April 19, 2024

On Progressive Field’s 30th anniversary, our readers share their fondest memories

Thirty years ago, the Cleveland baseball scene morphed from a fuzzy black-and-white picture to a high-definition and vividly colored work of art.

A team synonymous with losing in a drab, cavernous dungeon on the lakeshore evolved into personable winners playing in a state-of-the-art structure. Jacobs Field officially opened its doors on April 4, 1994, and changed baseball in Cleveland forever.

Fans walked onto the concourse for the first time and froze as they scanned their pristine surroundings. Ushers had to remind everyone to keep moving. Players, coaches and clubhouse attendants couldn’t fathom their new amenities. Roomier batting cages. An upgraded food spread. Fewer mice. Kenny Lofton even waxed poetic about the more comfortable toilets.

Now named Progressive Field, the venue is the 11th-oldest in the league. It’s undergoing another round of renovations and will ultimately appear quite different than it did on that chilly, sunny afternoon 30 years ago when President Clinton threw out the first pitch, Bob Feller tried to jinx Randy Johnson’s no-hitter and Wayne Kirby delivered a walk-off single.

The ballpark has hosted two All-Star Games, 10 World Series games, three no-hitters (all thrown by opponents) and 235 walk-off wins.

Here’s a sampling of what has stood the test of time, your fondest memories from the ballpark in its 30 years.



25 years later: How Jacobs Field saved baseball in Cleveland

Some submissions have been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

My favorite memory at Progressive Field is the marathon playoff game against the Rays in 2022. I went to the game, just my dad and me. I realized how much I missed my dad when I moved to college. (Mom, too, but this is about Progressive Field. Love you, Mom.) I was making friends at school, but I missed home. For Game 2, we sat in the highest seats at the stadium, the folding chairs they set up and zip-tie to the cage at the top of the upper deck. It was so cold up there, with the wind blowing through the chain-link fence behind us. Also, there was no scoring for 15 innings. This sounds like a terrible time, and yet I had such a blast. I was back with my dad and we were having a moment I’ll always look back upon. That’s when I realized my dad was my best friend. It’s crazy that it took me 19 years to figure that out, so thank you, Progressive Field.

Dom F.

When I was in high school, my mom would let me join my friends and cut school for the home opener. We’d take the rapid downtown to Municipal Stadium. When they moved into the new ballpark, I was old enough to go without permission, but I’d always think of my mom.

Eventually, I moved away and followed Cleveland baseball from afar. In 2004, my mom passed away. I flew back to Cleveland for her funeral. Anyone who’s lost someone knows sometimes you feel trapped at home, wondering what to do next. We decided to head to the ballpark as a family for a brief respite. It was April 16, and Cleveland was playing the Tigers. Jody Gerut went 5-for-5 with three doubles and a homer. My brother-in-law and I chanted his name until we were hoarse and earned a tip of the cap from him. It was cathartic to celebrate a win with my family and remember what Mom meant to all of us.

Mike E.

My daughter was born in 2016. There were early-life hardships and ups and downs in the NICU. She was an underdog who defied the odds and kept winning when she wasn’t supposed to. The 2016 Indians’ story felt similar. I made it to Game 2 of the ALCS when Josh Tomlin pitched the game of his life, and Andrew Miller was at the peak of his powers. We were able to bring my daughter to a game in 2017. It was a nondescript game in April, but it meant the world to my family.

Andy J.

I grew up in North Dakota and my family traveled to Cleveland every summer to attend a game or two. In 1994, when I was 12, the team was good. Finally. I couldn’t wait for my August trip to Cleveland to see Jacobs Field. I was set to attend the Aug. 16 game against Oakland, but the strike began four days earlier. My uncle took me to the stadium anyway, and I peered through the gate beyond the left-field wall while wearing my Kenny Lofton jersey. Even though I couldn’t go inside, the field took my breath away. I could have stood there all night.

Rich M.

I have attended almost 300 games: walk-off homers from Juan Gonzalez, Carlos Santana, Jason Giambi and Oscar Gonzalez, the Bug Game, the 2022 ALDS win against the Yankees, the Wild-Card Game in 2013, almost every Opening Day for more than a decade and every home playoff game in 2016. Despite all these amazing moments, getting to share the game and these memories with my three kids is my new favorite thing to do.

On March 13, 2020, my then-4-year-old son, Kyle, was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer with a risky and often unsuccessful treatment plan. This cancer has a less than 50 percent survival rate. He began treatment immediately. My wife discovered Cincinnati Children’s Hospital has an amazing oncology program and we soon transferred Kyle’s care there. My wife, Kyle and I essentially moved to Cincinnati that May with a few short trips home to spend time with our other two kids, who lived with their grandparents. In October 2020, Kyle wound up in the ICU for an extended period. He went into respiratory failure, was placed on a ventilator and nearly passed away. With an incredible effort from so many at Cincinnati Children’s, Kyle pulled through, and by Christmas 2020, his treatment was back on track.

Carlos Santana, after his final season in Cleveland in 2020, sent Kyle a care package that included an autographed bat inscribed with an inspirational message. Kyle had a favorite player for life. He completed his treatment, has remained cancer-free and continues to grow stronger. On Sept. 3, 2022, the Mariners came to town and we met Carlos on the field during batting practice. He talked to us for a few minutes and embraced Kyle like he was his own son. He picked him up, hugged him, high-fived him and kissed the top of his head. After his round of BP, Carlos came back with a pair of batting gloves for Kyle.

After nearly 300 games, I’d never have imagined that my favorite ballpark memory would come from a “visiting” player before a Cleveland loss. Carlos will always be one of our own, regardless of the name on the front of his jersey.

Jason B.

For years, Derek T. gave his dad grief about leaving early the day Bill Selby launched a walk-off grand slam against Mariano Rivera.

Brian F. and his dad laugh about ditching the chilly, wet conditions to grab a hot dog and gloves just as Travis Hafner belted a grand slam at the 2004 opener.

Ben A. can still hear his uncle, as they sat beneath the terrace club, predicting Lofton would scale the fence to snag B.J. Surhoff’s near-homer in 1996.

Nick H. continues to tease his buddy for vowing he’d walk the 150 miles back to Marietta, Ohio, if Cleveland won on July 7, 2011. (Hafner hit a walk-off slam.)

Luke G. remembers attending Game 1 of the 2016 ALDS in a Corey Kluber jersey, muddy football pants and cleats, having come straight from practice.

Ryan K. cherishes the ceremonial first pitch he threw to Andy Marte in 2008 in front of his baseball-loving grandfather, who died a few months later.

Brandon H. treasures his photos of his son banging John Adams’ drum during a rain delay in 2018.

Alyssa K.’s earliest memory is being 4 or 5 and crying because she missed fireworks while visiting the team shop. More fireworks exploded once she returned to her seat, and she was certain they were specifically for her, not to celebrate a Cleveland home run.

My father-in-law and brother-in-law went to the doubleheader on Aug. 18, 2023. My father-in-law had a cardiac event, collapsed and fell down the stairs and two complete strangers gave him CPR until help could arrive. They kept him alive, but he was in rough shape. He was taken to the clinic and spent two weeks in the ICU, but he survived. My family will be completely in debt to the two strangers who did something to help them. They slipped away into the night without looking for recognition but were indeed heroes.

Jon W.

It’s April 15, 1998. Tribe vs. The Big Unit. In the bottom of the first, while David Bell is finishing off an inside-the-park homer, I’m approaching a long line of folks waiting at the Beers of the World stand in right field. Not wanting to miss more of the game, I approached this brunette near the front of the line. Naturally, I made my move, batting my eyes and asking her (if I could cut the line). She laughed and pointed me to the end of the line. On the way back to my seat, I made sure I got her phone number. Twenty-six years later, we’re still happily married.

That same game, I was jawing with Ken Griffey Jr.

“Hey, Griffey, (Mark) McGwire has seven homers. How many you got?”

Junior stared me down and said, “How many you got?”

Touché. And for good measure, he then tripled in the tying run.

Phil T.

In 2016, my best friend got really sick with a third bout of cancer. We made a promise that if Cleveland made it to the World Series, he and I would go to Game 1 no matter how sick he was. Unfortunately, he passed away the day Cleveland clinched the division. I paid $1,000 per ticket to attend Game 1 and wore his favorite jersey and hat. I remember singing “You Should Be Here” by Cole Swindell. Game 1 was one of the most bittersweet moments of my life.

Len M.

At the home opener in 2022, my wife and I planned to meet friends on the right-field concourse by the giant Block C to reconnect after a couple of years of kids and COVID keeping us apart. We run into another group of friends, so now we’re a mob clogging up the concourse. We pose for a few rounds of pictures. At this point, I’m ready to move on. My wife asks for one last picture and I see she’s pulling something out of her pocket. It’s a white onesie with our last name and No. 22 on the back. I kiss my wife, who surprised me in front of a bunch of our friends that she’s expecting our second child. We got high-fives and cheers from strangers and hugs from friends, and we couldn’t have been happier.

Joe R.

I got to go there plenty of times with my uncle, who died unexpectedly last November. Before I was born, he would only watch fishing and NASCAR, but I convinced him to give baseball a try. He always wanted me to bring him back a baseball from games. I got one at the All-Star Game and surprised him with it. When we went through his house after he passed, the baseball was sitting on his nightstand.

Evan W.

Our third child was born at the start of the win streak in 2017. So, for 22 days, you knew how old our daughter was by the number of consecutive wins the Indians had. This culminated in all of us being there for the historic Game 22. I can still see us dancing to the song “22” by Taylor Swift with all our friends.

Mark F.

In 2022, my grandparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary at the ballpark with their kids, grandkids and great-grandkids. Cord Phelps hit a walk-off homer after a rain delay. That memory means more now that they’re both gone.

Andy P.

My father, Judson, was obsessed with baseball and passed that love on to me. We went to many games together at Jacobs/Progressive Field. He died Aug. 29, 2023, after trying to recover from a traumatic accident that spring. We had plans to attend Opening Day in Cleveland that year, but instead, he was in an ICU room that had a view of Comerica Park. We hung a Guardians rally towel in his room so everyone knew we were Cleveland fans. Even in death, he supplies my love of baseball. His ashes are literally inside a real baseball. I have no plans to return to Progressive Field this season — it’s too soon — but I know one day I will step foot in the stadium and feel my dad’s presence all around.

Shannon R.

My best ballpark memory actually started on the way in. I was 9 and headed to the game with my grandfather. He refused to drive downtown and pay to park, so we took the rapid and walked to Jacobs Field. I got too eager and ran in front of him and he tripped over me. I heard a loud scream and helped him off the ground. His arm was broken. My excitement for the game turned to dread. I knew I ruined this moment and injured my grandfather.

But he continued walking toward the ballpark, not saying a word to me. I was terrified he was mad and would never speak to me again. We got to the gate, and he handed over the tickets and calmly asked, “Where’s the medic?”

My grandfather came out in a blue sling and said, “Let’s go to our seats.” For the next three hours, we sat there, a grandfather with a broken arm and his grandson, watching the Indians lose to the Royals. This memory has always stuck with me.

Josh H.

In July 2016, my father was diagnosed with ALS. A man who loved baseball more than anyone was diagnosed with a disease named after Lou Gehrig. You can’t make it up. That day, my father told me his favorite saying: “We wake up with a smile and go to sleep with one, too.”

On Aug. 21, 2016, the team arranged field passes for my father, brother, sister and me. My father was in his dream world. My brother broke the news his wife was pregnant, the first grandchild of the family on the way. It was something my dad always wanted to see before he passed. We smiled, we cried, we laughed. And who walks up to us? None other than Rajai Davis.

For 10 minutes, he asked my father about his battle and talked about fighting through adversity. It felt like they had known each other for years. We got a picture with Rajai and watched an Indians win. We got in the car and my father said, “I think I found my new favorite player.”

Fast forward to Game 7 of the World Series. My dad had lost his ability to speak. Doctors said he’d be lucky to last two more months. Aroldis Chapman throws an inside fastball and Rajai gives us the home run heard around the world. I will remember that moment forever, my father with tears streaming down his face. The man who gave my father the time of day, cared about him, talked to him about his battle — never giving up, just like my father.

My father passed five months later. I think that moment with Rajai helped. The Jake will always have a special place in our hearts. Ernie Harwell once said, “Baseball is a lot like life. It’s a day-to-day existence, full of ups and downs. You make the most of your opportunities in baseball as you do in life.” My father lived by that every day.

Marc G.

My friends won tickets to the Mike Hargrove suite and invited me and my then-girlfriend to join them. Mike and Sharon Hargrove were so kind and welcoming. Halfway through the game, Mike leans over and says, “So, Chelsea seems like a really nice girl. When are you going to ask her to marry you?” I’d already begun to have the inclination, but I knew at that moment I was only going to get coached by Mike Hargrove once. I better listen to the skipper. Eight years later, she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me and we have four beautiful children I’ll take to several games a year as long as I’m able.

Quincy W.

My dad was in the hospital for two weeks in 2022 with an undiagnosed condition. No one knew what it was and it kept getting worse. The first night he was in the hospital, Sept. 16, I went to the Guardians-Twins game by myself to clear my head. The Guardians were battling for the AL Central and won that game, 4-3. It was a much-needed reprieve. The next night, I decided to go back to Progressive Field. The game went 15 innings and the Guardians put the Twins away for good. The team, park and atmosphere allowed me to relax my mind and focus on joy.

Matt B.

Vince G. recalls every detail of Tony Peña’s walk-off in the 1995 playoffs, including catching a flight to Raleigh a couple hours after the catcher’s decisive swing.

Terry H. remembers Casey Blake noticing the demeanor of his son, Jeremy, who was bummed about an impending move away from Cleveland, and throwing him a ball to cheer him up.

Joel N. reflects fondly on the moment of silence before the first pitch on the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Jason T. and his wife took their daughters to the terrace club last year to show them where they were married — with Cracker Jacks and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” — almost 20 years earlier.

Alex H. tries to mentally recreate the sights and sounds of Albert Belle’s walk-off slam from July 18, 1995, every year on that date.

Arthur S. marveled at the architecture of the building when his parents took him to his first game, which sparked a career in urban design and planning.

Brandon B. cherishes the last game he spent at Progressive Field with his grandfather: June 17, 2018, Father’s Day.

Sam M. remembers his name being displayed on the scoreboard when he was 7 and his dad driving them back to Cincinnati after a Game 1 win in the 2016 ALCS.

“It’s the littlest things that can carve out a beautiful memory,” wrote Andy D., who once caught a ball from Michael Brantley before umpire Laz Diaz playfully attempted to confiscate it from him.



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I started at Municipal Stadium, so I’m old enough to know the upgrade Progressive Field was, and I know I better take care of it. I remember my mom jumping on the phone to try to get tickets for the first season. I walked out of my room and she just held up the phone and said, “No chance.” My parents did get us a tour, and it was like we were stepping into the future. We had never seen anything that nice. It was a palace. In a lot of ways, it still is.

The building is a friend. We grew up together. I went as a kid. I went in high school and knocked down beers in my buddy’s mom’s van before we went in. I took three college girlfriends there. It’s like a buddy who knows this isn’t going to last, and he’ll be there when it doesn’t. Now, I take my wife and kids there, and I’ll walk by sections and remember things that happened years ago. We know, but we’re buddies and we don’t tell other people our business. We see the age in each other. We’ve been together as young kids and now we see each other in early middle age. I’ve tried diets, the stadium has had facelifts and renovations. I hope we’re together in old age and neither of us leaves the other too soon.

Ken C.

Cleveland baseball became part of my life when I was 7 and it became a refuge for me. Around the same time I started to make Progressive Field my summer home, I also started to transition my gender. I never had to pretend to be anyone else at a baseball game. I didn’t have to try to meet anyone else’s expectations of me. Even before I totally understood who I was, I knew the me who existed at those games was the most true version of myself. I felt my baseball family already knew who I was because they’d been seeing it all along.

Progressive Field was a safe place where people truly knew me and saw me. I could just exist, watching the team and sport that I love. It’s given me some of my best memories during a time of my life that was otherwise extremely difficult. Progressive Field and the Cleveland Guardians literally kept me alive. Simply waking up and thinking, “Tonight I can go to the game, and the usher in my section will use my preferred name” was sometimes enough to get me through each day. In the last year, I was finally able to come out as myself publicly. However, in that process, my work has taken me to Columbus, and even though I am now in a wonderful, inclusive environment and am grateful I can thrive as my whole self, leaving Northeast Ohio and my proximity to Progressive Field was extremely difficult. Progressive Field is a place of refuge and sanctuary for me. I will be there win or lose, first place or last, but I know that when we finally do win a World Series, I will be celebrating in my favorite place with the people who have always known exactly who I am.

Eli S.

My brother is the cool guy on the left. He was more than my brother. He was my best friend and my confidant. When Joe was a little boy, he looked up to me, a massive Cleveland Indians fan. The height of our fandom was marked by traveling from Connecticut to Cleveland for the 2007 ALCS to see them win Game 4.

Years later, my brother was diagnosed with lymphoma. We talked through the treatment, spinal taps and flat-out hell. Baseball was a distraction. After a difficult journey, doctors said he was clear. To celebrate, we traveled to Cleveland on a victory tour.

Sadly, soon after, a scan revealed the cancer was back. This time, no treatment could save him. I have been lost without him, but get a little of him back when I take my son, Michael, to Cleveland. He wears my brother’s Kenny Lofton jersey. Progressive Field is the place I can connect with my son, make my brother’s legacy live forever and enjoy the team that has kept me glued together during rough times. I just wish the commute wasn’t 553 miles. I don’t get out as much as I like, but I’ll be coming home this summer with my family, and I can’t wait.

John F.

(Top photo of Jacobs Field in 1998: Harry How / Getty Images)