MLB Playoffs: The 15 Most Unlikely Postseason Heroes in Baseball History
I Can Be Your Hero, Baby!
Seeing Pete Kozma hit a key three-run homer today got me to thinking about other unlikely postseason heroes we have seen in the past. One may ask: what makes a postseason hero? Well, in my opinion, I believe an unsung postseason hero has to be someone who does something no one would expect them to accomplish.
Whether it’s dominating an entire postseason, a series, or just doing something amazing in one single at-bat, heroes are born in the postseason. And as Babe Ruth said in the Sandlot: “heroes will be remembered, but legends never die”.
These guys may not be legends, but we certainly remember them all too well. One thing I noticed while compiling this list is if you were a white, scrappy, middle infielder, you are destined for postseason greatness.
As I said during my 15 greatest postseason performances slideshow, I’m sure I am forgetting some obvious ones again, but don’t tell me Kirk Gibson because he won MVP that season for Pete’s sake.
Since I inexplicably left David Freese off my last list, he gets the title slide honors!
Without further ado, here are 15 heroes who had no business ever being one.
Lloyd McClendon (1992)
Most of us remember Lloyd McClendon when he was the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, more specifically for his amazing tirade he had when he stole first base. But McClendon was also a player for Pittsburgh, albeit not a very good one. He had a career .718 OPS in five seasons with the Pirates, but Lloyd threw out his career numbers in the 1992 NLCS. In 16 plate appearances, McClendon had a triple slash-line of .727/.750/1.182. Somehow, the Pirates lost the series. More on that later...
Scott Brosius (1998)
We all remember Scott Brosius’ amazing game-tying home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series off Byung-Hyun Kim. But we forget he won the World Series MVP way before that homer ever happened. In 1998, Brosius hit four homers and drove in 15 runs throughout the entire postseason.
Craig Counsell (2001)
Craig Counsell always fit the “grinder” really well. We were introduced to Counsell when he scored the game-winning run in the 1997 World Series with the Florida Marlins, but his biggest accomplishment was winning the NLCS MVP in 2001. While with the D’Backs, Counsell led them to their eventual World Series championship by hitting .381 against the Atlanta Braves.
Francisco Rodriguez (2002)
Way before he was breaking the single-season record for saves in a season, Francisco Rodriguez was just a young middle reliever. In 2002, that kid turned into a man overnight, anchoring the Los Angeles Angels’ bullpen to a World Series victory. K-Rod pitched in 11 games that postseason, winning five of them while striking out 28.
Geoff Blum (2005)
Geoff Blum had one at-bat in the 2005 World Series, but he made it count. I remember exactly where I was when Blum corked an Ezequiel Astacio pitch into the rightfield stands to give the Chicago White Sox a 3-0 series lead, yet I can’t remember what I had for dinner yesterday. It’s funny how that works, isn’t it?
Sterling Hitchcock (1998)
While Sterling Hitchcock completely dominated the 1998 postseason with a 3-0 record, the main reason he is on my list is because of his name. You can’t convince me there is a better name than Sterling Hitchcock. That name was made for selling books, not setting strikeout records in the postseason.
David Eckstein (2006)
I could probably do this article using only St. Louis Cardinals players and it would still work. David Eckstein, who is the epitome of grit, won the 2006 World Series MVP with .364 batting average. Yes, the 83-78 Cardinals won the World Series that year. #CardinalLuck
Cody Ross (2010)
While Cody Ross can probably eat for free in San Francisco, he probably can’t even get a table in Philadelphia. In 2012, Ross was an animal throughout the entire postseason, OPSing over 1.000 as a whole. But in the NLCS, in particular, Ross had a 1.385 OPS en route to the pennant over the Phillies.
Mark Lemke (1991)
For all intents and purposes, Mark Lemke was a terrible baseball player. His career OPS+ was 71, which I’m fairly certain Carlos Zambrano could accomplish rather easily as a pitcher. In 1991 World Series, however, Lemke rocked out a 1.170 OPS. Unfortunately for Lemke and the Braves, they had to face Jack Morris in Game 7, ruining his chances for the MVP award.
Adam Kennedy (2002)
Adam Kennedy has 80 home runs throughout his career, so he’s not really a power hitter. In 2002, though, he hit four taters, including three in one game that helped the Angels beat the Minnesota Twins in five games. By the way, Kennedy joined the likes of Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth with his three-homer game. The last player to do it was Albert Pujols last season.
Billy Hatcher (1990)
I wrote about Billy Hatcher in my greatest postseason performances article last week, but his performance is so good it makes this list as well. Hatcher hit .750 for the Reds in the 1990 World Series, yet he didn’t even win the MVP award. Wait, what? How in the world is that even possible?
Ozzie Smith (1985)
Even though Ozzie Smith is a hall of famer, he didn’t make it because of his prodigious bat. There isn’t a more shocking home run than Smith’s dinger over the right field wall during the 1985 NLCS. At the time, it was his first career home run from the left side of the plate, causing everyone to “go crazy”. With the help of that homer, Smith had a 1.196 OPS that series.
Bucky Dent (1978)
Bucky ******* Dent. Enough said, right? Well, what many may not know (including me before researching this) is Dent won the World Series MVP after breaking Red Sox Nation’s heart in game #163. Dent hit .417 in the series win over the Dodgers.
Francisco Cabrera (1992)
Francisco Cabrera only made 324 plate appearances in his career;however, Braves' fans will always remember him for one particular plate appearance. In the 1992 NLCS against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cabrera had the pinch-hit, walk-off single that scored a sliding Sid Bream.
Bill Mazeroski (1960)
Similar to Ozzie Smith, Bill Mazeroski is in the Hall of Fame, but not for his bat. In fact, I really have no clue why “Maz” is in the HoF based on his 84 OPS+, but that’s a whole other story. The 1960 World Series is one of the most fascinating World Series in the game. The Yankees were in the midst of their dynasty, making the Pirates a heavy underdog. Although the Yankees outscored the Pirates by a wide margin, the World Series was tied at three games apiece. In a 9-9 game in the bottom of the 9th inning, Mazeroski made history, hitting a walk-off homer off of Ralph Terry.