The Cleveland Fan on Facebook

The Cleveland Fan on Twitter
Indians Indians Archive Cleveland Sports Vault: 4/12/1992. Tribe Rookie Kenny Lofton Flashes Promise
Written by Greg Popelka

Greg Popelka

1992 kenny lead cardSports is for whatever you choose it to be for.  

Perhaps sharing sports experiences is central to your family relationships. Maybe you love it as a metaphor for life- there is winning, losing, and the striving for improvement. Sports can be a source of geographic identification and pride. Or, you could simply be a fan of particular players.

For me, it is a diversion. I cherry pick what I like, and decide what to avoid. In times of societal strife, I find particular comfort in recalling notable, or pivotal, memories from the local sports scene. Often, recalled events were a surprise at the time they occurred; occasionally, they flew under the radar, with the passage of time revealing some perspective. 


Most Indians fans knew that Kenny Lofton had attended the University of Arizona on a basketball scholarship. He was a backup point guard behind future 1992 kenny astrosCleveland Cavalier Steve Kerr (and Craig McMillan). While a junior, he was a part of the Wildcats’ NCAA basketball Final Four team. That year, he tried out for the baseball team. He didn’t play much early on, or very well, but scouts were all over his speed and athletic ability. 

The Houston Astros selected Lofton in the 17th round of the 1988 draft. He struggled as a minor leaguer early on, although he was a natural base stealer. The hitting began to come around in 1989, and his promise as a top baseball prospect1992 kenny head first began to show after he graduated from college. By 1991, Lofton was a top player in the Pacific Coast League, and made his debut with Houston that September. 

By the end of that season, Kenny Lofton was major-league ready.  The Astros already had a fine center fielder- Steve Finley. Borrowing a page from the Cleveland Indians handbook, the Astros decided that they had no room for another talent who could play the same position. Lofton had to be dealt. They found a willing trading partner in Cleveland, who packaged catcher Eddie Taubensee and young pitcher Willie Blair in acquiring Lofton. The young centerfielder took the trade personally, and began a quest to prove Houston wrong in “giving up” on him. 

Quick, do you know who the Cleveland Indians’ single season stolen base record holder was, prior to Kenny Lofton’s 1992 rookie season?

a) Brett Butler

b) Miguel Dilone

c) Ray Chapman

d) Alex Cole

Lofton set the team record in 1992, with 66 steals. He’d steal 70 in 1993, 60 in 1994, 54 in 1995, 75 in 1996, and 54 in 1998. Outfield Brett Butler’s highest steal total was 52, in 1984. Shortstop Ray Chapman also swiped 52, in 1917. Outfielder Alex Cole totaled 40, in 1990. The team’s single season leader in stolen bases prior to Kenny Lofton was Miguel Dilone, with 61 in 1980. 

1992 kenny leafThe promise of the potential of Kenny Lofton was ready to shine at Cleveland Stadium, in April of 1992. It was in the second game of a scheduled double header (one recalls the beckoning of Tribe announcer Herb Score, during the first game. He’d cheerfully note there was still time to attend the festivities: “Plenty of good seats are still available.” Sure were.) 

In the second game, manager Mike Hargrove’s Indians wwould get shut out by Boston Red Sox ace Roger Clemens. These were the Sox of Wade Boggs, Ellis Burks, and Mo Vaughn. The young Indians featured second baseman Carlos Baerga, catcher Sandy Alomar, and DH Albert Belle. In center field was the fading ex-center fielder-of-the-future, the speedy Alex Cole. 

Clemens would go the distance, holding the Tribe to two singles over nine innings- Baerga’s grounder in the second, and Glenallen Hill’s line drive in the third. That was it. Scott Scudder and Ted Power would combine for three runs, all earned; Scudder would pitch well, into the seventh inning. Alex Cole would go 0 for 3, with a walk in the ninth that would be erased by a double play, and two strikeouts. Kenny Lofton would pinch hit for third baseman Brook Jacoby in the eighth, striking out swinging. 

The first game, however, was Kenny Lofton’s time to shine. The 20,480 in attendance (along with a radio audience of “38 states and half of Canada”) were treated to a pivotal moment in Cleveland Indians history. The ushering in of a new era for the franchise. 

1992 kenny rickeyYoung ace-to-be Charles Nagy was on the hill, vs. Boston’s Matt Young. 

TOP OF FIRST: Left fielder Mike Greenwell (a persistent subject of rumors as trade bait for the Indians during John Hart’s years as general manager) walked with two out, but was stranded when Nagy struck out Burks, swinging. 0-0. 

BOTTOM OF FIRST: Kenny Lofton walked on four pitches, and on a 2-1 count to Hill, stole second. On Hill’s strike out on a 3-2 pitch, Lofton stole third. Baerga reached base on a throwing error by Boggs, and Lofton scored. Belle and Mark Whiten flied out. 1-0, Tribe. 

TOP OF SECOND: Nagy sandwiched strikeouts of Phil Plantier, Jack Clark, and Luis Rivera around a walk to 1992 kenny swing fleer ultraMo Vaughn. (So no, he did not “strike out the side”.) 1-0, Tribe. 

BOTTOM OF SECOND: Matt Young settled down. 1-2-3. 1-0, Tribe. 

TOP OF THIRD: Nagy allowed a ground ball double to left field by Second City member John Flaherty (well, he was either the comedy troupe regular, or the Boston Red Sox catcher). After a Boggs ground out, Jody Reed and Greenwell struck out. Nagy was looking like a stud. 1-0, Tribe. 

BOTTOM OF THIRD: The Indians struck for another run. Mark Lewis and Lofton each walked, and Baerga eventually scored Lewis on a fielder’s choice. 2-0, Tribe. 

TOP OF FOURTH: The Red Sox answered. Ellis Burks singled, and stole second on a Plantier strikeout (this was early in Burks’ career, before his days of suffering from bad knees while with the Tribe). Vaughn walked, and Rivera hit a flare over second to plate Burks. Flaherty struck out. 2-1, Tribe. 

1992 pinnacle kenny runBOTTOM OF FOURTH: Matt Young easily retired Sorrento, Brook Jacoby and Junior Ortiz. 

TOP OF FIFTH: Nagy worked out of trouble. After allowing a one out line drive single to Jody Reed, he induced a Greenwell pop fly out before Burks grounded a single. Plantier flied out. 2-1, Tribe. 

BOTTOM OF FIFTH: Mark Lewis struck out. Kenny Lofton walked- again, on four pitches. On the 1-0 pitch to Hill, Lofton stole second base. Certainly, there was excitement in the radio booth, and perhaps among the crowd. The rookie needed just one more steal in this game to tie Alex Cole for the team record of four in one game. He stole third as well! Young Kenny Lofton had stolen four bases in one game for the Cleveland Indians! Hill struck out. He was stranded at third, as Baerga grounded out to short. 2-1, Tribe. 

TOP OF SIXTH: Nagy allowed three hits (Vaughn, Rivera, and Boggs), but wiggled out of trouble with the bases loaded as Reed grounded out. 2-1, Tribe. 

1992 stadium club kenny sitting laughBOTTOM OF SIXTH: Whiten walked with one out, but was caught stealing with Sorrento at the plate. Sorrento struck out. 2-1, Tribe. 

TOP OF SEVENTH: Nagy was back in control. He struck out Greenwell swinging, before allowing a walk to Burks. Plantier also went down swinging, before Burks was gunned down trying to steal second. Attaboy, Ortiz. 2-1, Tribe. 

BOTTOM OF SEVENTH: Young began to have some control problems, walking Ortiz with one out. Ortiz stole second with Lewis at the plate, before Lewis walked as well. However, Lofton and Hill each grounded out. 2-1, Tribe. 

TOP OF EIGHTH: Brad Arnsberg came on to pitch for Nagy- and immediately walked Clark. He recovered, striking out Vaughn looking before retiring Rivera on a double play ball. 2-1, Tribe. 

BOTTOM OF EIGHTH: Young was still mowing him down some Indians. Hitters 3-4-5 were retired in order: Baerga-Belle-Whiten, the latter on a strikeout swinging. 2-1, Tribe. 

1992 topps kenny loftonTOP OF NINTH: Hargrove sent Derek Lilliquist to the mound for the save. It wasn’t easy. He lost Tom Brunansky on a 3-2 count, and Boggs lined a single to left. Lilliquist recovered, getting Reed on a deep fly ball to left before getting Greenwell to hit a double play ball to Baerga at second.


It was a great game. Both starters pitched well, with Young going the distance. Each team had chances to score, and neither was bashful with baserunning. 

It was an auspicious showing for the young Kenny Lofton. The prism of history would help to reveal the significance of the game, for the young man who would patrol center field at Jacobs Field for many seasons to come.


Now, Kenny, we love ya. But, about your umpire relationships...

kenny lofton whine















Sources included Wikipedia and

The TCF Forums