The 2019 All-Star Game shows that Cleveland is living in the moment — past, present and future

CLEVELAND – Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor watches it before every home game on the JumboTron in left field at Progressive Field.

“We see Sandy’s moment every day on the scoreboard,” Lindor said at All-Star Game media day on Monday. “They play it over and over every day, and it looks pretty special. I can’t wait now to see what it’s going to be like tomorrow.”

That moment -when catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning to give the American League a 3-1 victory at then-called Jacobs Field in the 1997 All-Star Game- will be replayed again to loud ovations before Tuesday’s All-Star game.

Cleveland still relishes that moment. A long line of fans waited just to meet and greet Alomar Jr. at Play Ball Park on Monday afternoon. Fans greeted Jim Thome, his teammate at that All-Star Game, with another round of applause before he threw out the first pitch to Lindor at the Home Run Derby on Monday.

Thome also coached the American League team at the Futures Game on Sunday, and he used that moment in his pre-game speech.

“That was kind of the message to these guys,” Thome said. “Everywhere you get moments in life. You get moments in life where you can rise up where you can show the world, ‘We’re here.’ We were fortunate to have some of those moments with our teams in the ’90s. That was one of those moments. It’s the best part of baseball.”

Those moments are happening a lot more in Cleveland these days, and there is more where that came from.



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Sandy Alomar Jr.
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Cleveland native Drew Carey, host of “The Price is Right,” was asked before the Celebrity Softball Game what “Cleveland vs. The World” meant to him.

“It’s just a slogan on a shirt,” Carey said, accompanied by his trademark laugh, as he held up a baseball glove he admitted he had not touched in years.

Carey then interrupted the next question.

“Well, I take that back because I’ve been stepped on my whole life. It’s been a joke,” Carey said before warming up. “All I’ve ever heard is Cleveland jokes. It was truly one of the reasons I set my show in Cleveland. You get a chip on your shoulder when you grow up here, and there’s a part of you there that never leaves.”

If you endear yourself to the Cleveland fans, you always stay. That was evident in that celebrity game. J.R. Smith, a guard on the 2016 Cavaliers NBA Finals championship team, stripped his shirt off before an at-bat then posed with former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar. It’s the perfect picture for the local Cleveland sports bar wall.

Kenny Lofton, who was traded to Atlanta in 1997 before returning the following season, hit a home run. Lofton put that mentality into perspective from an athlete’s standpoint. James, Lofton, Kosar and Thome all left, and Smith could be next, but you never really leave.

“Everyone against Cleveland, because we – I can say that because I’m not a Clevelander but I feel that way – we feel like it’s always us against everyone else,” Lofton said. “We always felt like the team that should be on that higher market level, but we weren’t.”

Indians manager Terry Francona grew up in New Brighton, Pa., but he speaks in the same terms as Lofton when asked about the All-Star Game shining a light on Cleveland.

“I’m from an hour-and-a-half away, but I’ve been here long enough to care,” Francona said. “I’ve seen when LeBron (James) came back what it did for the Downtown restaurants and bars. A weekend like this, Cleveland is a destination. I know what it was like during the NBA Finals and World Series. This is another time where I think Cleveland gets to show that it’s a pretty cool place.”

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James delivered the Cavaliers’ first pro sports championship since 1964 with a thrilling comeback from a 3-1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors. That erased a curse that included countless heartbreaks both on and off the field. The Indians lost two World Series. The Browns relocated to Baltimore.

James left for Los Angeles after the 2017-18 season, but the momentum has not stopped in Cleveland since. The Indians are in the mix for a fourth straight playoff berth and were one game away from winning the 2016 World Series. The Browns have flipped a 0-16 roster to a team led by No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield and offseason pickup Odell Beckham Jr. That’s come with a motto: “Super Bowl, Super Browns.” Former Browns tackle Joe Thomas – who never played in a playoff game in a 11-season career that will land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame – also played in the Celebrity Softball Game and was happy to elaborate on that notion.

“You have to be excited about the Browns’ season,” Thomas said. “Not only the personalities they have, but the collection of talent they have put together. I don’t know what their record is going to be, but they’re going to be exciting as a team.”

Cleveland, much like it did when Jacobs Field was the place to be in the 1990s, has a revitalized city on the upswing.

“The Downtown is a lot more exciting than it has been in a long time, which makes me really happy,” Carey said. “In every city, I think the Downtown is the most-important part. You’re seeing that in Cleveland again.”

With that come big-time events. The 2020 NFL Draft. The 2022 NBA All-Star Game. The 2024 Women’s Final Four. All of that is coming to Cleveland.

It is the cool place to be again, just like 1997.

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Carey was asked if he remembered where he was during the 1997 All-Star Game.

“Uh, no,” he said before that laugh broke out again.

He is in the minority. Most Cleveland fans know where they were when Alomar belted a two-run homer that preempted the second World Series run. Thome watched the Cavaliers win the NBA Finals with his son and has paid attention to the hype around the Browns’ upcoming season.

But the Hall of Famer’s mind still turns back to greeting Alomar in the dugout.

“That’s kind of what you dream of,” Thome said. “For me, because I have so much respect for Sandy to have him have that big moment was incredible. As a teammate, that’s what you want. The crowd how they were excited for him. Looking back, ’97 seems like a long time ago, but what’s cool now is we get to turn the page and hopefully have those great memories for Cleveland again.”

Thome’s team tied in the Futures Game and Cleveland. The World beat Cleveland 21-16 in the Celebrity Softball Game, and Carlos Santana was knocked out of the Home Run Derby.

Lindor, Santana, Shane Bieber and Brad Hand will participate for the Indians in tonight’s All-Star Game, however, and given the momentum in Cleveland it’s OK to believe another moment is coming.

Perhaps it will be one that plays on the JumboTron every day.

“Everything is how it’s supposed to be,” Lindor said. “We’re showing out right now. Cleveland is showing out. I’m so happy for it because I want to show every other team that Cleveland is a great city.”

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