There are so many things to remember about that 1995 season, but mainly, home runs and tears.
When we raised that Central Division flag [after defeating Baltimore], I don't think any of us were aware of thousands of screaming fans all around. All we could hear was [Garth Brooks'] "The Dance" playing for Steve Olin — it was one of his favorite songs — and Tim Crews, who we lost in that terrible [boating] tragedy in 1993. It was a private moment for us, a private dedication for those guys. I remember tears on every face, seeing Kenny Lofton crying.
That season was full of special moments. There were so many come-from-behind victories and most of them were on home runs. Paul Sorrento had a [walk-off home run] against Toronto in a game we were behind 8-0.
We'd gone through spring training with replacement players, which was an absolute train wreck. Then we had a shortened spring training when the lockout was settled. I remember how happy the players were that first morning of spring training. It was as it should be.
Wayne Kirby and Alvaro Espinoza were two of my favorites on that team. They wanted to play every day but they accepted their roles; they kept our guys upbeat and loose in the clubhouse. Midseason in Milwaukee, I remember saying to Espinoza, "You guys might need to cut it back a little bit." And he said, "OK, Skip, but don't worry, we got this thing in the bag." I realized right then that the players weren't worried, they knew. He wasn't bragging or being silly or flippant, he just verbalized what the players knew, and then I knew how good they were.
When Thome caught that last out to win the division, I had two thoughts: First, after 40 years of frustration, we finally gave this to our fans. And second, a conversation I'd had with a fan in the off-season. His dad took him to games and when he was 7 years old, he remembered the special feeling of playoffs. He said, "My son is 4 years old, and I want to give that to him, too." When I walked out on the field, I thought, That man can give this to his son now. I felt a real sense of satisfaction from being able to really give something back like that.
In [in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series], we faced Randy Johnson, and the stress was so powerful, the [Seattle] crowd was so loud. I remember leaning over to Buddy Bell and yelling in his ear, "We need to end this tonight, my heart can't take one more night of this!" Then we scored two on a wild pitch. [Lofton] scored from second. I watched Randy walk back to the mound, and I saw his shoulders slumped a bit, and I knew we were going to win it.