Hargrove reflects on 20th anniversary of ‘The Jake’
It wasn’t Sandy Alomar’s hit to break up a no-hitter nor Wayne Kirby’s single in extra innings that is Mike Hargrove’s biggest memory of the Indians first game at their home on the corner of Ontario and Carnegie. It was an early-morning moment.
"I got there at six in the morning. It was sunny, cold and crisp. I walked out on the field and it was gorgeous," Hargrove said on Thursday. "Opening Day is special every year but the circumstances we had going into a new park. It was ours and a good team made it special in that regard."
The Indians begin their 21st season at Progressive Field on Friday when they host the Twins, but it also marks 20 years to the day that the first game was played there. For Hargrove, who had been a part of 10 Tribe home openers at Municipal Stadium, he was one of many who knew what the move to what was then called Jacobs Field symbolized.
He also knew that it wasn’t a normal opener when President Bill Clinton came out to throw the first pitch. Hargrove said he didn’t vote for Clinton but he did like him and got to know him more when Hargrove was the manager in Baltimore.
"It’s not every day you get to meet the President and shake his hand. You don’t realize how lucky you are to be a part of it," Hargrove said.
For seven innings though in that first game against the Mariners, things were not going well. Eric Anthony gave Seattle a 2-0 lead with a sac fly in the first and then a home run in the third while Randy Johnson had a no-hitter going.
Said Hargrove of Johnson: "He had a great game going. It would have been a tragedy if he had pitched a no-hitter because that’s not the way you want to christen a ballpark."
Alomar eased everyone’s minds, including a pacing Bob Feller in the press box, with a single to right in the eighth. With two on, Manny Ramirez had a two-run double to tie it. In the 11th, Kirby’s line-drive single to left scored Eddie Murray to give the Tribe a 4-3 win. In a poll of top moments at the ballpark, the first game came in seventh.
In home openers at Jacobs Field, Hargrove was 5-1 as the Tribe’s manager. He was on the opposing dugout in 2007 when Seattle was the opponent for the opening series but that ended up being snowed out. It is also the second time he has thrown out the first pitch in a home opener. Like he did in 2004, Hargrove will be throwing it to Alomar.
Besides Hargrove’s first pitch, pregame activities will include a video tribute of the first game, the raising of a 20th anniversary flag that will also signify the eight postseason berths in 1994, recognizing a group of select season-ticket holders who have had seats since 1994 and a moment of silence for the late Mike Hegan. Like they did in 1994, The Cleveland Orchestra Double String Quartet will perform the National Anthem. Gates will open at 1 p.m.
The Indians are 10-10 in openers at Progressive Field and have lost the last five.
"Jacobs Field and now Progressive Field has aged gracefully. It is a neat ballpark that has stood the test of time," Hargrove said.
Hargrove is in his fourth year as a special advisor for the team and spent a couple weeks at spring training helping Terry Francona and the coaching staff. During his time in Goodyear, Ariz., Hargrove said he came away impressed by the way the pitching staff performed along with the camaraderie and atmosphere in the clubhouse.
"The manager sets the tone and Terry demands that they do things right. He’s not a screamer or yeller but he is intense," Hargrove said. "The players realize he’s in their corner and all of it works together. It works to positively affect a ballclub."