10 Best Postseason Walk-Off Home Runs In Baseball History
10 Best Postseason Walk-Off Home Runs In Baseball History
No single play in baseball is more exhilarating than the walk-off home run. Add to that the excitement of postseason victory, and you've got the core elements of some of the most legendary moments in sports history. In a sport that's been played since the 1800s, there is plenty of history to comb through when looking at the best of all time. Making this list of the 10 greatest walk-off postseason home runs naturally meant leaving out some of the most exciting moments imaginable.
Honorable mentions have to go to many, and it's a safe bet that a lot of people would list these moments differently. Many will be shocked not to see Steve Garvey's walk-off blast from 1984 that denied the Chicago Cubs yet another chance at the Series in their first playoff appearance since 1945. Others will hate me for not including Eddie Mathews' 10th inning homer to win Game 4 of the World Series for the Atlanta Braves, and others still would think me mad for omitting David Freese's recent heroics to send the St. Louis Cardinals to Game 7 of the 2011 World Series. Whatever your opinion may be, this list is jam-packed full of amazing baseball moments.
This is the stuff dreams are made of – the kind of moments kids fantasize about while playing in the sandlot or the backyard. These are the plays that will live on in the memories of fans for as long as people love this sport. These are the moments that make baseball great.
10. Aaron Boone, 2003 ALCS Game 7
The rivalry between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox is as fierce as they come, and there are plenty of reasons why. In 2003, the Red Sox met up with New York in the ALCS and took them to extra innings in the final game of the series. Aaron Boone, who entered the game in the eighth as a pinch runner, led off the 11th with a shot to left off Tim Wakefield that took the Yankees to the World Series and kept the Curse of the Bambino alive (if only for one more year, but we'll get to that later.)
9. Ozzie Smith, 1985 ALCS Game 5
“Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!” These immortal words spoken by the great Jack Buck solidified this walk-off as one of the greatest moments in MLB history. Ozzie Smith was obviously a fantastic defender, but his hitting, especially for power, was not his specialty. This walk-off marks his first career left-handed home run, and it couldn't have come at a better time. “The Wizard” went deep off Tom Niedenfuer in the bottom of the ninth with one out in a 2-2 tie. The Cardinals went on to win the next game in the series and advance to the World Series.
8. Chris Chambliss, 1976 ALCS Game 5
While this moment may be more famous for what happened after the home run, this blast to lead off the bottom of the ninth is still fondly remembered by many in the Big Apple. Chris Chambliss was shortly thereafter mobbed by a friendly, but raucous crowd as he rounded the bases and attempted to touch home plate for the official score. After instead running to the dugout for safety, the game's umpires got together to declare that it really didn't matter, and that the Yankees were on their way to the World Series.
7. Kirk Gibson, 1988 World Series Game 1
You'd be hard pressed to find a more notorious moment in baseball than Kirk Gibson pumping his fist as he rounded the bases after this walk-off blast of future Hall of Famer, Dennis Eckersley. This moment had it all – an injured, hobbling star coming off the bench in a clutch situation, a nearly untouchable closer on the mound, and another memorable call from Jack Buck. When Buck belted out one of his most famous lines – “I don't believe what I just saw!” – he certainly wasn't alone in the sentiment.
6. Carlton Fisk, 1975 World Series Game 6
Here we have one of the most iconic moments in any sport, ever. When Carlton Fisk knocked a 1-0 pitch high and deep down the left field line in the bottom of the 12th, nobody could tell if it would stay fair. The anticipation sent Fisk hopping down the base line, waiving his arms frantically toward fair territory in an attempt to beg the baseball gods to keep the ball in play. Fortunately for Fisk, his prayers were answered, and the home run sent Boston to Game 7. Unfortunately for Fisk and the Red Sox, they were beaten 4-3 in the series' final game to continue their championship-less streak. Boston was still unable to earn a World Series victory until – actually, we'll get to that soon enough.
5. Kirby Puckett, 1991 World Series Game 6
Did Jack Buck make a wish with a genie to witness every amazing baseball game possible? Kirby Puckett was only 5-foot-8, but he was always big in key moments of the game. In the '91 Series, Kirby came to the plate in the bottom of the 11th of Game 6, in a tie ball game, and smacked the offering from Charlie Leibrandt out of the park to keep the Minnesota Twins' championship hopes alive. “And we'll see you tomorrow night,” said Buck, as Puckett rounded the bases to join his ecstatic teammates at home plate.
4. David Ortiz, 2004 ALCS Game 4
This moment will live on as long as Red Sox fans still exist on this planet. Boston was facing a sweep against their bitter rivals, the New York Yankees, when David Ortiz came up to bat in the bottom of the 12th inning. With one swing, Big Papi won the game for Boston and began what was arguably the greatest comeback in sports history. Ortiz contributed heavily to the Boston bounce-back, as the Red Sox became the only team in baseball history to come back from a three-game deficit and finally lifted the Curse of the Bambino that plagued them for so many decades.
3. Bobby Thompson, 1951 NL Playoff
I know, I know. This walk-off shot didn't technically come in the postseason, but rather in the final, decisive game of a best-of-three series to determine the NL Pennant winner. That sounds like a playoff series, right? Don't blame me for the strange rules of professional baseball in 1951, my dad wasn't even alive yet.
Anyway, how could we leave out the “Shot Heard 'Round The World”? After the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers split the first two games of the series, the Dodgers entered the bottom of the ninth of Game 3 with a 4-1 lead. After Don Newcombe gave up consecutive singles and an RBI double, Ralph Branca was brought on to get the Dodgers the final two outs they needed. Bobby Thompson was the first batter he faced. As you probably know by now, Thompson went yard to give the Giants the Pennant and cap an incredible comeback in which they won 37 of their last 44 games of the regular season to tie with Brooklyn and force the three-game playoff.
2. Joe Carter, 1993 World Series Game 6
The only thing that could be greater than the “Shot Heard 'Round The World” would be a walk-off homer to win the World Series, but that's exactly what happened in 1993 to the Toronto Blue Jays. In the bottom of the ninth of a hotly-contested ball game, Joe Carter sent Mitch Williams' 2-2 pitch over the left field fence in Toronto's Sky Dome to give the Blue Jays their second consecutive World Series victory. To this day, fans in Toronto have the images of Joe Carter jumping and smiling as he rounded the bases fresh in their minds and to this day, Mitch Williams still has nightmares about it.
So, what could possibly beat that?
1. Bill Mazeroski, 1960 World Series Game 7
Second baseman Bill Mazeroski was well known for his remarkable defensive skills, but he only averaged eight home runs per season throughout his career. However, it goes without saying that he will forever be known for one historic long ball. After the Yankees evened the score with the Pittsburgh Pirates at nine in the top of the ninth, Mazeroski led off the bottom of the inning and slammed a 1-0 pitch from Ralph Terry to left field for the first-ever World Series-winning walk-off home run. It really doesn't get any better than that.