So we're only a few days until the 2013 Fall Classic begins. In continuing with our previous work in examining some of the best in the history of the World Series, let us now take a look at the most dramatic play baseball has -- the walkoff home run.
That is, someone on the home team hits a home run to end the game on the spot, forcing the now-defeated road team to walk off the field, a veritable walk of shame -- which is only heightened in the World Series.
I count 614 games in World Series history. In just 15 of them has there been a walkoff home run. That's pretty special, so let's spotlight them and relive (or, really, live for the first time for some of us on a few of these) the moment.
Game 1, 1949: Tommy Henrich
In a battle of New York teams, the five-time All-Star Henrich homered in the bottom of the ninth off Brooklyn Dodgers ace Don Newcombe (Rookie of the Year that season). It was the only run of the game, breaking a scoreless time in dramatic fashion and winning it for the home Yankees. Only seven total hits were recorded in the game.
The Yankees would go on to win the series in five games.
Game 1, 1954: Dusty Rhodes
No, not the wrestler. This Rhodes was a flash in the pan. In his seven-year career, Rhodes hit .253/.328/.445 with 54 career homers. In 82 games in 1954, however, Rhodes hit 15 of those homers with a stellar .341/.410/.695 (181 OPS+) line. That season also marked Rhodes' only appearance in the World Series and he made it count, going 4-for-6 with two homers and seven RBI. This included a three-run, walkoff homer off Hall of Famer Bob Lemon in the bottom of the 10th inning in Game 1.
Game 4, 1957: Eddie Mathews
The Hall of Fame Braves third baseman ended his career with 512 regular-season homers, but in 16 World Series games he only went yard once. That would be his walkoff homer in an unbelievable Game 4 against the Yankees.
The Braves took a 4-1 lead into the ninth inning with Hall of Famer Warren Spahn on the mound. He would cough up the lead on a three-run homer off the bat of Elston Howard. As the Braves failed to score in the ninth, the game went to extras. The Yankees again scored off Spahn in the 10th -- yes, he pitched all 10 innings -- on a Hank Bauer RBI triple. In the bottom of the 10th, though, an RBI by double by Johnny Logan set things up for Mathews, with none other than Hank Aaron looming in the on-deck circle and only one out. Mathews would end it himself on a home run.
The Milwaukee Braves would win the series against the mighty Yankees in seven games.
Game 7, 1960: Bill Mazeroski
Yes, this is still the only walkoff home run in Game 7 in World Series history. It was fitting that it was hit by a non-home run hitter in a series that saw the Pirates win in seven games over the Yankees despite being outscored 55-27 in the series. The series MVP was even given to a Yankees player (Bobby Richardson).
The shot was Maz's second of the series, though, and capped off a dramatic game in which the Pirates won 10-9 and there were 24 combined hits and five total home runs.
Among big-time baseball fans, even those of us who weren't yet alive have heard stories of this homer and can rather easily picture the video footage of Mazeroski joyously running around the bases.
Game 3, 1964: Mickey Mantle
We don't need to tell you the Hall of Famer is one of the best baseball players of all-time. He also has the World Series record with 18 career home runs. Only one ended the game on the spot, though, and that came in 1964 against the Cardinals. It was Mantle's final World Series and he went out with a bang, hitting .333/.467/.792 with three homers and eight RBI in seven games.
In Game 3, Mantle broke a 1-1 tie with a walkoff homer off Barney Schultz -- giving the Yankees a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-seven series. The Cardinals, however, would prevail in seven games behind series MVP Bob Gibson.
Game 6, 1975: Carlton Fisk
Ever heard of this one? (That's sarcasm).
The Hall of Fame catcher motioning his arms as if to coax the ball fair is one of postseason baseball's most enduring images.
Here it is, if anyone needs a refresher:
That happened in the bottom of the 12 inning of an absolute classic. The game was tied heading into the seventh inning, but the Reds would get two runs in the seventh on a George Foster double. A Cesar Geronimo homer gave the Reds a 6-3 lead heading to the bottom of the eighth, when Bernie Carbo came through with a huge pinch-hit, three-run bomb to tie it.
That set the scene for Fisk's 12th-inning walkoff.
The Reds, though, would bounce back to win Game 7.
Game 1, 1988: Kirk Gibson
It's on the short list of the most famous plays in World Series history. NL MVP Kirk Gibson had sustained injuries in both legs and wasn't even in the dugout for most of the game. He'd be summoned in the ninth with a runner on base, the Dodgers trailing the Athletics by one and the best closer in the world (Dennis Eckersley) on the hill. And Gibson took a backdoor slider to the right-field stands in Dodger Stadium, set to Vin Scully's famous, "and she is ... gone!" call.
Even more impressive is that Gibson was so hobbled he wouldn't play the rest of the series, which the Dodgers won in five games.
Game 3, 1988: Mark McGwire
This is amazing. In the history of the World Series there have only been 15 walkoff homers. This series saw two of them in the first three games. McGwire's blast was mostly forgotten because the Dodgers won the series and, well, Gibson's home run in a series his team won is obviously going to end up the lasting memory.
But McGwire did come through and win the lone game of the series for his team. He ended a pitcher's duel, as it ended up a 2-1 A's win after this:
That came against Dodgers closer Jay Howell.
Again, though, the A's would lose the series four games to one.
Game 6, 1991: Kirby Puckett
One of the most dramatic World Series of all time had already seen two walkoff wins, but both had been done in Atlanta by the Braves. Puckett would end this one in 11 off Braves veteran Charlie Leibrandt. It extended the series to the seventh game, which the Twins would win in walkoff fashion, giving starting pitcher Jack Morris a 10-inning complete-game shutout.
For the Puckett video, scroll down to David Freese's section. There's a very cool parallel.
Game 6, 1993: Joe Carter
Facing a 6-5 deficit entering the ninth inning, the Blue Jays went to work against Phillies closer Mitch Williams. Singles from Rickey Henderson and Paul Molitor -- with a flyout in between -- meant that Joe Carter came to the plate with the go-ahead run on base. His low liner down the left-field line barely cleared the fence, giving Carter one of October's most memorable scenes -- as it clinched the World Series for the Blue Jays. It was their second straight World Series championship.
Game 3, 1999: Chad Curtis
The part-time outfielder was the Yankees' eight-hole hitter and he clubbed a Mike Remlinger pitch into the Yankee Stadium seats to lead off the bottom of the 10th inning. The Yankees would end up sweeping the series, with this being one of the few dramatic points. I don't really care to add anything more here, due to what has become of Curtis.
Game 4, 2001: Derek Jeter
It was a series that included three walkoff hits and two dramatic game-tying home runs, but this was the only walkoff homer (Scott Brosius and Tino Martinez each homered to tie it).
The Diamondbacks had taken a 3-1 lead in the top of the eighth on an Erubial Durazo double and then an RBI groundout from Matt Williams. Then, with one on and two out in the bottom of the ninth, Martinez crushed a Byung-Hyun Kim pitch into the right-center seats in Yankee Stadium, tying the game. With two outs in the bottom of the 10th, Jeter hit a low liner down the right-field line that barely cleared the wall, giving the Yankees the extra-inning victory.
The D-Backs would prevail in seven in one of the best World Series in history -- assuming close, exciting games are your thing.
Game 4: 2003: Alex Gonzalez
The Marlins took a 3-1 lead into the ninth inning, looking to even the best of seven series at two games apiece. Of all things, the Yankees tied the game in the top of the ninth on a Ruben Sierra triple. Seriously. It was a two-out, pinch-hit, two-RBI triple to tie the game off Marlins closer Ugeth Urbina.
The Yankees would seriously threaten in the 11th, getting two on with no out. They then sacrificed the runners to second and third while the Marlins elected to intentionally walk the next hitter. With the bases loaded and one out, Braden Looper came on to strike Aaron Boone out and induce a pop out from John Flaherty.
Then, in the bottom of the 12th, Marlins shortstop Alex Gonzalez -- in the same postseason where a different Alex Gonzalez screwed over his team -- hit a walkoff homer.
The Marlins would end up winning the next two games of the series, taking home the championship.
Game 2, 2005: Scott Podsednik
The White Sox actually had a two-run lead entering the ninth inning. Closer Bobby Jenks allowed two baserunners while also recording two outs. Jose Vizcaino came on to pinch hit and delivered a two-RBI, game-tying single.
So it was on to the bottom half of the inning a tie game.
After a fly out, Podsednik, the speedy leadoff man who had hit zero homers in the regular season (568 plate appearances), came to the plate for the White Sox. He was 0-for-4 in Game 2 when he came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth and took Astros studly closer Brad Lidge deep for the victory. It gave the White Sox a 2-0 advantage in a series in which they'd sweep, winning their first World Series since 1917.
Game 6, 2011: David Freese
I long thought that when people said stadiums were shaking from being so loud (and having thousands of people jumping for joy) that it was hyperbole or some kind of illusion, until I was in Busch Stadium for Game 6. Um, yes, it was shaking. I swear.
This game truly was one for the ages. It saw 19 runs on 28 hits. There were three doubles, a triple and six home runs. And the ties/lead changes. Man, what a game.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Cardinals tied the game when Yadier Molina drew a bases-loaded walk. After that, though, Matt Holliday was picked off third base, a wild pitch advanced the two runners and another walk was issued -- before Jon Jay grounded out to end the inning.
An Allen Craig home run would make it a two-run deficit heading into the ninth. In the ninth, with two on, two out and two strikes, David Freese sent a shot to deep right field that Cruz kind of misplayed due to seeming a little tentative as he approached the wall. It ended up a game-tying triple.
And then, to lead off the bottom of the 11th, Freese hit a walkoff home run, sending the series to the seventh game, where the Cardinals would win.
Also cool is that this and the Puckett homer both came in the 11th inning of Game 6 to keep the home team alive, forcing a Game 7 that each of the two clubs would win. Not only that, Jack Buck was working play-by-play for the Puckett blast while his son, Joe, was doing the Freese game. And Joe paid homage to his late father with a parallel call. Check out both:
Excellent work there by Buck.
So there we have it. Just 15 walkoff homers in 614 total games in World Series history. Or 2.4 percent of the games. Hopefully we'll get a chance to add on to the list sometime next week.