The Cleveland Fan on Facebook

The Cleveland Fan on Twitter
Indians Indians Archive Tribe Game Vault: 9/3/2000. Kenny Lofton Imposes His Will on the O’s
Written by Greg Popelka

Greg Popelka

kenny lofton straining runningThat I love my wife is obvious. For instance, I am diligent in checking off the honey-do list, cheerfully performing various chores she wants done. And in the winter, I still write her name in the snow. (It’s not as easy as it may sound. It's best done in cursive. Men know there’s only a ‘pause’ button; there’s no ‘stop’. She has never believed this universal truth.)

She is a saint. She sticks by me even as I transform into a prickly curmudgeon as I grow older. Young wives, take note: you know those mildly-held opinions your husband has now? Over time, he’ll add to that list. More significantly, his belief system will solidify. Preferences will yield to certainty, and gray will metamorphose into black and white. In other words, in a way, he’ll become more like you. Hopefully, your moral codes already match, and will grow to complement each other’s. (This is why I am a believer in the science of the reputable on-line matchmaking services.)

So yeah, you could say I have my list of serious ‘-isms’. Men must treat women with honor and respect. The customer is always right. The mustard goes next to the cheese, and the horseradish next to the meat.

On a much lighter note, I have my sports ‘-isms’, as well. There are dozens of them, of which here are a few:

  • During a televised basketball game, if a half- or full-court shot is attempted, SHOW IT! It does not matter if it is obviously a dead ball and it won’t count. I want to see it.
  • I hear announcers dismissing the stadium ‘wave’ with disdain. Leave the fans be. Any fan who is looking to have harmless fun, doing stuff you can only do if you have tickets? That’s all right by me.
  • Speaking of announcers: if the game is looking like it’s headed for extra innings, or overtime, and you complain? Shame on you. I don’t care if it is a meaningless exhibition, of if you’re stuck in Pittsburgh. Suck it up. The players aren’t the only ones who aren’t sweating out ‘real’ jobs.
  • How about scoreboard-watching? I do it as early as Opening Day. I also keep track of 2nd inning no-hitters. Ostensibly, wizened fans know better. I’ll choose to have fun, instead.


kenny lofton celebrateHere’s another one: ball players who are mean or surly are so noted by the media, and I have never really understood why that should matter to me.

The 1990s Indians had their share of malcontents. Everyone will immediately think of Albert Belle’s temper, but kenny lofton whinethere were others. Kenny Lofton, for instance. Apparently, he could be a jerk. And he whined to the umpire about balls and strikes. Seemingly every. Single. Game.

But that guy was on my team; he was my leadoff guy. The Tribe was stacked with mashers, but he was an elite table-setter for those guys. He could bunt for base hits, even though the infield defense was always expecting it. He could hit for average. In center field, you could immediately tell if he had a bead on a ball that was going to barely clear the wall. Lofton was liable to scale the wall and take the home run away.

Lofton sometimes irritated me, like when he seemed to get homerun-happy after going deep. That wasn’t his game, and he would waste subsequent plate appearances by opening up and swinging wildly.

But that was OK. Hard to get too upset with family. Eventually, Kenny would get back to getting aboard and doing what he did best.

Because sure, Lofton won four Gold Glove Awards. He was an All-Star six times. But his calling card was the stolen base. He led the American League in steals five times, and stole 622 bases over his career. There are several memorable games in which Lofton displayed show-stopping exploits on the base paths. Let's take a look at a September game in 2000.

The Tribe was still a good team, even if the bloom was off the rose from the powerhouse 1990s. They were 71-61, and manager Charlie Manuel was navigating the second-place Indians to 90 wins and a second-place finish. They’d be frozen out of the playoffs, so this would have been an ‘off’-year in the context of that era.

The fans were still packing the Jake, and this Sunday matinee featured the visiting Baltimore Orioles. The O’s weren’t very good, but they featured former Tribe mike hargrove baltimorealbert belle baltimoremanager Mike Hargrove. Oh, and the right fielder for Baltimore was old friend Albert Belle. Several seasons earlier, Belle had bolted Cleveland for more money elsewhere. The local, vocal fans had an opinion or two about that. There were also some lingering thoughts about the city of Baltimore, which had stolen Cleveland’s football team a few years earlier (and just recently won a Super Bowl, with Browns fixture Ozzie Newsome directing player acquisition).

In this game, if you were a pitcher, it was likely a tough day at the office. If you were a hitter, chances are you flexed a little muscle and displayed your ability. If you were the poor catcher of the Orioles, Brook Fordyce, your day was decidedly a mixed bag.

1st Inning: Indians starter Steve Woodard set Baltimore down in order. So far, so good. 0-0.

In the bottom of the inning, Kenny Lofton worked the count full, fouling off a couple of O’s starter Jay Spurgeon’s pitches in the process. Kenny lined a single to right field. Shortstop Omar Vizquel was working on a 1-2 count, and fouled several pitches off as well. Lofton took off for second as Vizquel took ball two: safe. STOLEN BASE #1. Viquel sent a fly ball to right, and Lofton tagged up and advanced to third. Right fielder Manny Ramirez walked, and DH Jim Thome lined a single of his own to right. Lofton scored. 1-0 Indians.

2nd Inning: Woodard nibbled, wet himself, and walked Belle (sorry, Steve). He retired Jeff Conine and Cal Ripken, but first baseman Chris Richard tripled to right center. Belle scored, as did Richard when Fordyce doubled him home. 2-1 Orioles.

The Tribe went quietly in their half of the inning.

3rd Inning: Woodard hit his stride. Brady Anderson nearly took him deep but instead flied out to deep center. (Anderson was apparently no longer taking his necessary... ‘preparation’ that had accompanied his 1996 home run outburst. The 50 homers he hit that season more than doubled his output in any other year.)

kenny loftong stealing secondFor the Tribe in the 3rd, Lofton swung at a 2-0 pitch and lined another single to right. On the first pitch to Omar, Kenny stole second. Vizquel walked, and Kenny stole third on the 0-1 pitch to second baseman Roberto Alomar. STOLEN BASES #2 and 3. Poor Jay Spurgeon. The Cleveland crowd smelled blood in the water, and the rest of the inning featured an error on the catcher, a sac bunt, two singles, a wild pitch, and a double. 5-2 Indians. (One of the singles was off the bat of ‘professional hitter’ David Segui, for whom the Tribe had recently traded. Remember when it was realistic to hope the Indians might make a trade to add a bat for the stretch run? I do.)

4th Inning: It wasn’t Steve Woodard’s day. Belle singled, Conine was retired on a fly out to center, and then the floodgates opened. Ripken doubled; Richard hit a 3-run bomb. Adding an exclamation point, Fordyce hit one out as well. But wait- they weren’t done. Tribe reliever Jim Brower came on to surrender a single, a stolen base and a double. 7-5 Orioles.

Did anyone in attendance think the Indians’ case was hopeless? With Jason Johnson pitching, catcher Sandy Alomar reached second on an error. Kenny Lofton bunted to the pitcher… safe at first; base hit. Yes, you are correct: Lofton stole second. On what pitch to Omar did Lofton take off? 3… 2… 1… dingdingding! Yes, on the first pitch. Imposing his will. STOLEN BASE #4. Omar singled both runners home. The Tribe loaded the bases again, scoring the lead run after Johnson hit both Manny and Thome with pitches. (The crowd was laughing, and mock-booing. What a mess for Hargrove.) 8-7 Indians. (Damn, Manny and Thome: why would you ever have wanted to move on from this?)

Bottom of the 6th Inning: The Tribe tacked on three more runs. Omar walked; Roberto Alomar singled; Manny popped out to second. Hargrove brought out Chuck McElroy to relieve Johson, and Jim Thome proceeded to ground a double to right. McElroy uncorked a wild pitch, and walked Segui. Third baseman Travis Fryman singled home Thome. 11-7 Indians.

Top of the 7th Inning: Down four, the Orioles answered. Brower did his part, walking second baseman Jerry Hairston to lead off the inning. Ricardo Rincon came on for Manuel, and induced a double play out of left fielder Delino DeShields. (I tell ya, I knew trading Brian Giles for this guy was a great move!!!) With the bases cleared, Steve Reed entered the game. Belle and Conine went single-double off of Reed. On came Paul Shuey. Boom: Cal Ripken doubled both runners home. BOOM: Chris Richard homered to center. Game tied. 11-11.

Kenny Lofton stole second in the Tribe 7th. The five stolen bases in one game tied a team record for Lofton. kenny lofton sprintWould he have a chance to extend it to six? Do you think Brook Fordyce was wondering about that?

After the 7th, McElroy and Shuey settled in and pitched some good baseball. Bob Wickman, Chris Nichting and Cameron Cairncross kept the scoreless string going for the Tribe, while Baltimore got more outs from B.J. Ryan and Mike Trombley.

13th Inning: The score remained 11-11. Neither team was mounting much of a rally. A bit of unease settled over the Jake, with the partisans beginning to wonder what had happened to the Tribe’s bats. Catcher Einar Diaz hit a weak pop fly to short stop for the first out. Up came Kenny Lofton. Could he reach base, maybe get his sixth steal? The first pitch was a ball. On the next offering… POW!! Lofton smacked a home run to right!!! GAME OVER!

Kennneeeeee!!!! Did I mention I loved that power bat he flashed now and then?!!

Thank you for reading.

kenny lofton manny omar

The TCF Forums