Throughout the history of the Cleveland Indians roster, a lot of names will bring a smile to the faces of Tribe fans. One name will always bring more than a smile. Simply mention the name “Omar Vizquel” in any Northeast Ohio bar, and fans will begin to tell multiple stories about the time they witnessed Vizquel’s prowess on the field.
Unfortunately for baseball fans worldwide, the days of watching Vizquel’s heroics are about to come to an end. The 43-year-old shortstop, now a member of the Chicago White Sox, yesterday began discussing his own retirement from baseball.
“I’m not sure if I’m really going to do it,” said Vizquel last night, following a 7-3 Indians win over his White Sox. “It depends on how I finish my year. I’ve already given everything to the game. It will be a difficult decision for me, but I think this is probably going to be it.”
Vizquel has now played 22 seasons in the majors and earned 11 Gold Glove Awards, 2nd-most in baseball history as a shortstop. Former Cardinal great Ozzie Smith won 13 Gold Gloves in his career.
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Vizquel won the Gold Glove award in each of his first eight seasons in Cleveland.
It’s been over five years since he played in an Indians uniform, but the memories of his heroics have not faded. As talk of his retirement begins to spread around Cleveland, expect a lot of fans to talk about the numerous times Vizquel bare-handed a ball and turn a double-play. However, his greatest play might not even be a defensive one.
In August of 2001, the Indians found themselves trailing the Seattle Mariners 14-2 going into the bottom of the 7th inning. 42,494 fans were in attendance, but most of them had left Jacobs Field by this point in the game. The Tribe mounted a comeback and by the time the ninth inning began, they were within striking range at 14-9.
Seattle got two quick outs in the 9th and all appeared to be lost. But following a 2-run Einar Diaz hit and a Kenny Lofton single, Vizquel trotted to the plate with the bases loaded and Cleveland trailing by only three runs.
Facing Kazuhiro Sasaki, who had picked up 45 saves that season, Vizquel ran the count full before lacing a hit down the right field line, just under the glove of first baseman Ed Sprague. The ball skipped all the way to the wall, and Vizquel had tied the game with a bases-loaded triple.
The Indians went on to win the game 15-14 in 11 innings, but the Omar triple was the play that made every sports show across the country. He had completed the greatest comeback in MLB history.
Vizquel is in Cleveland tonight for the rubber match of a three-game set with the White Sox, and he’ll return to Progressive Field for another three-game set at the end of August.
With the talk of retirement, today’s game may be one of the last chances for Tribe fans to say goodbye to one of their heroes.