Few things can electrify a home crowd or silence the stadium like a home run in baseball. While other sports have their big moments: a dunk in basketball, a penalty kick in soccer or the Hail Mary in football, the home run stands tall in sports history. Read along and see if you can remember these famous home runs that changed the baseball playoffs. Batter up!
10. Chris Burke, Houston Astros, 2005 NLDS, Game 4
We start off our list with the homer that ended the longest postseason game in Major League Baseball history. In the 18th inning, and nearly six hours after the game started, Chris Burke of the Houston Astros took a pitch from Atlanta Braves rookie Joey Devine and lifted it out of the part. Burke’s homer sent the Astros into the NLCS, where they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in six games and would go on to make their first World Series appearance in 44 years.
9. Carlton Fisk, Boston Red Sox, 1975 World Series, Game 6
It was become one of the most indelible moments in baseball history. Who hasn’t seen the clip of Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk, in the 12th inning of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, hitting a blast off Cincinnati Reds’ pitcher Pat Darcy and then leaping and waving, desperately trying to will the ball fair? It must have worked, as the ball hit the foul pole, and Fisk’s solo shot gave Boston the win and forced a seventh game. The only reason this memorable dinger doesn’t rank higher on the list is because the Reds would go to win that Game 7, denying the Red Sox a World Series championship.
8. Magglio Ordonez, Detroit Tigers, 2006 ALCS, Game 4
The Detroit Tigers had come into the fourth game of the 2006 ALCS with a three games to none lead on the Oakland Athletics, and were looking to complete the sweep during this October 14 game. However, the game was tied 3-3 heading into the bottom of the ninth. With two runners on, Detroit’s Magglio Ordonez game to the plate to face Oakland closer Huston Street. Ordonez proceeded to knock a three-run homer to end the ALCS and give Detroit their first American League pennant in more than two decades. It was also the first pennant-winning home run since 2003. Remember that one?
7. Aaron Boone, New York Yankees, 2003 ALCS, Game 7
For the first six games of the 2003 American League Championship Series, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox had battled back and forth, with neither ballclub taking more than a one-game lead on the other. It all came down to the seventh and decisive game, and while the Red Sox jumped out to a 4-0 lead, the Yankees managed to come back and tie the game, 5-5, forcing extra innings. In the bottom of the 11th, Tim Wakefield, who had pitched a scoreless 10th for the Red Sox, was set to face Aaron Boone. Boone took the knuckleballer’s first pitch and deposited it in the left field seats, and in one fell swoop, the Yankees beat their AL East rivals and clinched the 39th pennant in franchise history.
6. Chris Chambliss, New York Yankees, 1976 ALCS Game 5
Boone wasn’t the first Yankee to perform such late-play heroics in the ALCS, however. In Game 5 of the 1976 championship series, Chris Chambliss hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 9th to give New York a 7-6 victory over the Kansas City Royals. Yankee fans, who had seen their team go a dozen years since winning the American League pennant, stormed the field. The scene was so chaotic that Chambliss was unable to officially touch home plate until later, once the hordes of people cleared and the pandemonium settled down. Chambliss’ heroics would get the Yankees to the World Series, but he couldn’t help them slow down the Big Red Machine, as the Cincinnati Reds would sweep New York to become the first MLB team to ever go undefeated in a multi-tiered playoff system.
5. Kirby Puckett, Minnesota Twins, 1991 World Series, Game 6
Unlike many of the other entries on this list, Kirby Puckett’s home run at the end of Game 6 of the 1991 World Series didn’t come at the end of a hard-fought series. However, it was doubtlessly the turning point in Minnesota’s match-up with the Atlanta Braves. Trailing three games to two in that sixth game, the Twins blew a one-run lead in the 7th, and the game would go into extra innings, tied 3-3. Puckett came to bat against Charlie Leibrandt of the Braves in the 11th. He took the first three pitches before swinging and connecting with the fourth, sending it to left-center field and forcing a seventh game. Likewise, that one would go into extra innings, with Minnesota ultimately claiming a 1-0 victory to win the World Series.
4. David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox, 2004 ALCS, Game 4
Like Puckett’s shot in 1991, the one hit by David Ortiz in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS did not end the series (although Big Papi had done just that against the Angels in the divisional playoffs only days before). Yet there was no more important moment in all of Boston’s 2004 championship season than this one. With the Red Sox facing elimination at the hands of the rival Yankees, Boston managed to tie the game in the 9th and force extra innings. The game continued into the 12th inning, when Ortiz hit a two-run homer to right to keep his team alive. Boston would not lose again the entire postseason, capping one of the greatest comebacks in sports history by downing the Yankees in seven games and sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals to win their first World Series title since 1918.
3. Kirk Gibson, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1988 World Series, Game 1
Most folks thought the Dodgers had no chance to upset the favored Oakland Athletics in the 1988 World Series, especially considering their best hitter, Kirk Gibson, was injured. But as L.A. trailed 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth in the series opener, with a runner on first base, Gibson hobbled to the plate to face Eckersley. Gibson and Eckersley went head-to-head, with the count going to 3-and-2 that saw Gibson foul off several pitches. Finally, Gibson caught a slider and sent it into right field. Like Fisk’s home run, the sight of Gibson hobbling around the bases, pumping his fist, has become one of the most memorable moments in baseball history. Gibson’s heroics gave the Dodgers the confidence they needed, as L.A. eventually knocked off the might Athletics in five games.
2. Joe Carter, Toronto Blue Jays, 1993 World Series, Game 6
The Toronto Blue Jays were the defending World Series champions entering their 1993 battle against the NL Champion Philadelphia Phillies. The two teams had split the first two games before Toronto won Games 3 and 4 to take command of the series. The Phillies battled back, however, winning Game 5 and taking a 6-5 lead into the bottom of the 9th in Game 6. Momentum was squarely in their corner, and the Blue Jays knew that if the series went to a seventh game, they could be in trouble. Phillies closer Mitch Williams took the mound, walking Rickey Henderson and later allowing a single to Paul Molitor. With one out, Joe Carter came to the plate. Carter took the count to 2-2 before hitting a three-run homer of off Williams to win the game and the World Series. It was just the second World Series in Major League Baseball history to end on a walk-off homer. What was the first, you ask?
1. Bill Mazeroski, Pittsburgh Pirates, 1960 World Series, Game 7
The first walk-off home run to ever crown a World Series champion is also the No. 1 entry on our list. In the 1960 World Series, the New York Yankees were heavy favorites over the NL champion Pittsburgh Pirates. In fact, statistically speaking, the Yankees did dominate the Pirates, outscoring them 55-27 and outhitting them 91-60. However, the two teams had each won three of the first six games, with the Bucs taking a pair at Yankee Stadium. In Game 7, Pittsburgh jumped out to an early 4-1 lead, only to surrender the lead after a four-run 6th inning. The Yankees were ahead 7-4 at the top of the 8th, but the Pirates staged a rally of their own, scoring five runs and taking a 9-7 lead. New York would tie the game in the top of the ninth, setting the stage for Mazeroski’s heroics in the bottom half of the frame. The Pittsburgh second baseman was the first batter to step into the box for the Pirates in the 9th, and wasted little time sending Ralph Terry’s second pitch into the left field bleachers. Somehow, despite being dominated statistically throughout the series, the Pittsburgh Pirates had knocked off the mighty American League champions and had themselves become World Series champions, and it was Bill Mazeroski who had delivered the definitive final blow.
by Chuck Bedar
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