other teams before shoulder injuries ended his career in 2007. He lives in California and can still be spotted at Indians events.
Reliever Paul Assenmacher went 5-0 with a 2.94 ERA in 1997. When the lefty retired from the Indians in 1999, “they had to take the uniform off me,” he says. Assenmacher, now 56, lives in the Atlanta area, where he served as an assistant coach for his kids’ baseball team at St. Pius X Catholic High School.
Mike Jackson had spent 11 years in the majors before coming to Cleveland in 1997. The reliever had 94 saves during his three years here before injuries forced him to retire in 2004. “You have to accept it and then move on with your life,” he says. Now 52, he lives in Houston and is co-owner of a youth baseball organization.
Pitcher Brian Anderson was one of Matt Williams’ teammates on that 2001 Diamondbacks team. He’s now part of the Tampa Bay Rays broadcasting crew.
The Indians traded pinch hitter Brian Giles, who flew out with two on and two out in the ninth inning of Game 7, to the Pittsburgh Pirates after the 1998 season. Giles, who was a two-time All-Star for the Pirates, retired in 2010. The 46-year-old now lives in San Diego, where he spent his last seven seasons in the majors.
After six years and 104 saves in Cleveland, Jose Mesa was traded to the San Francisco Giants during the 1998 season. Mesa, now 51, retired in 2007 after 19 years in the big leagues. His son, Jose Mesa Jr., is a right-handed pitching prospect with the New York Yankees who enjoyed his best season in the minors last year.
Charlie Nagy ended up taking the loss in Game 7. He went 15-11 that year and pitched for the Indians for 13 seasons before finishing his career in 2003 in San Diego. “After I retired, I talked to Mark Shapiro about doing some spring training instructing until I figured out what to do next,” Nagy says. “They were very accommodating.” Nagy, now 50, serves as the pitching coach for the Los Angeles Angels and lives in Anaheim, California.
Manager Mike Hargrove lives in Northeast Ohio, but spends winters in Arizona. Grover, who was quail hunting with former teammate Ron Hassey when we talked with him, hasn’t managed since 2007. “The itch is always there somewhere, but it’s not as close to the surface as it was.” He says he still occasionally gets second-guessed about Game 7. “There really was nothing I’d do differently.”
|Alomar Jr. C||5||0||1||0|
|Nagy L (0-1)||1.0||2||1||0||1||0|