Walk-off home run
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.
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."
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. Mantle also hit one in the postseason, and Thome hit none. Musial also hit one in an All-Star Game. David Ortiz hit 11 career walk-off homers in the regular season and is the only player to hit two in the postseason.
During a one-year stretch from 2002 to 2003, Alex Gonzalez hit five walk-off home runs for the Cubs. The record for a one-year stretch is unknown.
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:
- Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World" which gave the New York Giants a National League pennant-winning victory over the Brooklyn Dodgers in an October 3, 1951 playoff.
- The home run hit by Bill Mazeroski of the Pittsburgh Pirates, winning the 1960 World Series, breaking the tie in Game 7, against the New York Yankees.
- The one hit by Carlton Fisk of the Boston Red Sox off the left-field foul pole in the 12th inning to win Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, featured for many years in video slow-motion on NBC's Saturday afternoon Game of the Week broadcasts.
- Kirk Gibson's hobbled pinch hit 2-strike 2-out 2-run home run with his Los Angeles Dodgers trailing by one run and facing the Oakland A's Cy Young Award-winning closer Dennis Eckersley to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
- Joe Carter's 3-run blast over the left field fence in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series gave the Toronto Blue Jays an 8-6 win, a 4-2 series victory and their second straight World Series championship.
- Aaron Boone of the Yankees hit an 11th-inning blast to left field off of Tim Wakefield of the Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS to win the American League pennant for the Yankees.
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.
Notable Walk-off Home Runs
|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.|
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.|
|2016 ALWC||Game 1, October 4||Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays||Rogers Centre||Ubaldo Jimenez, Orioles||5-2||1-0 Tor||Encarnacion hits a three-run homer in the 11th inning to send the Blue Jays to the Division Series.|
|2019 ALCS||Game 6, October 19||Jose Altuve, Astros||Minute Maid Park||Aroldis Chapman, Yankees||6-4||4-2 Hou||Altuve hits a two-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the 9th to break a 4-4 tie and send the Astros to the 2019 World Series.|
|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.|
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.
|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.|
|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.|
- Jason Catania: "Most career walk-off home runs in MLB history", mlb.com, August 22, 2018.