Pena's homer lifted frustrated Tribe
Extra-innings homer gave Indians the '95 Division Series
CLEVELAND -- As the ball soared through the early-morning mist and just beyond the 19-foot wall into Jacobs Field's left-field bleachers, the wait was over.
In a game for the ages, one that would not end until past two in the morning, the most improbable of players had lifted the Indians to their first playoff victory in 47 years.
Tony Pena's home run in the 13th inning against the Red Sox in Game 1 of the 1995 Division Series had given America's most frustrated sports town cause to rejoice.
So as Giants slugger Barry Bonds has now broken the game's most hallowed home run record, we look back at Pena's historic drive, the most memorable homer in the Indians' 107-year history.
It was a home run that transcended a single game and encapsulated the magic of an entire year, a 100-win season in which 27 victories came in the Indians' last at-bat.
"When you talk about that year, everybody talks about the magic of Jacobs Field," said Tribe radio voice Tom Hamilton, who called the Oct. 3 game. "With that home run, to me it kind of established the fact that even though it was postseason, things were no different."
Sure, there have been several momentous shots in Cleveland's history. Frank Robinson's 1975 home run in his debut as baseball's first black manager, Sandy Alomar Jr.'s game-tying drive in Game 4 of the 1997 Division Series against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, and even Carlos Martinez's homer off the head of Rangers right fielder Jose Canseco in 1993 should all come to mind.
But none, when viewed in context, meant nearly as much as Pena's.
This one came in the Tribe's first playoff game since 1954 and in the year of Cleveland's baseball renaissance.
And amid the drama of one of history's wilder playoff games.
As the Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes wrote, "It took the Indians 41 years to get back to postseason baseball. If it takes another 41 years, they will never play another game like they did Tuesday night and yesterday morning."
There were a pair of rain delays, multiple lead changes, a corked bat controversy -- Red Sox manager Kevin Kennedy wrongly accused Albert Belle of using a corked bat to hit his game-tying homer in the 11th -- and then, of course, Pena's emergence as the morning's star.
Five hours and one minute after starter Dennis Martinez delivered the first pitch, here was Pena, a lifetime .260 hitter whom Boston had discarded just two years earlier after the reserve catcher hit just .190, facing Zane Davis with two outs, a 3-0 count and nobody on in the 13th.
Surely, he was looking for a walk, looking to extend the inning for leadoff man Kenny Lofton.
"Everybody thought he was taking a pitch to get things going," shortstop Omar Vizquel said.
And in fact, third-base coach Jeff Newman even had the take sign on.
Pena would later claim he never saw the sign. But more likely, the reserve catcher knew the suspense had carried on for too long.
"It felt like we played 47 years," manager Mike Hargrove later said.
So what the heck? He swung.
And in his career's finest hour, Pena drove Smith's belt-high fastball into the left-field bleachers.
The Indians were playoff winners once again.
A jubilant Pena, his arms raised in triumph, wore a brilliant smile for the entire 360-foot jog.
"When it happens, you just have to enjoy the moment because you never know if it's going to happen again," Pena told reporters that morning.
Now as for ignoring the take sign, he may never live that one down.
"Now my players ask me, 'Do we get to swing if you give the take sign?'" Pena joked a few years ago. "I tell them, 'If you get the take sign, and you swing, you'd better hit a home run.'"
David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.