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Walk-off home run

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A walk-off home run is a home run which ends the game. It must be a home run that gives the home team the lead in the bottom of the final inning of the game - either the ninth inning, any extra inning, or any other regularly-scheduled final inning. It is called a "walk-off" home run because the teams walk off the field immediately afterward. Sportscasters also use the term "walk-off term" for events that drive in the winning run to end the game.

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[edit] History and usage of the term

The term first appeared in print in the San Francisco Chronicle on April 21, 1988. Writer Lowell Cohn wrote an article headlined "What the Eck?" about Oakland Athletics reliever Dennis Eckersley's unusual way of speaking:

"For a translation, I go in search of Eckersley. I also want to know why he calls short home runs "street pieces," and home runs that come in the last at-bat of a game "walkoff pieces..."

Although the term originally was coined with a negative connotation (in reference to the pitcher who must walk off the field with his head hung in shame), it has come to mean a more celebratory term for the batter (who walks off with pride while drawing adulation from the crowd). The term attained widespread use in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

In 2000, the phrase won the Trite Trophy, awarded annually by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Gene Collier since 1984 for the worst sports cliche of the year. Through 2006, it is the only baseball-only term to be so "honored."

[edit] Records

Jim Thome holds the MLB record with 13 career walk-off homers. Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Jimmie Foxx, Stan Musial and Frank Robinson shared the record at 12 before Thome surpassed them.

[edit] Famous walk-offs

Walk-off home runs are uncommon enough to be dramatic when they occur, especially during the postseason. There have been seven major league postseason series that have ended in a walk-off homerun, including two World Series. The subject of the most famous walk-off home run in the history of the Major League Baseball is one that creates a great deal of argument:

[edit] Crossing Home Plate

A technicality of the walk-off home run is that the game is not officially over until the winning run crosses home plate (in the case of a solo walk-off home run, the batter must round all the bases). This fact almost caused a serious problem in the 1976 ALCS when jubilant fans running onto the field at Yankee Stadium prevented Chris Chambliss from rounding the bases. Chambliss had to negotiate a sea of fans in order to place his foot in the area of home plate.

Another example is Robin Ventura's "grand slam single" in the 1999 National League Championship Series. In the bottom of the 15th inning, the New York Mets tied the score against the Atlanta Braves at 3-3. Ventura came to bat with the bases loaded, and hit a walk-off grand slam to deep right. Roger Cedeno scored from third and John Olerud appeared to score from second. Todd Pratt, on first base when Ventura hit the home run, went to second, then turned around and hugged Ventura, as the rest of the team piled onto the field. The official ruling was that because Ventura never advanced past first base, it was not a home run but a single, and thus only Cedeno's run counted, making the official final score 4-3.

[edit] Notable Walk-off Home Runs

[edit] World Series

Year Game Batter Site Pitcher Final score Series standing Notes
1949 Game 1, October 5 Tommy Henrich, New York Yankee Stadium Don Newcombe, Brooklyn 1-0 1-0 NY Henrich's blast leading off the 9th was the first walk-off home run in Series history, and provided the game's only run.
1954 Game 1, September 29 Dusty Rhodes, New York Polo Grounds Bob Lemon, Cleveland 5-2 1-0 NY Rhodes' 3-run pinch-hit HR with 1 out in the 10th is not as well remembered as Willie Mays' spectacular over-the-shoulder catch earlier in the game.
1957 Game 4, October 6 Eddie Mathews, Milwaukee County Stadium Bob Grim, New York 7-5 2-2 Mathews hits a 2-run shot with 1 out in the 10th inning to tie the Series.
1960 Game 7, October 13 Bill Mazeroski, Pittsburgh Forbes Field Ralph Terry, New York 10-9 4-3 Pit Mazeroski's HR to lead off the 9th ends the Series, giving the Pirates their first championship since 1925. The section of the outfield wall in Forbes Field where the ball crossed to become a home run has been preserved, after demolition of the rest of the field.
1964 Game 3, October 10 Mickey Mantle, New York Yankee Stadium Barney Schultz, St. Louis 2-1 2-1 NY Mantle slugs the first pitch in the 9th for a Yankee victory.
1975 Game 6, October 21 Carlton Fisk, Boston Fenway Park Pat Darcy, Cincinnati 7-6 3-3 Fisk's thrilling home run to lead off the 12th inning, high off the left field foul pole above the Green Monster, ties the Series in one of the best remembered moments in the sport's history. The homer arguably changed the very way televised sports are covered; because camera operators missed a cue from the producer, the camera lingered on Fisk trying to "wave his home run fair". This image of Fisk proved so dramatic that "reaction shots" became standard fare in sports broadcasting.
1988 Game 1, October 15 Kirk Gibson, Los Angeles Dodger Stadium Dennis Eckersley, Oakland 5-4 1-0 LA Injured and hobbling Gibson, later named the league MVP, makes his only Series appearance with a pinch-hit, 2-run, 2-out shot for the underdog Dodgers, marking the first walk-off Series homer by a team which trailed at the time. Oakland's José Canseco had provided all his team's scoring with a 2nd-inning grand slam.
1988 Game 3, October 18 Mark McGwire, Oakland Oakland Coliseum Jay Howell, Los Angeles 2-1 2-1 LA McGwire's home run with 1 out gives Oakland its only win in the Series. It is the first time that two walk-off home runs are hit in the same postseason series.
1991 Game 6, October 26 Kirby Puckett, Minnesota Metrodome Charlie Leibrandt, Atlanta 4-3 3-3 Puckett, who had made a game-saving defensive play earlier in this game, leads off the 11th inning with a homer to tie the Series. In addition, Puckett falls a double short of hitting for the cycle, getting two singles, a triple and the HR.
1993 Game 6, October 23 Joe Carter, Toronto SkyDome Mitch Williams, Philadelphia 8-6 4-2 Tor Carter hits a 3-run homer with 1 out to give Toronto its second consecutive championship; unlike the Pirates in 1960, the Blue Jays were trailing at the time.
1999 Game 3, October 26 Chad Curtis, New York Yankee Stadium Mike Remlinger, Atlanta 6-5 3-0 NY Curtis leads off the 10th inning with a home run to give the Yankees a commanding Series lead.
2001 Game 4, October 31 Derek Jeter, New York Yankee Stadium Byung-Hyun Kim, Arizona 4-3 2-2 Jeter's homer with 2 out in the 10th ties the Series in the first-ever Series at-bat by any player in the month of November (just after midnight on November 1); the series had been delayed because of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
2003 Game 4, October 22 Alex González, Florida Pro Player Stadium Jeff Weaver, New York 4-3 2-2 González hits a home run on a full count to lead off the 12th inning, tying the Series.
2005 Game 2, October 23 Scott Podsednik, Chicago U.S. Cellular Field Brad Lidge, Houston 7-6 2-0 Chi After Paul Konerko hits a grand slam to give Chicago a 6-4 lead in the 7th, and Houston ties it in the 9th, Podsednik – who had not homered in 129 games in the regular season – hits one to right-center with 1 out to win it.
2011 Game 6, October 27 David Freese, St. Louis Busch Stadium Mark Lowe, Houston 10-9 3-3 After being down two runs in the bottom of the 9th, David Freese, down to the Cardinals' last strike, hits a 2-run, game tying triple. The next inning Josh Hamilton hits a 2-run homer, making it 9-7 TEX. The Cardinals refused to give up. The very next half inning, down to their final strike again, Lance Berkman gets a solid single into right center field. Making it 9-9. Onward to the bottom of the 11, the score still 9-9, David Freese hits a homer into the grass in center field on a 3-2 pitch, forcing a game 7. The next day David Freese breaks the all-time post season RBI record, guaranteeing the Cardinals' 11th World Series win in 2011.

[edit] Other postseason series

Year Game Batter Site Pitcher Final score Series standing Notes
1973 NLCS Game 1, October 6 Johnny Bench, Cincinnati Riverfront Stadium Tom Seaver, New York 2-1 1-0 Cin Seaver sets an NLCS record with 13 strikeouts and drives in the Mets' only run, but makes two costly mistakes in Pete Rose's game-tying HR in the 8th and Bench's winning shot with one out in the 9th.
1973 ALCS Game 3, October 9 Bert Campaneris, Oakland Oakland Coliseum Mike Cuellar, Baltimore 2-1 2-1 Oak Campaneris hits the second pitch of the 11th inning over the left field wall; it is only the fourth hit allowed by Cuellar.
1976 ALCS Game 5, October 14 Chris Chambliss, New York Yankee Stadium Mark Littell, Kansas City 7-6 3-2 NY After George Brett ties the game with a 3-run HR in the 8th, Chambliss brings the Yankees their first pennant in 12 years with a homer to right on the first pitch of the 9th inning. A flood of fans then storms the field in a virtual riot - Chambliss is surrounded as he rounds first base, and has to reach out to touch second, which has been torn out by a fan. He never reaches third, but teammates later have him return to step in the general area of home plate. Damages are estimated at $100,000.
1979 ALCS Game 1, October 3 John Lowenstein, Baltimore Memorial Stadium John Montague, California 6-3 1-0 Bal With two out in the 10th, Lowenstein pinch-hits a 2-strike pitch to left for a 3-run HR.
1981 NLDS2 Game 1, October 6 Alan Ashby, Houston Astrodome Dave Stewart, Los Angeles 3-1 1-0 Hou With two out in the 9th, Ashby wins it with a two-run shot after Nolan Ryan pitches a 2-hitter.
1981 NLDS1 Game 4, October 10 George Vukovich, Philadelphia Veterans Stadium Jeff Reardon, Montreal 6-5 2-2 Vukovich pinch-hits a 2-0 pitch to right field leading off the 10th inning, tying the series.
1984 NLCS Game 4, October 6 Steve Garvey, San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium Lee Smith, Chicago 7-5 2-2 With one out in the 9th, Garvey hits a fastball to right-center for a 2-run HR, his fourth hit of the day with 5 RBI; he has a record 20 career RBI in the league playoffs.
1985 NLCS Game 5, October 14 Ozzie Smith, St. Louis Busch Stadium Tom Niedenfuer, Los Angeles 3-2 3-2 StL Smith shocks the crowd with a 1-out HR down the right field line on a 1-2 pitch. He has had 13 career homers in eight seasons, but this is his first ever when batting from the left side.
1986 NLCS Game 3, October 11 Lenny Dykstra, New York Shea Stadium Dave Smith, Houston 6-5 2-1 NY With one out in the 9th, Dykstra hits an 0-1 pitch for a 2-run HR to right field. It is the first time in postseason history that a walk-off HR is hit by a team which is trailing.
1995 ALDS1 Game 1, October 3 Tony Peña, Cleveland Jacobs Field Zane Smith, Boston 5-4 1-0 Cle In a 5-hour game delayed twice by rain, Peña hits a 2-out HR in the 13th inning at 2:08 AM to win; it is Boston's 11th consecutive postseason loss, and Cleveland's first postseason win since the 1948 World Series. The longest game to date in postseason history, it holds the record for only one day.
1995 ALDS2 Game 2, October 4 Jim Leyritz, New York Yankee Stadium Tim Belcher, Seattle 7-5 2-0 NY With one out in the 15th inning, Leyritz hits a 2-run homer to right. At 5 hours 13 minutes, it breaks the record set one day earlier for the longest postseason game.
1996 ALCS Game 1, October 9 Bernie Williams, New York Yankee Stadium Randy Myers, Baltimore 5-4 1-0 NY In one of the most controversial postseason games in history, Williams leads off the 11th with a game-winning HR. The Yankees had tied the game at 4-4 in the 8th inning when a 12-year-old fan reached over the right field wall and pulled a fly ball hit by Derek Jeter into the stands; umpire Rich Garcia ruled it a HR, but conceded his mistake after seeing a replay.
1999 NLDS2 Game 4, October 9 Todd Pratt, New York Shea Stadium Matt Mantei, Arizona 4-3 3-1 NY Pratt, substituting for an injured Mike Piazza, hits a home run to center field with one out in the 10th to win the series; Steve Finley nearly makes a leaping catch, but the ball just clears his glove.
1999 ALCS Game 1, October 13 Bernie Williams, New York Yankee Stadium Rod Beck, Boston 4-3 1-0 NY After Beck enters the game to begin the 10th, Williams homers to center on his second pitch, becoming the first player to hit two walk-off home runs in postseason play.
1999 NLCS Game 5, October 17 Robin Ventura, New York Shea Stadium Kevin McGlinchy, Atlanta 4-3 3-2 Atl The Mets tie the score at 3-3 with a bases-loaded walk with one out in the 15th, bringing up Ventura, who with 13 career grand slams is tied for the lead among active players with Harold Baines and Mark McGwire. He comes through with the first walk-off grand slam – and the first grand slam in extra innings – in postseason history, clearing the center-right field wall and forcing Game 6, but is officially credited with only a 1-run single after being mobbed by teammates upon passing first base.
2000 NLDS2 Game 3, October 7 Benny Agbayani, New York Shea Stadium Aaron Fultz, San Francisco 3-2 2-1 NY With one out in the 13th, Agbayani homers to left-center to end a 5 hour 22 minute contest. Barry Bonds popped up with two men on in the top of the inning, ending a Giants threat.
2001 ALCS Game 4, October 21 Alfonso Soriano, New York Yankee Stadium Kazuhiro Sasaki, Seattle 3-1 3-1 NY With one out in the 9th, Soriano hits a 2-run HR to center field to bring the Yankees within a victory of their fourth straight pennant.
2003 ALDS2 Game 3, October 4 Trot Nixon, Boston Fenway Park Rich Harden, Oakland 3-1 2-1 Oak With one out in the 11th, pinch-hitter Nixon slams a 1-1 pitch to center field for a game-winning 2-run homer.
2003 ALCS Game 7, October 16 Aaron Boone, New York Yankee Stadium Tim Wakefield, Boston 6-5 4-3 NY After a managerial decision (later subject to much second-guessing) to leave starter Pedro Martinez in the game allows the Yankees to tie it, Boone homers to left on the first pitch of the 11th inning to give the Yankees their sixth pennant in eight years.
2004 NLDS2 Game 2, October 7 Rafael Furcal, Atlanta Turner Field Dan Miceli, Houston 4-2 1-1 With two out in the 11th, Furcal hits a 2-run HR to right field on a 1-2 pitch to even the series.
2004 ALDS1 Game 3, October 8 David Ortiz, Boston Fenway Park Jarrod Washburn, Anaheim 8-6 3-0 Bos Washburn enters the game with two out in the 10th, and Ortiz smashes his first pitch to left field for a 2-run HR to win the series for the Red Sox. Vladimir Guerrero had tied the game for the Angels with a grand slam in the 7th.
2004 ALCS Game 4, October 17 David Ortiz, Boston Fenway Park Paul Quantrill, New York 6-4 3-1 NY With none out in the 12th, Ortiz hits a 2-run HR to right on a 2-1 pitch to keep Boston's hopes alive in the series; coming only 10 days after his game winning shot against the Angels, he is the first player to hit two walk-off HRs in the same postseason. It is the Red Sox's first win in their historic ALCS comeback against the Yankees. The next day, Ortiz will hit a walk-off single in the 14th, leading him subsequently to be named series MVP.
2004 NLCS Game 5, October 18 Jeff Kent, Houston Minute Maid Park Jason Isringhausen, St. Louis 3-0 3-2 Hou With one out in the 9th, Kent hits a 3-run HR to left field on the first pitch for the game's only scoring, bringing the Astros within a victory of their first pennant.
2004 NLCS Game 6, October 20 Jim Edmonds, St. Louis Busch Stadium Dan Miceli, Houston 6-4 3-3 In the very next game of the Astros-Cardinals series, Edmonds hits a two-run homer to right field on an 0-1 pitch with one out in the 12th, tying the series. Miceli becomes the first pitcher to surrender two walk-off HRs in the same postseason.
2005 NLDS2 Game 4, October 9 Chris Burke, Houston Minute Maid Park Joey Devine, Atlanta 7-6 3-1 Hou Burke homers to left field on a 2-0 pitch with one out in the 18th inning, sending the Astros to the NLCS for the second year in a row. Six hours long, it is the longest game by innings in postseason history, surpassing the 16-inning Game 6 (the final game) of the 1986 NLCS.
2006 ALCS Game 4, October 14 Magglio Ordonez, Detroit Comerica Park Huston Street, Oakland 6-3 4-0 Det Ordonez hits a three-run homer in the bottom of the 9th, breaking a 3-3 tied and sending the Tigers to the 2006 World Series
2014 NLCS Game 5, October 16 Travis Ishikawa, Giants AT&T Park Michael Wacha, Cardinals 6-3 4-1 SF Ishikawa hits a three-run homer in the bottom of the 9th to break a 3-3 tie and send the Giants to the 2014 World Series.

[edit] All-Star Game

Year Batter Date and Site Pitcher Final score Notes
1941 Ted Williams, AL (Boston) July 8, Briggs Stadium Claude Passeau, NL (Chicago) 7-5 With two men on and the AL one out away from defeat, Williams hits a 1-1 pitch off the right field press box for the junior circuit's sixth win in nine contests. He later says, "I just shut my eyes and swung." It is the first All-Star game to be decided in the final inning.
1955 Stan Musial, NL (St. Louis) July 12, Milwaukee County Stadium Frank Sullivan, AL (Boston) 6-5 After being down 5-0 in the 7th inning, Musial's home run to right field on the first pitch of the 12th inning completes the NL's comeback; it is their fifth win in six years.
1964 Johnny Callison, NL (Philadelphia) July 7, Shea Stadium Dick Radatz, AL (Boston) 7-4 With 2 on and 2 out in the 9th, Callison wins the game with a homer to right field. Willie Mays had tied the score earlier in the inning with a walk, stolen base, and run on Orlando Cepeda's single. It is the NL's sixth win in the last seven decided games.

[edit] Regular season (selected examples)

Year Batter Date and Site Pitcher Final score Notes
1881 Roger Connor, Troy Trojans September 10, Albany pitcher, Worcester 8-7 Trailing 7-4 with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the 9th, Connor hit the first grand slam in major league history for an 8-7 victory
1938 Gabby Hartnett, Chicago (NL) September 28, Wrigley Field Mace Brown, Pittsburgh 6-5 Hartnett's "Homer in the Gloamin'" helps the Cubs win the pennant over the Pirates
1951 Bobby Thomson, New York (NL) October 3, Polo Grounds Ralph Branca, Brooklyn 5-4 Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World" gives the Giants a pennant-winning victory over the Dodgers in a 3-game playoff
1956 Roberto Clemente, Pittsburgh July 25, Forbes Field Jim Brosnan, Chicago 9-8 Clemente's hits Brosnan's first pitch for his first ML grand slam *, thus becoming the first and, as yet, only ML player ever to hit a walk-off grand slam IPHR.
* Exactly two years after his first North American HR, also a walk-off job, at Montreal's Delorimier Downs, off Havana's Charlie Harris, Jr.
1959 Joe Adcock, Milwaukee May 26, Milwaukee County Stadium Harvey Haddix, Pittsburgh 1-0 Adcock's 3-run HR in the 13th inning (officially ruled a double due to a baserunning mistake), spoils Haddix' no-hitter. Haddix had had a perfect game going into the 13th.
1984 Harold Baines, Chicago (AL) May 9, Comiskey Park Chuck Porter, Milwaukee 7-6 Baines' home run defeats the Brewers 7-6 in the 25th inning - the longest completed game in major league history, it took 8 hours 6 minutes, over two evenings, to complete.
2002 Scott Hatteberg, Oakland September 4, McAfee Coliseum Jason Grimsley, Kansas City 12-11 Hatteberg's home run gives the A's their 20th straight win after blowing an 11-0 lead.
2004 Steve Finley, Los Angeles October 2, Dodger Stadium Wayne Franklin, San Francisco 7-3 Finley's grand slam clinches the NL West title for the Dodgers.
2006 Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals April 16, Busch Stadium David Weathers, Cincinnati 8-7 Capping off an already 2 home run and 3 RBI day, Albert Pujols hits his third home run of the game, and 5th RBI sealing off a Cardinals victory.
2006 Jeff Francoeur, Atlanta Braves May 13, Turner Field Chad Cordero, Washington 8-5 Trailing 5-4 with two outs, Nationals closer Chad Cordero loads the bases, and Jeff Francoeur smacks a grand slam on the second pitch for an 8-5 walk-off victory.

[edit] Other leagues

Year Batter Event Date and Site Pitcher Final score Notes
1996 Warren Morris, LSU College World Series date, Rosenblatt Stadium pitcher, Miami 9-8 Morris hits a two-out, two-run walk-off home run on the first pitch in the championship game, the only time the CWS has ended with a home run.
2005 Michael Memea, Ewa Beach, Hawaii Little League World Series August 28, Lamade Stadium pitcher, Willemstad, Curaçao 7-6 Memea hits a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning of the championship game, giving Hawaii the title over the defending champions from Curaçao. Hawaii had only been put into position for the dramatic extra-inning win with a furious three-run rally in the bottom of the sixth. The game marks the only time that the Little League World Series has ended in a walk-off home run.

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