Known for slick base-stealing tactics that drove pitchers mad and leaps up the center field wall that made home run hitters nuts, Kenny Lofton's skills were undeniable. For those heroics, the six-time All-Star will be inducted into the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame Aug. 7 and honored with a bobblehead giveaway during that day's game. "It's unexpected, but I'm very excited about being a part of something special in Cleveland," Lofton says. Although he didn't start his career with the Tribe and has a career stats sheet spanning nine teams, he will always be known as an Indian. "I want to be remembered as an honest guy who went out there and played the game hard, gave it 100 percent every single game," he says. "That's my legacy."
During his three stints with the ballclub through the '90s and 2000s, Lofton became one of the Tribe's most popular players, especially after his unforgettable performance in Game 6 of the 1995 American League Championship Series. Facing Seattle Mariners pitcher Randy Johnson, the Indians led 1-0 when Lofton streaked home from second base on a pitch that got past the catcher.
"It was something that had to happen, and I did what I did to make things happen," Lofton recalls. "It worked out for me, and it was one of those exciting plays that turned the whole game around."
When he was traded to Atlanta in 1997, fans were upset and so was Lofton. But his return the next season only solidified his commitment to the team and to the city.
"Coming back the first time was very emotional because I wasn't expecting to leave. That wasn't my plan," he says. "It was very special to be back in a place that I felt I belonged and that I shouldn't have been taken away from in the first place."
His second return in 2007 also marked a milestone. On the verge of a playoff run, the team needed a leader — or a "Mayor of Cleveland."
"I felt like I was the guy who was well-respected by fans," he says of the nickname. "Once I heard it, it stuck with me. It was kind of cool to hear people call me that."
Lofton, who retired after that 2007 season, says returning was the perfect ending to his career. "It's where I started, where I got my name. Fans got behind their teams," he says. "They were right there next to you cheering you on. I felt like once they embraced me, I had nothing but love for Cleveland after that."