Alomar Relives Magical 1997 Before Cleveland Hosts All-Star Game
It has been 22 years since the city of Cleveland hosted Major League Baseball's All-Star Game. On that memorable night in 1997, Indians catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. hit the game-winning home run and was named All-Star MVP.
A six-time All-Star during his 11 seasons with Cleveland, Alomar returned to the Indians as first base coach in 2009, a role he still holds today.
On the eve of this year's All-Game at Progressive Field, ideastream's Glenn Forbes caught up with Alomar to talk Tribe, but mostly about that magical year of 1997.
Alomar hit two home runs in 1997 that Tribe fans will never forget. The first was in the All-Star Game, when he became the first player from a host team to win the mid-summer classic's MVP award.
"I came out there and I was so anxious, the first two swings, I had to calm myself down...just try to hit the ball up the middle," Alomar said. "Sometimes you try to do minimal things and you end up hitting a home run."
Alomar's other big moment came in Game 4 of American League playoffs against the New York Yankees.
New York led the best of five series 2-1 and took a one-run lead into the 8th inning. Yankee manager Joe Torre brought in his closer, future Hall-of-Famer, Mariano Rivera, but Alomar took him downtown to tie the score. An inning later, Omar Vizquel singled home the winning run. The Indians then topped the Yankees 4-3 to advance the AL Championship Series, and eventually to the World Series, where they lost in seven games to the Florida Marlins.
"It was the first time in a playoff that I had an approach and it paid off perfectly," Alomar said, remembering his homer off Rivera. "He throws a lot of cutters, and I focused on the particualr window where I was going to swing and he threw the ball right in there."
That 1997 Indians team got off to a rough start, but came together around the time of Jim Thome's birthday in late August. That's when Alomar says the players decided to emulate Thome's signature fashion statement by wearing their socks high.
"We all pulled our socks up, and we held a meeting in the locker room and said we're too talented to play baseball the we way we are," Alomar recalled. "We took off after that. We became a unit and a team."
The magic worked — at least until Jose Mesa couldn't close out the Marlins.
A .273 career hitter, Alomar frequently battled injuries as player, but says that helped prepare him to coach.
When you're sidelined, "you get to reflect a lot," Alomar said. "You get to see the game in a different way."
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