Forty-One years worth of demons were exorcised last Friday night when the Indians won the American League Central and earned their first postseason appearance since 1954, the year Cleveland was swept by the Giants in the World Series. The Tribe wrapped up a division crown on the third-earliest date (Sept. 8) in major league history, but it was the quickest clinching in terms of the percentage of games played (85%, 123 games out of 144). When the Indians sewed it up, they had a 23�-game lead over the Royals—the largest lead an American League team had ever held over a second-place team. (At week's end the advantage was up to 25� games.)
Following the Tribe's big Friday night win, 3-2 over the Orioles, Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove led the Indians from the dugout to centerfield to hoist the division championship flag at Jacobs Field. Designated hitter Eddie Murray spontaneously grabbed the rope and did the honors. At Hargrove's suggestion, Garth Brooks's The Dance was played over the P.A. system. That was the song played at the memorial service for Cleveland pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews, who died in a boating accident in spring training 1993.
"I've been here six years and seen a lot," said catcher Sandy Alomar. "One hundred five losses in one season, injuries and disappointment. This makes it all worth it. My brother [Blue Jay second baseman Roberto] has two rings, my dad [Sandy Sr., who won an American League title with the Yankees] has one. I guess it's my turn now."
It was a grand night for a franchise that had struggled so feebly over the last four decades. Back in the Indian clubhouse, the players took turns showering everyone in sight with champagne and ice water. Leftfielder Albert Belle even doused the postgame spread.
If the Glove Fits...
It's time to change the way Gold Glove voting is conducted for outfielders. It isn't right that three centerfielders invariably win the award in balloting that should be broken down by position. The last American League outfielders to be honored who didn't play center were rightfielders Jesse Barfield of the Blue Jays and Dave Winfield of the Yankees in 1987. The last leftfielder in that league to win a Gold Glove was Rickey Henderson of the A's in '81. Shortstops can't claim all four infield Gold Gloves, so why should three centerfielders get the privilege?
Oriole leftfielder Brady Anderson is having a superb year defensively and deserves a Gold Glove. Actually, he's the best centerfielder in Baltimore and has played a number of games there this year, but two recent Oriole outfielders (Mike Devereaux and now rookie Curtis Goodwin) were better in center than in left. Truth is, centerfield can be an easier position to play if—and it's a big if—a player has good speed. The angle that the ball comes off the bat is tougher to read in left or right, plus in some parks there is lots of foul territory to cover.
Anderson has a shot at his first Gold Glove because Mariner centerfielder Ken Griffey Jr., a Gold Glove winner the past five years, missed most of this season with a broken wrist. "Ever since I was a kid, that's the only thing I've always wanted to win," Anderson says of the fielding award. "I've always loved to catch things. I'd much rather throw a football around in a parking lot than watch the Super Bowl."