As a baby boomer and life-long fan of Cleveland baseball, it took almost 40 years for my Field of Dreams to come true and obliterate season after season of small crowds, last-place finishes and little hope.
And, boy, how the 1995 team changed all that.
Jacobs Field had opened the year before — and it didn’t take long for the Indians to become one of the best teams in baseball. Sellout crowds. Star players. Memorable comebacks, seemingly on a nightly basis. It all added up to a season many of us never thought we’d live to see. Led by talent that included Albert Belle, Jim Thome, Carlos Baerga and Kenny Lofton, the team clinched the division in early September and finished with a 100-44 record.
Like so many of us who’d attended hundreds of games at the old stadium, it was a new experience to see a great team and thousands of screaming fans.
The thrilling wins led to our hometown boys securing a playoff position for the first time in my life. Game one of the Division Series against the Boston Red Sox was no easy victory. Two rain delays and 13 innings later, it ended shortly after 2 a.m. following Tony Peña’s home run. Delighted by the win, I high-fived fans around me and took a joyous ride home on the RTA Rapid. It was only after I opened my garage door that I realized I’d be back in the car three hours later to go to work.
Like me, the city didn’t sleep for the next several weeks, because we were so wrapped up in the daily drama. Beating Boston and the Seattle Mariners led to another first for me: seeing a World Series game in Cleveland. On Oct. 24, 1995, the Indians faced the Atlanta Braves. My sportswriter husband came down from the press box to share the emotional pre-game ceremony with me. The Indians won the 4-hour game, which, of course, led to another night of no shut-eye. But who cared? We were on top of the world.
Bob DiBiasio knows this better than anyone. The team’s senior vice president of public affairs grew up in Lakewood and understands how special the resurgence was.
“It was a magical year,” says DiBiasio, who’s been a member of the team’s front office for 43 seasons. “We were celebrating our beautiful, intimate, urban baseball-only ballpark, and had a championship-caliber baseball team for the first time in 40 years. Anytime you experience something like that, it’s destined to forever become an indelible part of your memory bank, heart and soul.”
The Indians would go on to lose the series. But that didn’t tarnish the euphoria of seeing the unbelievable actually happen — and lead to a 455-game sellout streak that lasted from June 12, 1995, to April 4, 2001.