There’s some debate about who coined the phrase “Walk-off homer.” My money is on Dennis Eckersley, the clever-tongued, colorful former pitcher who now earns a paycheck as a television broadcaster for the Red Sox.
It was Eckersley who pinpointed the sadness of the event, the other side of the game-winning, game-ending home run. That’s the walk the losing team has to make off the field in shame and sorrow.
Some shame and sorrow, however, is worse than others.
Eckersley knew a little something about a walkoff: in Game One of the 1988 World Series he was victimized by former Tiger Kirk Gibson.
A walk-off homer in May is not the same as one during a pennant race in September. A walk-off homer doesn’t make the pitcher feel as bad when it comes during a Tuesday night game in August in Seattle between a fifth place and third place team, as when it comes in the playoffs.
There have been many walk-off homers in baseball history (reportedly Jim Thome holds the MLB record with 13). There have even been two that ended a World Series (Bill Mazeroski in Game Seven of the 1960 Series, and Joe Carter in Game Seven in 1993).
But while World Series-winning walk-off homers are amazing, it seems more dramatic somehow when a batter hits a ball over the fence that ends an entire regular season chase for the flag.
In the history of the big leagues only seven times has a player hit a home run that ended the pennant race. You probably remember some of these.
Batters Who Hit a Walkoff Home Run To Win the Pennant
|Bobby Thomson||Giants||Oct 3, 1951||Game 3 of Playoff, 3-run HR||Ralph Branca|
|Hank Aaron||Braves||Sep 23, 1957||Regular season, 2-run HR in 11th||Billy Muffett|
|Chris Chambliss||Yankees||Oct 14, 1976||Game 5 ALCS, first pitch solo HR||Mark Littell|
|Aaron Boone||Yankees||Oct 16, 2003||Game 7 of ALCS, solo HR in 11th||Tim Wakefield|
|Magglio Ordoñez||Tigers||Oct 14, 2006||Game 4 of ALCS, 3-run HR||Huston Street|
|Travis Ishikawa||Giants||Oct 16, 2014||Game 5 of NLCS, 3-run HR||Michael Wacha|
|Jose Altuve||Astros||Oct 19, 2019||Game 6 of ALCS, 2-run HR||Aroldis Chapman|
Only the Thomson walk-off changed the lead, the Giants were trailing 4-2 when he hit his homer at the Polo Grounds.