Dust off your No. 7 jerseys, Tribe fans: Kenny Lofton is back in the friendly confines of the Jake.
Lofton was my favorite player of the Awesome Era in Cleveland (circa 1994-1997). He led off a lineup that was fun and exciting to watch -- a team that always seemed to have more heart than attitude (with the exception of the comically evil Albert Belle, of course).
How many innings started like this: Lofton walks or hits a slap single and promptly steals second base; Omar Vizquel bunts Lofton to third; Carlos Baerga doubles in Lofton; and Belle homers in anyone else left on base. The Tribe's lineup in 1995 was so solid, from top to bottom, that Jim Thome batted sixth and Manny Ramirez hit seventh. Seventh!
That team won 100 games in a strike-shortened 144-game season -- truly one of the great regular seasons of baseball history. Sadly, the squad's would-be legacy ends there, without a championship ring, thanks to the hated Braves of Atlanta.
This is Kenny's third stint as an Indian; he previously played in 1992-1996 and 1998-2001. Hopefully the third time will be the charm. Cleveland is hanging tough, sitting on top of the wild card race and just a half game behind Detroit for the division lead. Is it finally next year? We should know better, but if we didn't have more hope than reason we wouldn't be Cleveland fans.