Memorial Day Memory: Winfield's One Shining Indians Moment Sparks 1995 Comeback Against Chicago

Matt Loede

Memorial Day – a holiday to pay respect to our beloved troops who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we may have the freedoms that we enjoy to this day.

It’s a day for families to get together, cookout, and for many they think of it as the “unofficial” start of Summer.

While this year is different in terms of celebrating the day due to the ongoing covid-19 virus, you can still take a moment to reflect and give thanks to those that served before us.

Another thing that Memorial Day can be remembered for is baseball. By Memorial Day many teams are getting into the heart of the season, even though most teams have only played about 55 or so games.

Back in 1995 the Cleveland Indians played a day game on Memorial Day at Progressive (then Jacobs) Field, a game that many recall for the fact the team was up against their biggest rival back then in the Chicago White Sox.

The team also was looking to establish itself as a force in the American League, something they feel they were robbed of when the strike of 1994 took what had been a solid season away from the Tribe.

They were one game back of the Sox when the strike hit in 1994, and many felt they would eventually overtake Chicago for the AL Central title.

While we will never know, in 1995 the team had a fire and energy about them, and by Memorial Day they were ready to make it known the division belonged to them.

On this Memorial Day, the Indians entered the contest at 18-9, coming off taking two of three over the weekend against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The home affair against the White Sox was the first of a four-game set, and the Sox came to Progressive Field at 11-16, struggling to keep pace with the Tribe.

Veteran Dennis Martinez started that day for the Indians, and the longtime hurler had his issues with the Sox lineup.

Chicago quieted the sellout crowd as they chipped away against Martinez, beating him up for a run in the first, two in the third, two more in the fourth, and another in the fifth to build what looked to be an insurmountable 6-0 lead entering the bottom of the fifth.

Indians bats were silent up to that point against Wilson Alvarez, holding the Tribe to just two singles and a walk entering the bottom of the fifth.

The Indians got another hit in the fifth on a Tony Pena single, but the usually potent lineup including the likes of Kenny Lofton, Albert Belle, Jim Thome, Carlos Bagera and Manny Ramirez were to that point held in check.

Martinez allowed the Sox a double to catcher Ron Karkovice in the 6th with one out, but got a pair of groundouts to end the frame with no damage.

It was time for the Indians to do what they will be most remembered for in 1995, that being putting together a magical comeback.

Bagera singled in between a flyout and pop out to give Alvarez two quick outs in the inning.

Going up against Eddie Murray, the vet worked a walk, bringing Ramirez to the plate with two on and two outs.

Ramriez got the Tribe on the board with a single to left, scoring Bagera to make it a 6-1 affair.

That brought up grizzled veteran Dave Winfield, who at 43 years old came to the Indians in 1995 to provide some pop off the bench when needed it, signing him as a free agent.

Entering the Memorial Day contest, Winfield was batting just .212 in limited playing time, no homers, no RBI and he had struck out seven times in 33 at-bats.

Many fans groaned when Winfield’s name was announced for the at-bat, as despite how stacked the Indians were on offense in 1995, Winfield was not a player that struck fear into opposing pitchers as the Hall of Famer once had.

Winfield had popped out to short and flew out to right in his first two battles with Alvarez, who was looking to get out of the jam after allowing just a single run.

Alvarez went right at Winfield in the at-bat, which turned out to be a big mistake. The slugger, who hit 465 homers in his storied career, crushed the Alvarez offering with a monster swing, the ball landing into the left field bleachers with the sold out crowd going crazy.

The homer completely rattled Alvarez, who lasted four more batters as the Indians comeback was in full effect now trailing 6-4.

Dennis Cook and Julian Tavarez combined to retire the Sox in the seventh without a run, bringing back up the Indians trailing 6-4 following “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

With one out Omar Vizquel smacked a double off Alvarez, ending his afternoon. Jose DeLeon came into the game in relief, but it did not take long for Indians bats to catch up to him.

Bagera singled home Vizquel tool welcome DeLeon, and Belle then doubled to left, putting runners on second and third with one out.

Murray tied the game at six with a groundout to short to score Bagera, but the Indians were not able to get Belle home as the inning came to a close.

Chicago was not able to produce any offense against Tavarez in the 8, and with all the momentum on the side of the Tribe they were ready to close the game in the bottom of the frame.

Thome started the 8th against DeLeon with a double, and Wayne Kirby entered the game to run for the eventual all-time Indians home run leader.

With Tony Pena at the plate, he became the hero after first a wild pitch allowed Kirby to get to third, and then Pena laced a double which scored Kirby to make it 7-6 Tribe.

The frame ended, and Indians closer Jose Mesa trotted in to work the ninth to try and get the save.

Mesa was on a roll in 1995, and in this contest he made short work of the White Sox, getting two ground outs and a strikeout in between to put the game away.

The loss was deflating to Chicago, as the Indians worked a four-game sweep over the next few days, increasing their lead in the division to six games.

White Sox manager Gene Lamont was shown the door with the team at 11-20, as it seemed the Memorial Day game and then sweep of the Sox was enough to determine a change had to be made.

Winfield went on to hit one homer the rest of his time for the Tribe, and wasn’t a part of the team’s playoff roster.

It was one more shining moment in a memorable career for the Hall of Fame slugger, and a memorable holiday moment for what many consider to be the best Indians team of all-time.

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