On this Day in Rochester History
Posted by Sal Maiorana September 14, 2013 • Democrat and Chronicle
Since moving into Frontier Field in 1997, the Rochester Red Wings haven’t enjoyed a whole lot of success, but what a start they got off to in their maiden season in new ballpark.
“Fairy tale story, fairy tale ending,” relief pitcher Brian Shouse said following the final game of the season, a 4-3 victory on Sept. 14 over the Columbus Clippers in the decisive Game 5 of the Governors’ Cup championship series.
“I don’t know what to say,” third baseman P.J. Forbes said, his uniform streaked with dirt and his face soaked with champagne and tears following Rochester’s pulsating triumph which clinched its 10th International League championship. “I can’t catch my breath.”
The Wings won the International League North Division crown with an 83-58 record, and then defeated the Clippers, then the top farm club of the New York Yankees, to give Frontier its first, and still only, championship.
Only one other time since the stadium was built have the Red Wings qualified for the IL playoffs, that in 2006, as a wild-card team.
But in 1997, a team led by likable manager Marv Foley got 20 home runs and 76 RBI from Danny Clyburn, a .324 batting average from Francisco Matos, and a 14-2 record from pitcher Rick Krivda as a franchise record 540,842 fans paid homage throughout the year.
“Isn’t this beautiful,” said Foley, who became the first man in history to win championships in all three of the triple-A leagues, this one added to titles in the Pacific Coast League with Vancouver (1989) and the now-defunct American Association with Iowa (1993). “Absolutely awesome. I’ve been blessed to have some pretty good ballplayers through the years. You can’t win the Kentucky Derby with a mule.”
The Wings eliminated Pawtucket in four games in the division finals, and then split the first two games of the Cup finals in Columbus with the last three games to be played at Frontier. The Wings took Game 3 by a 3-1 score, but lost 4-3 in Game 4, setting up the winner-take-all finale.
Rochester jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning against Columbus
starter Mike Jerzembeck. Forbes doubled, went to third on Matos’ sacrifice
bunt, and scored on a single by Clyburn, who was called up to parent Baltimore
immediately after the game. Tim Laker drilled an RBI triple to center, and he
scored on Tommy Davis’ single up the middle.
Clyburn’s RBI double chased Jerzembeck in the third, but that was all the scoring the Wings could muster. Columbus chipped away with one run in the fourth, then chased rookie starter Julio Moreno with another in the sixth. Reliever Chris Bennett walked Homer Bush to open the seventh, then gave up a single to Matt Howard and an RBI groundout to Ricky Ledee that cut the lead to 4-3. But Shouse shut down the Clippers, retiring the last four men, Howard’s fly out to center field ending the game.
“I couldn’t hear myself think in the ninth,” Shouse said. “The fans were
unbelievable, awesome. I’m speechless.”
“Anybody who doesn’t think this is a great baseball town is totally out of touch,” said Foley. “I’ve never had more fun managing anywhere. I love this town.”