10-year anniversary of baseball’s greatest comeback

Ten years ago today, major league baseball witnessed its greatest comeback in history as the Cleveland Indians rallied from a 12-run deficit to defeat the Seattle Mariners 15-14 in 11 innings.

Officially, it only tied the record. The Tigers rallied from a 12-run deficit to beat the White Sox on June 8, 1911, and the A’s came from a dozen back to down the Indians on June 15, 1925, but what happened on Aug. 5, 2001 might be more impressive than either.

First, while the 1911 White Sox were a .500 team and the 1925 Indians below average, the 2001 Mariners tied the major league record with 116 wins in a season. Mighty nice coming from behind to defeat those guys. That gives Cleveland’s comeback the edge over the others.

On that day, the Mariners scored four in the top of the second, and piled on eight more runs next inning. After the Indians plated two in a minor rally, the Mariners scored another pair of their own in the top of the fifth. With the game halfway to completion, the Indians stood a woeful 12 runs back, 14-2.

Around this point, the Indians began yanking their starters. First to go was Ellis Burks, shortly followed by Roberto Alomar and Travis Fryman. Why bother risking injury to some of their stars? The game was over, right? Apparently Seattle felt the same way and benched Ichiro Suzuki, Edgar Martinez and John Olerud. At the seventh-inning stretch, the score was still 14-2 with the scrubs playing garbage time.

Then one of those scrubs, Russell Branyan, led off the bottom of the seventh with a solo shot. 14-3.

A little later that inning, Jolbert Cabrera, AKA the man who replaced Roberto Alomar at second for Cleveland, drove in two more with a bases-loaded single. 14-5. Ah, no worries; the mighty Mariners juggernaut still led by nine runs, and baseball’s best bullpen needed just six more outs for the win.

Which leads us to the bottom of the eighth. For the second straight inning the Indians led off with a homer, this time by established star Jim Thome. 14-6. After Seattle’s John Halama hit Branyan with a pitch, right fielder Marty Cordova connected for another home run. 14-8.

Now the Indians needed just six runs before making six outs. Which is an improvement, but still damn unlikely. With Halama continuing to struggle, allowing two of the next three batters to reach, Seattle manager Lou Piniella reached back into his bullpen for veteran hand Norm Charlton.

Charlton received a rude introduction as shortstop Omar Vizquel lined his third pitch to right for an RBI double. 14-9. It was very nearly 14-10 but when the speedy Kenny Lofton tried to score from first on the shot, the Mariners threw him out at the plate. The Indians stranded Vizquel and the game went into the ninth, Mariners up 14-9.

Charlton stayed in the game for the bottom of the ninth, and it soon looked like he had things well in hand. After surrendering a leadoff single to Eddie Taubensee, Charlton coaxed a fly out from Thome and fanned Branyan.

Now Cleveland was down to its very last out—and still down by five full runs against one of the greatest teams ever.

Cordova doubled, sending Taubensee to third. That was it for Charlton. Piniella went to reliever Jeff Nelson. Facing Wil Cordero, Nelson fell behind early, and walked him to load the bases. No reason to panic. The Indians still needed five runs and had no outs left to play with.

Cleveland catcher Einar Diaz stepped to the plate. Nelson again struggled with his control, and fell behind 2-0 to Diaz. A few pitches later, Diaz belted a full-count offering from Nelson to left, a line drive single that plated two runs. 14-11. Oh, and the tying run was now coming to the plate.

So long, Jeff Nelson. He didn’t have it, and improbably it was now a save situation, so the Mariners turned to Kazuhiro Sasaki. First batter up: Lofton, who pounced on a Sasaki offering for a single to left. The lead runner held at third—no reason risking him needlessly,since the Indians needed all three men to come around the plate.

Next up: Vizquel. Never a great hitter, at 34 he was was having a down year by his standards. As he stepped to the plate, he was hitting .267, his lowest mark in six years. But he was having a good game, already 2-for-4 with a walk, and just last inning he’d doubled.

Vizquel swung at the first pitch and missed. Strike one. After taking the next offering for a ball, he swung again. And missed again. Now he was down in the count one ball and two strikes. Cleveland was down to its last pitch with the tying runner on base, down by three. He took the next two pitches for balls to load the count. Now all the runners would be going. With luck, a well-hit ball could drive home Lofton all the way from first and tie the game.

Sasaki readied himself and threw the ball to the plate. Vizquel took a cut—foul ball. Let’s do this again. Sasaki throws and again Vizquel swings—and again foul ball.

After seven pitches, Sasaki checked the signs from the catcher, nodded his head, and delivered to Vizquel for the eighth time. For the fifth time Omar swung with his best cut—and this time his aim was true.

He hit a hard shot into right field. Cordero easily came around to score. 14-12. Diaz soon followed, making it 14-13. Lofton rounded third and was waved home. Would the Mariners gun him down at the plate for the second consecutive inning on a Vizquel extra base hit to right? No—safe!

The impossible had happened. The all-world team with the superlative bullpen had just blown the staggering lead. It was all knotted up, 14-14.

But the game wasn’t over. Though Vizquel tripled, the Indians couldn’t bring him home, and the game went into extra innings. In the 10th inning, both sides staged a mini-rally with two outs, but both fell short.

In the 11th, the Indians went to work again. With one out, Lofton singled to center. Vizquel followed with his fourth hit of the game, another single that put Lofton on third. Now Cabrera came to the plate, and blasted a first-pitch single that scored Lofton. Now it was over, and the Indians had won, 15-14—exactly 10 years ago today.

Aside from that, several other events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim:


3,000 days since Carlos Pena, then a Tiger, belts three homers in one game

4,000 days since Rockies catcher Brent Mayne becomes the first position player since Rocky Colavito to post a victory when he pitches in relief in a 7-6 win over the Braves in 12 innings.

4,000 days since Eric Karros of the Dodgers hits two home runs in one inning.

7,000 days since Jeff Bagwell connects for what WPA considers to be his most clutch home run: 0.736 WPA. It’s a two-run shot with two outs in the top of the ninth and Houston trailing 4-3 to the Giants.

8,000 days since Devon White of the Angels steals second, third and home in one inning in an 8-5 win over the Red Sox.

10,000 days since the Cubs release Fergie Jenkins, ending his Hall of Fame career.

15,000 days since there’s a new GIDP king of all-time, and his name is Henry Aaron. He grounds into double play No. 262, surpassing former leader Ernie Lombardi. Aaron remains No. 1 until Cal Ripken passes him.


1894 In the fifth inning, a fire breaks out in Chicago’s West Side Park. The crowd panics and hundreds become injured though no one dies. The game is called.

1901 Rookie James Hart doesn’t take too well to being called out at third base. He jumps up and punches the umpire. He’ll never play in the big leagues again.

1901 Cubs outfielder Topsy Hartsel belts two inside the park home runs in a 10-7 loss to the Reds. He’ll hit another inside the park home run tomorrow. In his career’s 5,793 plate appearances, Hartsel will hit 31 homers, 14 of which are inside the park shots.

1902 The Senators lay down 14 bunts against rookie Indians hurler Otto Hess. He makes three errors, four others go for infield single, and the remaining seven are sacrifices.

1909 The Washington Senators complete their eighth consecutive doubleheader.

1911 19th century standout pitcher Bob Caruthers dies.

1911 Star Cubs shortstop Joe Tinker is fined $150 and suspended by manager (and fellow infielder) Frank Chance for “indifferent play.” He’ll be reinstated the next day.

1912 Ed Konetchy of the Cardinals hits two inside the park homers against Brooklyn.

1913 The Cubs trade hurler Ed Reulbach to the Dodgers.

1916 Pittsburgh purchases minor leaguer Burleigh Grimes from Birmingham of the Southern Association.

1922 Rogers Hornsby sets a new NL record by belting his 28th homer of the season.

1923 Negro Leaguers Jose Mendez and Bullet Joe Rogan combine for a no-hitter for the Kansas City Monarchs over the Milwaukee Bears.

1927 A Washington victory gives manager Bucky Harris a career record 105 games over .500 (331-226). He’ll equal this mark a few times, but never top it. He’s 1,827-1,993 for the rest of his career.

1928 Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell has the longest relief outing of his career, 12.2 innings, in which he allows seven hits, two runs (both earned), and four walks while fanning two. He loses to Clarence Mitchell, who pitches a 14-inning complete game for the 6-4 St. Louis victory over the Giants.

1928 The Red Sox all-time cumulative franchise record hits .500 (2,068-2,068) and will stay under it for the next 21 years.

1929 Tigers star Charlie Gehringer bashes three triples in one game, but Detroit loses to Washington, 21-5. Yes, 21-5.

1929 Rogers Hornsby draws a personal best five walks in one game. He scores twice as his Cubs beat the Dodgers, 9-8 in 16 innings.

1930 During his record 191-RBI season, Hack Wilson drives in a run for the 11th straight game. He’s 16-for-41 with three doubles, a triple and seven homers with 20 RBIs in all.

1931 Jim Bottomley gets 10 hits in a doubleheader, including a 6-for-6 performance in the second game. It’s the second time he’s gone 6-for-6 in a game.

1931 Tommy Bridges of Detroit retires the first 26 batters he faces only to have pinch hitter Dave Harris connect for a bloop single, as the Tigers win, 13-0, over Washington.

1933 Sam West gets a double, two triples and a homer, but misses the cycle by not having a single. It’s one of only five times since 1920 a batter missed the cycle by a base hit while connecting for two triples.

1933 Hall of Fame pitcher Eppa Rixey pitches his last game.

1935 Suffering from back problems, Lou Gehrig leaves the game in the fourth inning. He’ll be back for the next game, though.

1935 Steve O’Neill manages his first game. He’ll manage all or part of 14 seasons and have a winning record every time.

1936 For the second straight game, Mel Ott blasts two home runs.

1937 Hank Greenberg hits his 100th home run.

1937 Lou Gehrig enjoys his 43rd and final multi-home run game.

1937 Frankie Frisch plays in his last ballgame.

1938 Bob Feller ties a personal high with 11 walks in a game. At least the other time he walked 11 it was in a 13-inning performance. In this game, he lasts seven innings. He allows only three hits, but six runs (all earned) because of his control problems.

1938 Fred Johnson posts his first major league win since 1923. He has 252 minor league wins.

1938 Joe Cronin sets a personal best with seven RBI in one game, leading Boston to a 9-8 win over Detroit.

1940 John Whitehead of the Browns tosses a shortened game, six-inning no-hitter over Detroit.

1942 The White Sox beat the Tigers 1-0 as Don Kolloway steals home in the first inning for the game’s only run.

1944 Charlie Grimm manages his 1,000th game. He’s 580-416 in his career so far.

1947 Bernie Carbo is born.

1950 New York Giants hurler Jim Hearn allows a leadoff single to Pittsburgh’s Bob Dillinger, and then retires the next 27 batters for a 5-0 win.

1953 Don Larsen, then a St. Louis Brown, sets a record by pitchers by connecting for a hit in his seventh straight at-bat.

1953 Rick Mahler, 1980s Atlanta workhorse, born.

1954 A new pitcher makes his big league debut for the Dodgers: Tommy Lasorda.

1954 Stan Musial sets a personal best (which he’ll tie seven years later) with seven RBI in one game.

1955 Yogi Berra connects for his 200th career home run.

1955 Nellie Fox takes a day off after playing 274 straight games. On Aug. 6, he’ll begin a streak of 798 consecutive games played.

1956 Duke Snider blasts his 262nd home run as a Dodger, passing Gil Hodges as all-time franchise leader. He still is.

1957 A report emerges that a new 50,000-seat stadium in Brooklyn will cost $20.7 million.

1959 Willie McCovey has the first of 44 career multi-home run games.

1961 Roberto Clemente laces his 1,000th hit.

1961 Brooks Robinson has arguably his worst game at the plate, an 0-for-4 day with four strikeouts, his only four K game.

1961 For the second and final time, Hank Aaron belts two triples in one game.

1962 Stan Musial becomes the third member of the 3,500 hit club, joining Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker.

1964 Ford Frick says he won’t serve another term as baseball commissioner.

1965 Bill Mazeroski of the Pirates has his worst game, according to WPA. He’s 0-for-4 with a GIDP for a –0.490 WPA. Pittsburgh wins anyway, 4-3 over the Dodgers.

1966 The Cubs’ Ron Santo has his best WPA game: 3-for-5 with two home runs, and once reaching on error. His WPA is 1.022 as he drives in all the team’s runs in a 4-3 win over the Giants.

1968 John Olerud is born.

1968 Roger Maris retires.

1969 Don Drysdale plays his last game.

1969 Willie Stargell becomes the first player to hit the ball out of Dodger Stadium. He does it again four years later, but no one else has done it since.

1970 Gaylord Perry walks in a run, something he last did 1,352.2 innings ago.

1973 Getting swept in a doubleheader drops the Mets to a record of 48-60, 11.5 games out of first. They’ll come back to win the division and pennant, and come one game away from the world championship.

1973 Phil Niekro throws a no-hitter, leading Atlanta to a 9-0 win over the Padres.

1974 On ABC’s Monday Night Baseball Game (an attempt to ape the Monday Night Football craze), 19-year-old fan Alex Stein rushes on the field and tosses a Frisbee, helping to create a Frisbee craze. Police arrest him for this.

1975 Jim Perry plays in his last game.

1975 Hurler Roger Moret gets in a car crash at 4:30 a.m., but starts the day’s game anyway.

1976 For the 11th time, Bert Blyleven tosses a complete game 1-0 shutout.

1977 Reggie Jackson bashes his 300th home run.

1977 Eric Hinske is born.

1977 John Mayberry hits for the cycle. It’s his only triple of the year, which is hardly surprising given that this is John Mayberry. Also, he hit only 23 homers, 22 doubles, and 79 singles in 641 plate appearances, making this the eighth least likely cycle ever.

1977 Mark Mulder, former A’s ace, is born.

1978 Jesse Haines, maybe the worst pitcher inducted in Cooperstown, dies at age 85.

1979 The Cubs honor Jack Brickhouse at Wrigley Field as he announces his 5,000th game.

1980 Hall of Fame skipper Dick Williams wins his 1,000th game (1,000-885 for his career).

1983 AL President Lee MacPhail suspends Billy Martin for abusing umpires.

1983 The Royals release Vida Blue.

1984 Cliff Johnson hits his record 19th pinch-hit home run. He remains the pinch-hit record holder until Matt Stairs comes along.

1984 Amos Otis plays his last game.

1985 Darryl Strawberry connects for three home runs in one game.

1986 Steve Carlton strikes out his 4,000th batter.

1988 Greg Maddux endures the worst start of his career. His line: 2.1 IP, 11 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 0 BB, 2 K for a Game Score of 5.

1992 Veteran knuckler Charlie Hough wins his 200th game. He’s 200-186 on his career but will retire with a .500 record (216-216).

1992 38-year-old Gary Carter belts his first triple in four seasons.

1992 Jose Canseco sets a record by walking for his seventh straight plate appearance.

1993 Dennis Martinez allows his first grand slam since 1984 in the midst of the worst start of his career. His line: 4.1 IP, 10 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 2 BB, 2 K for a Game Score of 7.

1995 Reds owner Marge Schott launches a cost-cutting move. The team provides one page of game notes to all press box reporters, instead of the normal five pages. This saves the team $3.45 per game.

1996 Rob Deer plays his last game.

1998 Atlanta signs free agent Norm Charlton.

1999 Mark McGwire connects for his 500th home run.

2001 Bobby Cox manages his 3,000th game (1,679-1,319).

2001 Larry Walker belts his 300th home run.

2002 Darrell Porter dies.

2002 Detroit hosts Silent Night against the Angels. The Tigers use no electronic, video or commercial enhancements at Comerica Park for one game only.

2004 Arizona trades what’s left of Roberto Alomar to the White Sox.

2005 Texas retires the number of former manager Johnny Oates.

2006 Ivan Rodriguez launches his most clutch homer, according to WPA. It’s a two-run walk-off homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth for a 4-3 win. WPA: 0.894.

2007 Tom Glavine wins his 300th game.

2009 Jason Schmidt last pitches in the major leagues.

2010 Major League Baseball confirms the Chuck Greenberg-Nolan Ryan led group as the new owners of the Texas Rangers with their $385 million bid. Mark Cuban made a bid valued at $593 million, which includes debts assumed.

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Brian Gunn
11 years ago

Thanks, Chris!  That Tribe-Mariners game was one of my all-time regular-season favorites (it even had repercussions a couple months after the fact, as it prevented the M’s from breaking the ‘06 Cubs’ single-season victory mark).  But one small quibble: Lofton was on 2nd, not 3rd, when Cabrera came to the plate in the bottom of the 11th, making Cabrera’s walk-off single a little more impressive.

Chris J.
11 years ago

Brian – Good catch, thanks.

Robert H. Bonter
11 years ago

That vaunted 2001 Seattle team blew a bigger-stakes venue when they were eliminated from the playoffs by the Yankees. Imagine, you win 116 games and you don’t even reach the World Series.

Of course maybe one in a hundred fans, that would be me, consider this cavalier discarding of regular season superiority as symptomatic of the “made for television” commercial cancer which has destroyed the credibility of seasonal results.  Used to be the sport took pride in showcasing its two best teams in its championship showdown. Now it takes pride in selling out to the highest circus barker bidder.

8 years ago

Brilliant writeup of this historical comeback. It was an interesting read.

7 years ago

im good at basketball (;

7 years ago

also im brilliant
and stuff like that,

7 years ago

Robin Ventura is the only hitter to ever get 6 hits off of Nolan Ryan in 1 game. Pull it up on youtube & count them.