Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Top 10 World Series Home Runs

October 18, 1977: Reggie! Reggie! Reggie! Reginald Martinez Jackson hits 3 home runs, off 3 different pitchers, each on the first pitch, powering the Yankees to an 8-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 of the World Series, giving the Yankees their 21st World Championship -- but their first in 15 years.

The last one was a doozy, going 475 feet to dead center field, to the blacked-out batters-eye bleachers at the newly-renovated original Yankee Stadium. Reggie was the first to reach those seats.

Was it the greatest World Series home run ever? No. It wasn't the most important, and it probably also wasn't the longest. And, for me, it wasn't even the most fun -- at least, not anymore!

Top 10 World Series Home Runs

Honorable Mentions:

Frank Baker, Philadelphia Athletics vs. New York Giants, 1911 Game 2 and 3. Hitting these drives off future Hall-of-Famers Rube Marquard and Christy Mathewson, with each man then teasing the other in his "ghostwritten" newspaper column the next day, gave Baker the nickname "Home Run Baker" 100 years ago today.

Mel Ott, New York Giants vs. Washington Senators, 1933 Game 5. The first-ever extra-inning home run in World Series play, and it wrapped up the Series.

Joe DiMaggio, New York Yankees vs. Philadelphia Phillies, 1950 Game 2. The first extra-inning World Series home run by a Yankee.

Eddie Mathews, Milwaukee Braves vs. New York Yankees, 1957 Game 4. The first-ever World Series extra-inning walkoff.

Mickey Mantle, New York Yankees vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 1964 Game 3. A "walkoff," although they didn't call them that back then. He hit it in the bottom of the 9th, and it was his 16th home run in Series play, breaking Babe Ruth's record. He would hit 2 more that Series, giving him a record of 18 that still stands.

Tony Perez, Cincinnati Reds vs. Boston Red Sox, 1975 Game 7. Bill Lee threw an "eephus pitch." "The Spaceman" shouldn't have thrown that to "Doggie," who crushed it over the Green Monster, the beginning of the Big Red Machine turning a 3-0 Boston lead into a 4-3 Cincinnati victory. This was a much more important home run than the far more celebrated dingers in Game 6 by Bernie Carbo and Carlton Fisk. Alas, the Reds don't have the romance about them that the Red Sox do, and so people tend to forget that Fisk's homer only postponed the inevitable Boston defeat.

Reggie Jackson, New York Yankees vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 1978 Game 6. After Bob Welch struck Reggie out with the bases loaded to end Game 2, Reggie got his revenge, hitting one off Welch that didn't seem to stop. Today, Reggie owns a house in Las Vegas. I wonder if he decided, "The ball landed here, I think I'll have a house built on the spot." (It's not like he could do that in The Bronx. Or Boston, for that matter. Maybe in the East Bay or Orange County.)

Kirk Gibson, Detroit Tigers vs. San Diego Padres, 1984 Game 5. Not nearly as dramatic as the one he would hit 4 years later, but it was the first time Gibson became a World Series hero, stroking 2 in this game, the 2nd off Goose Gossage to secure a Tiger lead and a World Championship.

Kirby Puckett, Minnesota Twins vs. Atlanta Braves, 1991 Game 6. Puckett followed a great catch with an 11th inning walkoff that sent the Series to a Game 7 and kept the Twins' hopes alive.

Chuck Knoblauch and Tino Martinez, New York Yankees vs. San Diego Padres, 1998 Game 1. The Yanks trailed 5-2 in the 7th, but Knobby tied it, and the Yanks loaded the bases for Tino and he crushed one into the upper deck. The sweep was on.

Scott Brosius, New York Yankees vs. San Diego Padres, 1998 Game 3. Off Trevor Hoffman, the Padres' supposedly unbeatable closer, the Yanks' Number 9 hitter turned a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 lead. The sweep was completed the next day.

Chad Curtis, New York Yankees vs. Atlanta Braves, 1999 Game 3. A 10th inning blast, his 2nd homer of the game, and the sweep was completed the next day.

Derek Jeter, New York Yankees vs. New York Mets, 2000 Game 4. First pitch, and it immediately slew any momentum the Mets had from winning Game 3. The Yanks won the Series the next day, and the Mets haven't appeared in a World Series since.

Tino Martinez and Derek Jeter, New York Yankees vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, 2001 Game 4.

Scott Brosius, New York Yankees vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, 2001 Game 5. I can't put any of these in the top 10, because the Yankees did lose the Series.

Scott Spiezio, Anaheim Angels vs. San Francisco Giants, 2002 Game 6. This homer didn't give the Angels the lead, but it did put them in position to get it and extend the Series to a Game 7, which they won.

Alex Gonzalez, Florida Marlins vs. New York Yankees, 2003 Game 4. The Yankees have played 225 World Series games. Only twice have they given up walkoff homers, both in extra innings. This was one. Jeff Bleeping Weaver.

Scott Podsednik, Chicago White Sox vs. Houston Astros, 2005 Game 2. The White Sox hadn't been in the Series in 46 years, and Podsednik, known for his speed and defense, hadn't hit a single home run in the regular season. This was his second in the postseason.

Geoff Blum, Chicago White Sox vs. Houston Astros, 2005 Game 3. At 14 innings, this tied the record for longest Series game ever, and it marks the only time in Series history that back-to-back games have been won with last-inning home runs.

Hideki Matsui, New York Yankees vs. Philadelphia Phillies, 2009 Game 6. My favorite home run of all time, because it came off Pedro the Punk Martinez, and sent the Yankees to a 27th World Championship.

Here's the Top 10:

10. Dusty Rhodes, New York Giants vs. Cleveland Indians, 1954 Game 1. The first-ever walkoff home run in extra innings in Series play, driving in Willie Mays who, 2 innings earlier, had made what is still the most celebrated defensive play in the history of sports. This sparked a Giant sweep of the Indians.

It's higher on this list than Ott's not because we actually have film footage of it, but because it was more significant: The Giants were going to win it by the time Ott hit his homer, but when Rhodes stepped to the plate 21 years later, the Giants were still very much underdogs.

9. Jim Leyritz, New York Yankees vs. Atlanta Braves, 1996 Game 4. The Yankees had been down 2 games to 0 going into Game 3 and won it, but were down 6-0 in Game 4 and just a few outs away from being down 3 games to 1. They got to within 6-3 in the 8th, and Leyritz tied the game. The Yanks would win it in the 10th, and took the Series in 6 games.

8. Carlton Fisk, Boston Red Sox vs. Cincinnati Reds, 1975 Game 6. Had it not been for one by Bernie Carbo in the 8th inning, this 12th inning walkoff would not have happened. But it did, sailing down the left-field line, with Fisk waving his arms as if that could keep it fair, until the ball hit the pole. It is the most-replayed baseball highlight ever. But the Reds won the Series the next day, keeping this one from being higher on the list.

7. Babe Ruth, New York Yankees vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 1926 Game 4. Supposedly, the Babe promised a boy dying in a hospital he would hit a home run for him, and he hit 3 of them. The truth is, the boy, Johnny Sylvester, was hospitalized but not deathly ill, and the Babe didn't meet him until afterward, although the message did get to the Babe from someone else, and he did say he would try to hit a home run for the kid.

Two years later, the Yankees won another Pennant, and against went out to St. Louis for the Series, and again the Babe hit 3 homers in Game 4 -- but this time, it was a clinching game, as opposed to 2 years earlier when the Yankees lost in 7.

6. Kirk Gibson, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Oakland Athletics, 1988 Game 1. It was the injured Gibson's only at-bat during the Series, and it was off a future Hall-of-Famer, Dennis Eckersley, who subsequently coined the phrase "walkoff home run." Every bit as much as Rhodes' shot in '54, this homer turned what was predicted to be an easy Series win by one team into a stunning upset by the other.

5. Tommy Henrich, New York Yankees vs. Brooklyn Dodgers, 1949 Game 1. The first-ever postseason "walkoff" home run, and it broke up a pitchers' duel between the Yankees' Allie Reynolds and the Dodgers' Don Newcombe. Although the Dodgers won Game 2, it would be their only win in the Series, and Henrich, whom Yankee broadcaster Mel Allen nicknamed "Old Reliable," sent them on their way.

4. Babe Ruth, New York Yankees vs. Chicago Cubs, 1932 Game 3. Whether the Babe actually "called his shot" will be debated forever. What was pretty clear from the reactions of the time was that this home run, which gave the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish and sparked them to finish off a sweep the next day, was perhaps the longest home runs hit in Chicago to that point.

Aside from Bobby Thomson's 1951 Pennant-winning "Shot Heard 'Round the World," this is probably the most-talked-about home run ever hit, even more than the 2 ahead of it on this list.

3. Reggie Jackson, New York Yankees vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 1977 Game 6. The Yankees needed 1st first 2 homers. The 3rd was the cherry on the sundae. It was almost bigger than the sundae.

2. Joe Carter, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Philadelphia Phillies, 1993 Game 6. One of only two homers ever to win a Series-clinching game, and the only one in my lifetime.

1. Bill Mazeroski, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. New York Yankees, 1960 Game 7. The only home run to win a World Series Game 7.

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