Greetings, Tribe fans. I just got called up to the Big Leagues to join the writing team for It’s Pronounced Lajaway. It’s an honor to be here.
For my inaugural post, allow me to share my favorite Tribe moment from more than 50 years of watching Cleveland Indians baseball. It’s an incident I still refer to as “The Miracle of ’95.” See if you agree.
On Friday, October 13 of that year, I was finally realizing a dream I had been waiting for my entire life. I was in downtown Cleveland to attend a baseball game. In October! And not just any baseball game. ALCS, Game 3. Series tied 1-1. Randy Johnson versus Charles Nagy.
As my friends and I walked from the parking lot at Tower City, Jacobs Field was lit up like a fiery jewel. The Goodyear Blimp circled slowly overhead. I kept checking the calendar on my digital watch to confirm that this was really October. Because the Tribe season was still very much alive. The frenetic buzz of the city was enough to wash away the last remnants of disappointment that this moment could have happened the previous year. But a promising season was cut short at 113 games by a players’ strike, with a strong Tribe squad a mere game out of first place behind the White Sox.
Now, the opportunity to see my first postseason Indians game in person was a reality. There was just one little problem. I had no ticket. And neither did any of my four friends who made the drive from Toledo to Cleveland with me.
What I did have was $200 cash in my pocket that I had decided was my limit to cough up to a scalper. As my friends and I walked along Ontario from Public Square to the Jake, we scoured 360 degrees for a seller. We weren’t alone.
Folks, I have attended hundreds of sporting events and concerts in my life, and this game is the only one I can recall where there were ZERO people trying to sell a ticket. Granted, tickets to just about any Tribe game during that era were about as scarce as a Thome sacrifice bunt. But this was a whole other level of ticket famine. Dozens of people were within eyesight holding up one or two fingers. Shouts of “Need one!” and “Looking for two!” abounded.
We strolled to Jacobs Field, then walked along the outside of the stadium toward E. 9th. Same situation. All buyers, no sellers. Plan B was to watch the game from one of the sports bars ringing the Jake. With only 30 minutes until game time, it was looking more and more like Plan B was our fate.
Back then, the small piece of land bordered by the stadium, E. 9th and Eagle was just a patch of grass. That night, the area looked like a scene from The Walking Dead as desperate fans stumbled around forlornly holding up one or two fingers as hope quickly faded. We started to cut across the patch toward the space now occupied by the Thirsty Parrot.
That’s when my friend Kathy did something wonderfully sarcastic. She held up all digits on one hand proclaiming our desire for five tickets. “Put your hand down!” her husband hissed. “You look pretty stupid,” the rest of us said in one form or another.
Suddenly, a man wearing a bright blue blazer appeared at Kathy’s side. “Are you really looking for five tickets?” he asked, sounding incredulous.
“Yeah,” Kathy said.
“You mean you came to the hottest baseball market in the country, during the playoffs, and actually expected to find five tickets?” the man said.
“I guess so,” Kathy mumbled rather unconvincingly.
“I think I can help you,” the man replied. “Come over here.”
My friends and I exchanged suspicious glances as the man led us away from the milling crowd of ticket seekers. When we got a safe distance away, he unbuttoned his blazer to reveal laminated credentials. “I’m from Major League Baseball,” he said, “and Major League Baseball wants fans like you to see this game.”
The way he repeated the brand name, I’m still convinced he was part of a larger mission to help fans forgive the Strike of ’94. But I really couldn’t care less how he said his magical phrase. He whipped out five tickets for box seats between first base and the right field corner. And he sold them to us for face value: $40 each (remember, this was 1995!).
I floated into the Jake, finding it nearly impossible to believe our luck. The baseball gods had smiled on five loyal fans. And even though the Tribe lost in 11 innings on a Jay Buhner home run, I had finally been granted the privilege of seeing in person my beloved Indians play a postseason game. And largely because my friend Kathy was willing to look silly in public. A lesson, for sure. And a miracle, indeed.