This morning on Twitter the MLB posed the question of whether or not David Freese’s walk-off homerun last night was the greatest of all time? My initial response was “not even close”. I feel that in the “ESPN era” we often act like nothing happened in sports prior to 1980 (a thought similar to one that Mike Wilbon has expressed numerous times) and one of my biggest pet peeve’s with our 24 hour sports news cycle is the tendency that we have to confuse the “latest” with the “greatest”. However as I watch the clip over and over and over again I do understand how special this series has been and how amazing that shot was. So while in my mind there were a few that jumped to mind immediately I wanted to really think about where Freese’s walk-off does rank among all-time walk-off home runs. I wanted to be weary as to not give it so much credit because it is happening now but in all reality, this has been a great postseason full of great moments. So without further ado, my top 11 postseason walk-off homeruns.
11. Ozzie Smith, St. Louis Cardinals – Game 5, 1985 NLCS
In the 1985 National League Championship Series, Ozzie Smith (who at the time had 12 career homeruns) hits a walk-off homerun down the right field line to give the Cardinals a 3-2 lead in the series over the Dodgers. This was the first time that Ozzie Smith ever hit a homerun while batting lefthanded. The Cardinals would go on to win the NL pennant but would fall in the 1985 World Series 4 games to 3 to the Kansas City Royals.
10. Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers – Game 2, 2011 ALCS
In Game 2 of the 2011 ALCS after Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, and Mike Napoli all single to reach base safely, Nelson Cruz comes to the plate and hits the first ever postseason walk-off grandslam to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the series (once again, my apologies on the poor video quality).
9. Kirk Gibson, Los Angeles Dodgers- Game 1, 1988 World Series
In the ninth inning of Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, Kirk Gibson (later named NL MVP) makes his only appearance of the Series due to injury. He hobbles up and hits a tw0-run shot to give the Dodgers the first game of the Series. Marks the first time a game-winning home run was hit in a World Series by a team that was trailing at the time.
8. David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox – Game 4, 2004 ALCS
This was the homerun that started the rally. This was the homerun that made the impossible possible. This was the homerun that gave a glimmer of hope to a cursed fanbase. In the bottom of the 12th inning in a game that was tied 4-4, Big Papi stepped up to the plate and crushed a 2 run shot to end the game and allow Boston to avoid the sweep. Since the game ended after midnight you can hear Joe Buck’s call of “we’ll see you later tonight”. Ortiz hit a game winning single in the 14th inning the following night as the Red Sox went on to become the first team to overcome a 3-0 deficit in postseason history.
7. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees – Game 4, 2001 World Series
In the first ever World Series at-bat by any player in the month of November, Derek Jeter stepped up to the plate in a 3-3 ballgame in the bottom of the 10th. This homerun gave Jeter the nickname “Mr. November”.
6. Bobby Thompson, New York Giants – Game 3, 1951 National League Tiebreaker
At the end of the 1951, the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers were tied in the National League pennant race so it was determined that a three game series would be played. The New York Giants had won the first game and the Dodgers the 2nd so it all came down to Game 3. The Giants were down 4-1 entering the ninth inning. The inning started off with 2 singles and then a double that scored one of the runners to make it 4-2. Bobby Thompson stepped up to the plate and hit a 3 run homerun down the left field line in what later became known as the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”.
5. David Freese, St. Louis Cardinals – Game 6, 2011 World Series
You saw it last night. The St. Louis hometown kid came through for the Cardinals to force Game 7 between the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals with a solo home run in the bottom of the 11th. (The video below is for #5 and #4)
4. Kirby Puckett, Minnesota Twins – Game 6, 1991 World Series
Now of course this is my FAVORITE homerun of all-time but I really could not list it higher than 3 on the best postseason homeruns all-time list. Puckett who had made a game-saving defensive play earlier in the game led off the 11th inning with a solo homerun to tie the series at 3-3 prompting Jack Buck (Joe Buck’s father and longtime St. Louis Cardinals announcer) to make the call, “And we’ll see you…. tomorrow night!” Puckett finished the game with a homerun, triple, and two singles. (On a sidenote, I will still say the 2011 World Series has a lot in common with the 1991 series).
3. Carlton Fisk, Boston Red Sox – Game 6, 1975 World Series
Fisk’s home run to lead off the 12th in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series tied the Series with the Reds at 3 games apiece. Today there is a plate at the left field foul pole on top of the Green Monster designating it as the “Fisk Pole”. This moment is more significant than anything because, due to a cameraman error, the camera was left focused on Fisk as opposed to the ball and his “jumping up and down” arguably led to television camera crews putting more focus on athlete reaction in sports broadcasting.
2. Joe Carter, Toronto Blue Jays – Game 6, 1993 World Series
In the ninth inning, Joe Carter stepped up to the plate with 2 runners on and the Blue Jays were down 6-5. Carter hit a three run homerun that gave the Blue Jays their second consecutive World Series trophy (6:20 mark in video).
1. Bill Mazeroski, Pittsburgh Pirates – Game 7, 1960 World Series
In a game that was tied 9-9, Bill Mazeroski led off the bottom of the 9th with a walk-off solo home run that gave the Pittsburgh Pirates their first World Series in 35 years. This is still the only walk-off home run in Game 7 of World Series in MLB history and is considered by many the greatest home run of all time.