The economy, heated by the dot.com boom, was boiling in 1995. The stadium was new. The long-neglected downtown, buoyed by the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum that same year, had a new appeal. The fans' hunger for a winner was intense. And the novelty of it all was magnetic.
"It seemed like everyone wanted to be in downtown Cleveland and especially at an Indians game," said Roberto Alomar, the newly elected Hall of Famer who was a Cleveland second baseman in the late 1990s.
Those powerful Indians teams monopolized the city's sports interest. The NFL's Browns had abandoned Cleveland in 1995. Their namesake replacements wouldn't debut until 1999. The NBA's Cavaliers weren't contenders. And there was no NHL team.
"The people here had no one but us to cheer for," DiBiasio said.
That wasn't hard for them. Mike Hargrove's '95 club had a ball-mashing appeal, with such sluggers as Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, and Albert Belle. Those Indians went 100-44 and reached the postseason for the first time in 41 years, before losing to Atlanta in the World Series.
Suddenly Indians tickets were hot. They got even hotter when the club, which hadn't won a Series since 1948, made it to another in '97, losing Game 7 in extra innings to Florida.
New restaurants and bars flourished near the ballpark. The Indians hired more stadium workers, and their front-office staff, trimmed after the move to Jacobs Field, grew larger.
"But no team can sustain that kind of thing forever," said DiBiasio. "Sooner or later it had to end."
The curtain began to fall on this Indians renaissance in 2001.
Hargrove's 2000 firing alienated many fans. Charlie Manuel's 2001 club won another division title - the Tribe's sixth in seven years - but fell to Seattle in the divisional series that October. The sellout streak had ended that April.
"Even though we won again in '01, the casual fans were beginning to fall to the sides," DiBiasio said. "Then once you start to stumble, it's hard to stop."
Off the field, there were more discouraging trends.
"All the things that had worked in our favor in the '90s started going in reverse," DiBiasio said.
The downtown surge sparked by the Indians and the rock museum petered out. Companies such as OfficeMax and National City Bank abandoned the city.
Cleveland's population was aging and, according to federal census data, declining faster than any city's but Detroit's, slipping 17 percent between 2000 and 2010.
The Indians' payroll took a hit. Fifth highest in baseball in 2001, it dropped to 25th in just two years. Ramirez left after the 2000 season. Alomar went after 2001, Thome after 2002.