A walk-off home run is the ultimate high for the winning team, and the ultimate low for the losing team. It leaves one team standing around home plate waiting to mob their hero as he rounds the bases. It leaves the other team walking back into the dugout with their heads down and a look of disappointment on their faces. This list isn’t necessarily partial to walk-off’s in the postseason, but the drama factor of postseason play seems to outdo any walk-off’s from the regular season. So here is my top ten walk-off home runs in MLB history.
1. Joe Carter, Game 6, 1993 World Series- There is no bigger stage in baseball than the World Series. There is no play more dramatic than the walk-off home run. Joe Carter won the Blue Jays the 1993 World Series, on the biggest stage, in the most dramatic fashion. Trailing 6-5, Carter blasted a 3 run walk-off against Phillies closer Mitch Williams. Cue the unforgettable call by Tom Cheek, “Touch em all Joe, You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life.”
2. Kirk Gibson, Game 1, 1988 World Series- If you don’t know the story by now, you must not be much of a baseball fan. An injury going into the World Series has got to be the worst feeling for a professional baseball player. Kirk Gibson was held out of game 1 with a knee injury, but was available as a pinch hitter. With game 1 all but lost, 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, and one runner on, Gibson was called to hit. Oh and did I mention, Dennis Eckersley, the AL Cy Young runner up, was the closer trying to shut the door on LA. Gibson limped up to bat, and then limped all the way around the bases, after his hit cleared the right field wall, giving the Dodgers the 5-4 win, and more importantly, game 1 of the World Series.
3. Bill Mazeroski, Game 7, 1960 World Series- This is often regarded as the biggest walk-off home run in MLB history. It comes in on my list at number 3. The Pirates came into the 1960 World Series as major underdogs against the mighty New York Yankees. Taking the series into a tie game in the 9th inning of game 7, may have been just as unlikely as what Bill Mazeroski did once they got there. Mazeroski, the unlikely hero, known more for his defense than his bat, ended the series, giving the Pirates the title with one swing of the bat. Bill Mazeroski ran the bases throwing his arms in the air, fans ran onto the field, and the Pirates walked off as World Series champs.
4. Bobby Thomson, Game 3, 1951 NL playoff- “The shot heard round the world” is certainly a fitting nickname for this historic home run. Don Newcombe was pitching dominantly for the Dodgers, but ran into some trouble in the 9th, and was pulled from the game. Bobby Thompson was the next and last batter of the game. Thompson ripped the 3-run homer to left field at the Polo Grounds, and the unforgettable call of Russ Hodges summed it all up, “The Giants won the pennant!”
5. Aaron Boone, Game 7, 2003 ALCS- Red Sox fans: you may want to skip this one. The 2003 Yankees did not have any shortage of talent. Just about every hitter on that roster was capable of blasting a long ball in that game as it entered extra innings. I don’t think anybody expected that guy to be Aaron Boone, even Aaron Boone. Aaron Boone is the “Baha Men” of MLB. He did one thing (“Let The Dog’s Out”), got really popular, and then disappeared. Regardless of how random and improbable it was, it still goes down as one of the biggest walk-off home runs of all time. Tim Wakefield floated the knuckle ball over in the bottom of the 11th, and Aaron Boone (Who? Who? Who? Who? Who? ) sent the Yankees to the World Series, and sent the Red Sox home.
6. David Ortiz, Game 4, 2004 ALCS- OK Red Sox fans, you can look again. Revenge may be the understatement of the century for what happened in the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees, the year after the crushing Aaron Boone home run. Everybody remembers the Red Sox coming back to beat the Yankees after trailing the series 0-3, but the clutch hits by David Ortiz throughout the 2004 postseason should not be overshadowed. None more clutch than game 4 of the ALCS. Sure, it took brilliant managing by Terry Francona, brining in Dave Roberts as a pinch runner, stealing 2nd and scoring the tying run to send the game into extras, but it was a different Dave who ultimately kept the series alive. In the bottom of the 12th and the slightest bit of hope still alive in Boston, David Ortiz came up to hit the walk-off home run, and a new kind of hope was born. The Red Sox won the game, and the series, and took home the title in 2004, the first time in 86 years. Think number 6 is high enough?
7. Derek Jeter, Game 4, 2001 World Series- The birth of “Mr. November” The Diamondbacks and Yankees battled in game 4 of the 2001 World Series into 10 innings. That was enough for Derek Jeter. Jeter belted a home run to right field at Yankee Stadium off of D’Backs closer Byung-Hyun Kim, giving the Yankees the game 4 victory. Jeter became known as Mr. November after the home run as the game went past midnight, out of October, and into November.
8. David Freese, Game 6, 2011 World Series- I love this play. It may be my favorite on this list. Having it at number 8 may not do it justice, but it just happened last year, and this is an all-time list, so I feel like it needs some time to climb the ranks. Anyways, The Cardinals in 2011 were one of the more improbable teams to ever win the World Series, but that’s a whole other story. This was game 6, and David Freese was simply unbelievable. First he tied the game in the 9th with a two run triple, and then he comes up in the 11th and on a 3-2 count, sends the World Series to game 7 with a blast over the center field wall. Talk about clutch, this home run, and game, will go down as one of the best World Series games ever. The Cardinals won game 7, and the Texas Rangers went home as runner ups, for the second consecutive year.
9. Carlton Fisk, Game 6, 1975 World Series- Red Sox fans will tell you that Fisk actually forced the ball fair by waiving his arms. Perhaps if the Sox went on to win the 1975 World Series, this home run would be somewhere in my top 5, but regardless, it was still great. Facing Elimination in game 6, Carlton Fisk hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning to force game 7. The play would have gone down as one of the greats regardless of how the moment transpired, but Fisk certainly made it a moment to remember. His shot down the left field line appeared headed for foul territory, but as it seemed to just hang in the air, Fisk took the time to waive his arms at the ball as if he was trying to push it into fair territory, and it hit the foul pole, giving the Red Sox the walk-off win.
10. Robin Ventura, Game 5, 1999 NLCS- So if this was a technical list, this play would…technically…be disqualified…I think. Robin Ventura came up to bat with the bases loaded and 1 out in the 15th inning at Shea Stadium in the 1999 NLCS against Atlanta. Ventura hit a rocket over the right field wall, and forced a game 6 back in Atlanta. Here’s the catch. The Mets were so ecstatic, that they couldn’t wait for Robin to get all the way around the bases. Ventura was mobbed by his teammates before 2nd base after the winning run scored, and he never finished his trip around the bases. It went down in the books as the walk-off grand slam single. Listen, the ball cleared the wall, and clearly this is not a technical list. It qualifies and rounds off the top 10.
-Kirby Puckett, Game 6, 1991 World Series
-Ozzie Smith, Game 5, 1985 NLCS