With the strike that halted the 1994 baseball season still unresolved when spring training opened prior to the start of the 1995 campaign, major league owners laid plans to use replacement players. Alarmed, the striking players finally agreed to return to work without a new labor contract, but the protracted negotiations delayed the start of the season until late April and abbreviated the schedule to 144 games.
Once the regular season finally began, the Seattle Mariners and California Angels waged a thrilling race in the A.L. West that ended with the two teams tied for first place at the end of play on the season's final day with identical 78-66 records. A one-game playoff was needed to decide the division champion, and it was truly an all-or-nothing proposition for both teams since the Yankees already clinched a postseason berth as the league's wild-card entry. The Mariners prevailed in the decisive contest to claim their first A.L. West title. Randy Johnson earned the victory for the Mariners, culminating his brilliant Cy Young season with a 9-1 win in Seattle. Johnson concluded the campaign with a superb 18-2 record and a league-leading 2.48 ERA and 294 strikeouts.
Even with Johnson heading their pitching staff, the Mariners’ greatest strength lay in their offense, which placed third in the league rankings with 796 runs scored and 182 home runs. Third baseman Mike Blowers hit 23 homers and drove in 96 runs. First baseman Tino Martinez hit 31 home runs, knocked in 111 runs, scored 92 others, and batted .293. Right-fielder Jay Buhner finished among the league leaders with 40 home runs and 121 runs batted in. DH Edgar Martinez earned a third-place finish in the A.L. MVP voting by hitting 29 home runs, knocking in 113 runs, and topping the circuit with 121 runs scored, 52 doubles, a .356 batting average, and a .479 on-base percentage.
The runner-up Angels, who scored five more runs than Seattle over the course of the season, received outstanding offensive years from outfielders Jim Edmonds and Tim Salmon. Edmonds hit 33 home runs, drove in 107 runs, batted .290, and finished third in the league with 120 runs scored. Salmon hit 34 homers, knocked in 105 runs, scored 111 others, and placed among the league leaders with a .330 batting average.
While Seattle barely edged out California for first place in the A.L. West, the Cleveland Indians coasted to the Central Division title by posting a major-league best record of 100-44 that left them 30 games ahead of the second-place Kansas City Royals in the final standings. Establishing themselves as clear favorites heading into the postseason tournament, the Indians featured the junior circuit’s most potent offense, as well as its stingiest pitching staff. Cleveland led the league with 840 runs scored, 207 home runs, 132 stolen bases, a .291 team batting average, a .361 team on-base percentage, a .479 team slugging average, and a 3.83 team ERA.
Orel Hershiser and Charles Nagy led the Indians’ staff with identical 16-6 records. Dennis Martinez posted 12 victories and a very solid 3.08 ERA. Jose Mesa compiled a brilliant mark of 1.13 and led the league with 46 saves.
On offense, leadoff hitter Kenny Lofton batted .310, scored 93 runs, and led the league with 54 stolen bases. Carlos Baerga drove in 90 runs, scored 87 others, and batted .314. Newly-acquired Eddie Murray hit 21 home runs, drove in 82 runs, batted .323, and provided his teammates with veteran leadership. Jim Thome slugged 25 homers, drove in 73 runs, scored 92 others, batted .314, and compiled a .438 on-base percentage. In just his first full season, Manny Ramirez hit 31 home runs, knocked in 107 runs, and batted .308. Albert Belle earned a close second-place finish in the MVP balloting by batting .317, topping the circuit with 50 home runs, 377 total bases, and a .690 slugging average, and tying for the league lead with 126 runs batted in, 121 runs scored, and 52 doubles.
Edging out Belle for MVP honors was Boston first baseman Mo Vaughn, who led the Red Sox to their first A.L. East title in five years by batting .300, scoring 98 runs, placing among the league leaders with 39 home runs, and tying for the league lead with 126 runs batted in. Vaughn received a considerable amount of help from his Red Sox teammates, who finished the regular season with a record of 86-58 that left them seven games ahead of the runner-up Yankees in the division standings. Jose Canseco batted .306, hit 24 homers, and drove in 81 runs. Mike Greenwell knocked in 76 runs and batted .297. John Valentin hit 27 home runs, drove in 102 runs, scored another 108, and batted .298. Tim Wakefield anchored the pitching staff by posting 16 victories and compiling a 2.95 ERA.
The second-place Yankees earned the right to advance to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years by concluding the campaign with a record of 79-65 that placed them just 1 ½ games ahead of the Western Division runner-up California Angels in the race for the wild-card. David Cone served as the ace of New York’s pitching staff, posting a record of 9-2 after joining the team at midseason. He ended the year with a combined mark of 18-8, with his first 15 decisions coming as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. Meanwhile, Paul O’Neill, Wade Boggs, and Bernie Williams paced the Yankees on offense. O’Neill hit 22 home runs, knocked in 96 runs, and batted .300. Boggs placed among the league leaders with a .324 batting average. Williams hit 18 homers, drove in 82 runs, scored 93 others, and batted .307.
The Yankees subsequently met the Mariners in the first round of the playoffs, while the Red Sox took on the Indians in the other A.L. Division Series matchup. The Cleveland-Boston series offered little in the way of suspense, with the Indians sweeping their overmatched opponents in three straight games. However, the series between New York and Seattle evolved into the most exciting matchup of the entire 1995 postseason. The Yankees won the first two games at home, finally prevailing in Game Two on a dramatic 15th-inning home run by Jim Leyritz. However, the Mariners evened the series at two games apiece after the scene shifted to Seattle for the final three contests. Randy Johnson pitched the Mariners to victory in Game Three, then came out of the bullpen in Game Five to help the Mariners clinch the series with a 6-5 win. Seattle scored the tying and winning runs on a two-run double by Edgar Martinez in the bottom of the 11th inning.
Although Seattle won the opener of the ALCS, its bubble then burst when a superior Cleveland Indians team won four of the next five contests. The Indians outscored the Mariners 23-12 over the course of the Series, and they also outhit them .257 to .184. Kenny Lofton starred for Cleveland, batting .458, scoring four runs, and stealing five bases. But ALCS MVP honors went to Orel Hershiser, who won both his starts and posted an ERA of 1.29.
The Indians returned to the World Series for the first time since 1954 to face the Atlanta Braves, who made their third appearance in the Fall Classic in five years. After the Braves grabbed an early 2-0 Series lead by posting consecutive one-run victories at home, the Indians took two of the next three contests in Cleveland. Game Six subsequently matched Tom Glavine and Dennis Martinez for the second time in the Series, with both pitchers hurling shutout ball through five innings. However, after elbow trouble forced Martinez to leave the contest, David Justice delivered what proved to be the Series-clinching blow by homering off Tribe reliever Jim Poole in the bottom of the sixth inning. Glavine and reliever Mark Wohlers made the run stand up, combining on a one-hit, 1-0 shutout.
Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:
• April 25 - Major League Baseball began its strike-shortened 144-game season. Opening day games in several cities, including New York, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh, saw fan protests regarding the strike that spilled out onto the field.
• June 30 – Cleveland’s Eddie Murray collected his 3,000th career hit during a 3-1 Indians win over the Minnesota Twins at the Metrodome.
• August 13 – Yankee legend Mickey Mantle passed away at the age of 63.
• September 6 - Cal Ripken, Jr. of the Baltimore Orioles played in his 2,131st consecutive major league game, breaking in the process Lou Gehrig's 56-year record.
• September 13 - Second baseman Lou Whitaker and shortstop Alan Trammell of the Detroit Tigers played in their 1,915th game together, setting an American League record.
• September 30 - Albert Belle hit his 50th home run of the season, establishing himself as the first player in major league history to collect 50 home runs and 50 doubles in the same season.
• November 2 - The New York Yankees named Joe Torre as their new manager, replacing Buck Showalter.
• Baltimore’s Mike Mussina led the American League with 19 victories.
• The Hall of Fame inducted Mike Schmidt, Richie Ashburn, Leon Day, Vic Willis, and William Hulbert.
• Oakland’s Mark McGwire shattered all records for the most homers in fewer than 350 at-bats by hammering 39 long balls in just 317 official trips to the plate.
• McGwire led the major leagues in home run percentage (12.3) and collected more walks (88) than hits (87).
• McGwire's 90 RBIs in only 317 at-bats tied George Grantham's 20th-century season record for the most RBIs in fewer than 350 at-bats.
• Eddie Murray finished the season with the record for most career games played at first base with 2,412.
• Dave Winfield retired after 23 seasons and 3,110 hits.
• Sparky Anderson resigned as Detroit's manager, ending his franchise-record streak of nearly 17 years at the Tigers' helm.
- 1995 ALCS, 1995 ALDS1, 1995 ALDS2, 1995 World Series, Alan Trammell, Albert Belle, American League, Bernie Williams (New York Yankees), Boston Red Sox, Brady Anderson, Buck Showalter, Cal Ripken, Jr., Carlos Baerga, Charles Nagy, Cleveland Indians, Dave Winfield, David Cone, Dennis Martinez, Don Mattingly, Eddie Murray, Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner, Jim Edmonds, Jim Leyritz, Jim Poole, Jim Thome, Joe Torre, John Valentin, Jose Canseco, Jose Mesa, Ken Griffey, Jr., Kenny Lofton, Lou Whitaker, Manny Ramirez, Mark McGwire, Mickey Mantle, Mike Blowers, Mike Greenwell, Mike Mussina, Mo Vaughn, New York Yankees, Orel Hershiser, Randy Johnson, Seattle Mariners, Sparky Anderson, Tim Salmon, Tim Wakefield, Tino Martinez, Wade Boggs