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Indians Indians Archive Tribe Game Vault: 5/26/93. Canseco Patrols RF at the Stadium; Hilarity Ensues!
Written by Greg Popelka

Greg Popelka

jose canseco ball off head w marlboro signNostalgia had replaced disdain. Waves of Tribe fans were making the pilgrimage from near and far to pay their respects to the Grand Old Lady. Cleveland’s Indians were preparing for their move to their new home the following season at the ‘Gateway’ project, a few blocks south of the lakefront. The buzz of giddy anticipation fueled the fans’ excitement for their ball club, along with the promising core of talented young players that was beginning to bloom.

Granted, perhaps ‘Grand Old Lady’ wasn’t a common moniker for what was more often referred to as “cavernous Cleveland Stadium.” But if you referred to the ‘big barn’ as the ‘mistake on the lake’, it wasn’t there for you in the first place. And by 1993, the imposing, 80,000-seat mountain of cold, damp bricks was a powerful magnet that attracted sentimental Tribe fans who wanted a last look.

Ok, not every game was well-attended, even in that final season. And the Tribe still struggled in the standings. By late May, Mike Hargrove’s club was in last (seventh) place, already ten games off the pace. In fairness, Hargrove's main job by this point was navigating the team through the wake of the tragedy at Little Lake Nellie.

14,000+ attended a midweek night game against the 23-21 Texas Rangers.1993 topps jose mesa

The familiar stadium smells of cigars and steamed hot dogs accompanied Indians starting pitcher Jose Mesa’s pre-game warm-up from the mound. Unfortunately, ‘Joe Table’ coughed up a Rangers lead before the shouting vendors’ entire audience made their way to their seats.

Mesa had little trouble striking out David Hulse to start the game, only to surrender a home run to local favorite Julio Franco. No problem- Jose Canseco proceeded to whiff for the second out. Mesa fell behind 2-0 to Ivan Rodriguez before the catcher lined a double to left. Rafael Palmiero worked the count full, then crushed a home run of his own to put the Rangers up by three. When Dean Palmer got caught looking at strike three, Mesa and company sifted into the Indians dugout (a random ‘booo’ was audible, but Clevelanders’ animosity for the former Toronto Blue Jay farmhand would not become fully earned until four more seasons had passed).

In the bottom of the first, the Indians showed some fight against pitcher Kenny Rogers.“The1993 topps thomas howard Gambler” retired center fielder Thomas Howard and shortstop Felix Fermin before second baseman Carlos Baerga and left fielder Albert (nee Joey) Belle each singled. Designated hitter Carlos Martinez lined out to right to end the threat.

From there, each pitcher hit his stride, recording consecutive outs until the bottom of the third inning. After Tribe catcher Junior Ortiz lined out to short, Howard singled and Fermin skipped a double down the left field line. A Baerga groundout plated Howard, and Belle rocketed a flyball to deep right-center field that was caught for the final out. 3-1 Rangers.

1993 topps carlos martinezWhile Mesa remained locked in, Rogers had a fourth inning that was… eventful. He induced Martinez to hit a fly ball to right field. Canseco ranged to his right near the wall to make the catch-1993 topps carlos baerga he raised his glove and the ball ticked off of it. It caromed off his head, back up into the air, and OVER THE WALL! The center fielder Hulse stood with the incredulous Canseco, who rubbed his head a little and seemed to seek confirmation that the actual result was a home run. Later, Canseco would comment that he really didn’t feel the ball strike him. Martinez jogged around the bases with his head down.

This turn of events appeared to rattle Rogers. He hit first baseman Reggie Jefferson with a pitch before walking right fielder Glenallen Hill. The pitcher recorded two outs before walking Howard. Fermin singled home two runs before the inning was over. 4-3 Indians.

Many Tribe fans recall the Martinez home run off of Jose Canseco’s head- but do they also remember the Tribe’s sixth inning? Third baseman Alvaro Espinosa, he of the bubblegum-bubble-on-the-cap-prank fame, led off the frame with a single. Two subsequent outs pushed him to third base. Fermin’s line drive to center appeared to be a carbon copy of Espinosa’s, who scored. Up to the plate stepped Baerga. On a 2-1 pitch, he lifted a long fly ball down the right field line. Canseco trotted to catch it over his shoulder but was unable. He leisurely sauntered over to pick up what he thought was a foul ball. Umpire John1993 topps albert belle Shulock ruled that Canseco had touched the ball in fair territory, and Baerga easily cruised into third base for a triple! (Man, I wish I’d been there. We often sat near the right field foul pole, and we would have really yucked it up that day.) Texas manager Kevin Kennedy was apparently so sickened by the play of his right fielder that he removed his starting pitcher from the game. For his part, Canseco later exclaimed that the only ball he touched was the one that hit off his head! Kennedy’s reliever promptly issued a double to Belle to score Baerga. 7-3 Tribe.

The Rangers touched up Indians reliever Mark Clark for a run in the seventh, and pinch hitter Butch Davis (no, not that one) tagged Derek Lilliquist with a homer in the eighth. Eric Plunk allowed a run in the top of the ninth before earning the save. 7-6, Tribe's a winner!!

It is not clear if the post-game, public address music was “Happy Days Are Here Again”. The 1930s-era standard blared as the celebratory victory song through many of the previous seasons. Nor is it known if the PA announcer had issued the straight-faced warning to the owner of a particular vehicle. He had been known to announce the make and model of a car, state the1993 topps reggie jefferson license plate number, and pass along the information that “the lights are on, the doors are locked, and the car is running.” Oh, that always got a hearty laugh. Who said the cash-strapped Indians of old Cleveland Stadium were incapable of entertaining their fans?

And some days, the opponent pitched in and helped. Thanks Jose! Ha.

Side note: Three days later, in Boston, the Rangers were down 14 runs late in the game. Kennedy later disclosed that he’d often considered Canseco, who’d been a high school pitcher, as an option late in a lopsided game. He put the slugger on the mound to start the eighth inning.

Canseco walked Ivan Calderon and Bob Zupcic on nine pitches to begin the inning. He retired John Valentin on a popup to shallow right center. Tony Pena then took a four-pitch walk to load the bases. Luis Rivera lined a single over short to score Calderon. Billy Hatcher connected on a sacrifice fly to center to score Zupcic. Having watched the inning develop, Mo Vaughn wiped the drool from his chin and shot a line drive to center to score Pena. In what was undoubtedly a frustrating at-bat on an otherwise productive day, Andre Dawson hit a 2-2 pitch from Canseco to short right-center for the third out. Although it was not clear whom he was expecting to replace, Red Sox pitcher Roger Clemens had walked to the bat rack and implored manager Butch Hobson to allow him to pinch hit against Canseco. Hobson apparently gave it some consideration before realizing how bad of an idea that was. Clemens later noted that if it had been a spring training game, he would have pressed the issue.

jose canseco pitching

Thank you for reading. An 'indirect' link to the Martinez home run off of Canseco's head can be found here, played during a promotion at a Lake Erie Captains game.

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