CHAD OGEA – Sully Baseball Unsung Post Season Hero of October 25



OCTOBER 25, 1997 – World Series Game 6

The tortured sports history of the city of Cleveland has been well documented. Since the Browns won the 1964 NFL title (this was before the Super Bowl even existed), fans of northern Ohio have not had a parade.

The Cavs, Browns and Indians have teased their fans. But the unrest is fresh, right through the injury ravaged Cavaliers taking the Warriors to the 6th game of the NBA title last year. LeBron’s mission to deliver a title for the city is still the story going into this season. But his burden could have been lighter if the Indians ended the title drought during their glorious 1990’s run.

And one unlikely player, Chad Ogea, helped bring the Indians to the brink of easing Cleveland’s pain in 1997.

The 1997 squad was arguably the weakest Cleveland Indians playoff team that Mike Hargrove managed to the post season. But they pulled off an upset of the defending World Champion Yankees in the Division Series and stunned the Baltimore Orioles in a thrilling and sometimes controversial ALCS.

Without the departed Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton or Carlos Baerga and lacking a Cy Young contender, the Indians won their second pennant in three years and would face the Florida Marlins. Jim Leyland’s squad was cobbled together with superstars whose contracts were about to expire. It was appropriate that the team was owned by the head of Blockbuster Video because the Marlins were a rented roster.

Moises Alou and Charles Johnson powered starter Livan Hernandez and Florida to a Game 1 victory. In Game 2, Hargrove handed the ball to Chad Ogea.

The 26 year old from LSU played his third full season in the bigs in 1997. After an effective 1995, he pitched to a disappointing 4.70 and 4.99 ERA, winning 10 in 1996 and going 8-9 in 1997. Hardly a number 2 World Series starter. But this was the steroid era and the Indians were not built like the Braves with Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz.

Ogea pitched well in Game 2, throwing into the 7th and finishing with 6 2/3 innings, allowing just 1 run. The Indians, led by Marquis Grissom and Sandy Alomar Jr., won the game and sent it back to snowy Ohio.

By the time the Series returned to Miami, the Indians were in trouble. They dropped two ugly games at home and the upstart Marlins were up 3-2 and on the verge of winning the World Series. Orel Hershiser could not work his October magic as he went 0-2. Now Hargrove once again turned to Ogea.

It would be no easy task. Kevin Brown, whose complete game victory clinched the NLCS for Florida, was on the hill and looking to avenge a poor game 2 start.

Ogea got the Marlins out in order in the first. In the second, a single and a pair of walks loaded the bases with one out. Because the game was played in a National League park, the pitcher had to bat. Ogea faced Kevin Brown and smacked a line drive to right, scoring Matt Williams and Jim Thome. Of all the people to break through with the bat, Ogea seemed like the least likely, but he did.

By the top of the fifth, the Indians had a 3-0 lead. Ogea led off the fifth with a double to right field and came around to score on a Manny Ramirez sacrifice fly. Ogea was the pitching AND hitting star so far.

Maybe all the running wore down Ogea as the Marlins rallied for a run in the bottom of the fifth but he escaped without much more damage. But when he let up a lead off walk in the 6th, Hargrove did not take any chances and he went to the bullpen. Mike Jackson, Paul Assenmacher and Jose Mesa closed out the game.

5 innings might not sound like a heroic effort. But throw in going 2 for 2 and being involved in 3 of the teams’ 4 runs and Ogea was the hero of the game. He set up the Game 7 showdown, which turned out to be a classic game, if agonizing for Indians fans who saw their team an inning away from winning it all to falling in 11.

The angst continued in Cleveland as it does to this day. But don’t blame Chad Ogea. He did HIS part. That is what makes him the Sully Baseball Unsung Post Season Hero for October 25.

The face Cleveland has been waiting for all of these years

No, not first base umpire Jim Reynolds.

I am talking about Lonnie Chisenhall.

That is the name of the man who will lead Cleveland to the promised land.
The title that has been eluding Cleveland since 1964.

There have been many false prophets. Many Cleveland sports figures who looked like they were going to deliver a championship parade up Superior Avenue but failed.

Herb Score, Gaylord Perry and his brother Jim, Sam McDowell, Len Barker, Joe Carter, Julio Franco and that Sports Illustrated cover in 1987 promised unfulfilled greatness for the Indians.

And the great Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Charles Nagy, Carlos Baerga, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel and Kenny Lofton teams got as close as you could get. And the C. C. Sabathia, Victor Martinez and Ryan Garko team teased.

Mike Phipps, Jerry Sherk, Thom Darden, Brian Sipe, Ozzie Newsome, Webster Slaughter, Clay Matthews, Bernie Kosar and Eric Metcalf all came close with the Browns, but they were no Chisenhall.

And forget Cavs like Campy Russell, Craig Ehlo, Brad Daugherty, Larry Nance, Hot Rod Williams and that fellow named LeBron.

Push all those names to the side. Cleveland is Chisenhall-ville now! Lonnie drove in a run and got a pair of hits in his first game last night against a good Arizona team. The Indians won in the 9th inning and kept pace with the Tigers.

And all the while Cleveland is doing a unique strategy to keep contending in 2011. Instead of trading away young players to make a run, they are bringing up the young players to have a run this year and beyond.

The season is about 1/2 way through and the Indians are competing now and maybe for the next few years.

Jump on the Lonnie Chisenhall bandwagon NOW!
He could be the star you have been waiting for.

Either way, the NBA Prediction of My Message for Cleveland Fans might have been wrong, but the sentiment is correct. This Indians team is worth watching.

Let the Lonnie Chisenhall era begin! (Kind of rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?)

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Hey Cleveland fans! Don’t watch the NBA… support the Indians

Seriously. Don’t watch the NBA Playoffs. You will just grind your teeth and get angry. And haven’t you done that enough since the Browns won the 1964 NFL Title?

There is something fun happening at the Jake (or whatever the hell it is called now.)

Grady Sizemore homered today and if he is healthy, the Indians will plug an All Star into their lineup.

And guess what? The Indians have 10 wins already! Only the Royals and the Rangers have 10 wins in the American League. And here’s another thing to think about.

The Twins are having bullpen and health issues. The White Sox are a veteran team that can age in a hurry and have a shaky pen as well. And I think the Tigers are overrated and are playing sub .500 baseball.

What happens if that continues?
What if the Twins health derails them the way that injuries cut down the perennial playoff participant Red Sox and Angels last year?

What if the White Sox can’t get their act together all year?
What if the Tigers’ weaknesses are exposed?

None of those are outlandish scenarios.

Where does that leave the American League Central?

It leaves the Royals, stacked with young talent and the Indians.

Don’t look now, but the Indians are winning games that they don’t have to make up for later in the season. You aren’t dreaming, but the A. L. Central is winnable.

And if they make the playoffs, who knows?
Oh I am sure YOU had the Giants winning the World Series when the playoffs started in 2010!
I am sure YOU had the Phillies winning it when the 2008 playoffs kicked off.
No doubt when the post seasons of 2002, 2003 and 2006 began, you wrote Angels, Marlins and Cardinals in pen!

Start paying attention, Indians fans. This could be a very fun year.
Either way, there is at least hope.

You can’t get that watching the NBA playoffs this year.

Break out your Indians hat! Any one of them.

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