The BASEBALL WORLD SERIES has been played in Cleveland 5 times, when the CLEVELAND INDIANS won the American League championship in 1920, 1948, 1954, 1995, and 1997. They went on to win the series in 1920 and 1948. Cleveland played the Brooklyn Dodgers in a best-of-9 series in 1920. The Indians were led by player-manager TRIS SPEAKER and pitchers Jim Bagby and STANLEY COVELESKI. The series was to have opened in Cleveland, but the first 3 games were played in Brooklyn while seats were added to Cleveland's LEAGUE PARK.
Coveleski won the first game, 3-1. Brooklyn won games 2 and 3, 3-0 and 2-1. Coveleski won again in game 4, 5-1. The 5th game, won by Cleveland 8-1, is one of the most famous World Series games. In that game, Cleveland's ELMER SMITH hit the first World Series grand slam home run. Bagby added a 3-run homer, the first by a pitcher in the World Series. In the 5th inning, Cleveland second baseman BILL WAMBSGANSS completed the only unassisted triple play in World Series history. With runners on first and second, Wambsganss caught a line drive for the first out, stepped on second to force the runner breaking for third, and tagged the runner moving from first. Cleveland won the 6th game 1-0 on a 3-hitter by Duster Mails and clinched the championship in game 7 on a 3-0 shutout by Coveleski.
The Indians and Boston Red Sox tied for the 1948 AL championship and a 1-game playoff determined the World Series representatives. Cleveland won the game 8-3 behind 20-game winner Gene Bearden. Third-baseman Ken Keltner had a 3-run homer, and player-manager Lou Bordreau was 4-for-4, to spark the victory. Their World Series opponents in the best-of-7 series were the Boston Braves. Opening in Boston, the Braves won the first game 1-0, scoring their only run after a Bob Feller pickoff play failed at second base. A single drove the base runner home after the disputed play. Cleveland won game 2, 8-1. Joe Gordon and Larry Doby drove in the winning runs. The Indians won game 3 in Cleveland as Bearden shut out the Braves, 2-0. Doby hit a game-winning homer for a 2-1 Cleveland triumph in game 4. Boston came back to defeat Feller 11-5 in game 5. The Indians won the 6th and decisive game in Boston, 4-3. Bob Lemon won his second game of the series with relief help from Bearden.
The 1954 Indians won more games (111) than any team in major league history. They were heavily favored over their series opponents, the New York Giants, who upset the Indians in a 4-game sweep. Opening at the Polo Grounds in New York, the Indians took a 2-0 lead, but the Giants tied the game. With 2 on in the 7th inning, Cleveland's Vic Wertz drove the ball 460' to deep center field. Giant centerfielder Willie Mays, in one of the most remarkable plays in baseball history, ran the ball down, caught it over his shoulder with his back to the plate, and returned the ball to the infield, killing the rally. The Giants won the game, 5-2, in the bottom of the 9th. Pinch hitter Dusty Rhodes hit a 3-run, 260' homer down the right-field line to win it. Cleveland's Al Smith homered to lead off the second game, but the Giants came from behind again to win 3-1, with Rhodes delivering another key pinch hit. The Series moved to Cleveland for game 3, which the Giants won 6-0. They completed the sweep with a 7-4 triumph in game 4.
Following their Central Division title in 1995, the Indians advanced to the World Series with victories in the divisional and league championship series over the Boston Red Sox and the Seattle Mariners respectively. The Indians fell short against the NL champion Atlanta Braves, however, who took the series 4 games to 2, although Cleveland fans were treated to a full slate of World Series games at Jacobs Field. In game 5, Cleveland won a dramatic 5-4 victory by the margin of a late-inning Jim Thome home run, as the Indians defeated the Braves' Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Greg Maddux to send the series back to Atlanta. Unfortunately, the Braves beat the Indians 1-0 in game 6 to capture the world championship.
In 1997, the Tribe started the post-season with the worst regular-season record among the eight playoff teams in both leagues. They were four outs from elimination in the fourth game of their opening playoff series against the New York Yankees when Sandy Alomar Jr. homered off of Mariano Rivera, the best reliever in the American League, to tie the game. The Indians won the game 3-2. Rookie Jaret Wright pitched the Indians to victory in the fifth and deciding game for his second win of the series. Tony Fernandez then helped propel the Indians past the Baltimore Orioles four games to two, winning the American League pennant with an 11th inning home run that shattered a scoreless tie in game six. In the World Series, the Indians faced the Florida Marlins, the National League wild card team that entered the major leagues as an expansion franchise five years earlier. The teams traded victories throughout the series forcing a seventh and deciding game. While the Tribe veteran starters Charles Nagy and Orel Hershiser fell flat, Chad Ogea went 2-0 against the Marlin's ace Kevin Brown, hitting the game winning RBI in game six. In a surprise move, Rookie Jaret Wright was given the start over Charles Nagy in the seventh game and pitched well enough to win as the Tribe entered the ninth inning with a 2-1 lead. But Jose Mesa allowed two singles and gave up a game-tying sacrifice fly to Craig Counsell in the ninth inning. Nagy started the eleventh inning with the game tied, but in a cruel twist of fate he allowed a bases loaded two-out single to Edgar Renteria, sending the Indians to defeat. The Indians played eighteen postseason games, the most in history, and faced elimination four times before eventually losing the series to the Marlins and foiling their bid at their first World Series title since 1948.