JUST PERFECT! On the morning of April 5, 1994, these words were emboldened on the front page of The Cleveland Plain Dealer following the Cleveland Indians’ 4-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners.
The game was the first ever played at the brand new Jacobs Field. In front of a sellout crowd of 41,459 the Indians introduced fans to a new era of Cleveland baseball with an 11th inning walk-off win. The late-inning theatrics would become a common occurrence over the next several seasons, leading Tribe fans to refer to the heroics as “Jacobs Field Magic”.
An Aging Landmark
From 1932 to 1993, the Cleveland Indians played in the cavernous Municipal Stadium. In 1946, the NFL’s Browns began play there as well. For many, the stadium was a symbol of pride. Eventually, after enduring years of brutal winter weather on the shore of Lake Erie, the building began to deteriorate and became almost a perfect representation of Cleveland following the city’s decline in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s.
The 78,000 seat stadium would go largely unoccupied for baseball games. In addition, structural issues plagued the ballpark, from bad pipes to crumbling columns of concrete. Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell purchased the building from the city in the 1970’s, leasing it to the Indians in an agreement that ended up causing headaches for Tribe brass. Beginning in the 1980’s, Indians owners began to push for a new stadium.
In May of 1990, Cuyahoga County voters passed a sales tax on alcohol and cigarettes. The proceeds would be used to fund a new baseball stadium and basketball arena for the NBA’s Cavaliers (Browns owner Art Modell chose not to participate). The development plan, dubbed “The Gateway Project”, was an effort by city officials to bring new life to downtown Cleveland. $175 million dollars was allocated to the baseball stadium.
The park was to be named “Jacobs Field”, in reference to team owners Richard and David Jacobs. Beginning in 1994, the stadium would be ready for play.
Following an exhibition contest on April 1, the first official game was played on April 4, 1994. U.S. President Bill Clinton threw out the first pitch.
Seattle’s Eric Anthony hit a first inning sac-fly to put Seattle up 1-0. Anthony would also homer in the third, and the Indians would find themselves down 2-0. Mariners ace Randy Johnson held Cleveland hitless until the eighth inning. After a leadoff walk and a Sandy Alomar single, Manny Ramirez laced a double to left field, tying the game.
Seattle went ahead 3-2 in the 10th, but the Indians tied the game once more. One inning later, Indians outfielder Wayne Kirby hit a walk-off single to win the game. In what was the first of 455 consecutive sellouts, fans got their first taste of Jacobs Field magic, ready to experience what was yet to come.
Were they ever.