Classic Shots - Part 1
The home run derby has been a mainstay in All-Star week since 1985 when Dave Parker of the Cincinnati Reds won the competition in the Homer Dome in Minneapolis. In honor of that, over the next two columns, I’m going to attempt to showcase the most memorable home run for all 30 teams since 1985. Obviously for most teams, it will be a post-season home run as only three teams since 1985 have not seen the playoffs. Before we start, can you name those teams?
Okay enough suspense:
From the AL - Only the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, though to be fair, they’ve only been around since 1998 – but, do you really think things will change in six years?
From the NL – You’ll have to wait until the next column to find out…
So here we go – every American League team’s most memorable home run since 1985:
Baltimore Orioles: October 5, 1996 – ALDS Game 4 at Cleveland (Baltimore up 2-1): Roberto Alomar led off the top of the 12th inning with a tie-breaking home run off of Jose Mesa, allowing the Orioles to win the game 4-3. The win topped off the upset over the heavily favored reigning AL Champion Indians.
Boston Red Sox: October 12, 1986 – ALCS Game 5 at California (California up 3-1): The Red Sox have had a lot of recent drama, but the home run that takes the cake is Dave Henderson’s series-saving shot against the late Donnie Moore. It came with two outs and two strikes in the top of the ninth. The Sox went on to win the series, and we all know the rest of that story…
New York Yankees: October 23, 1996 – World Series Game 4 at Atlanta (Atlanta up 2-1) Who knows how the Yankee dynasty would have gone had Jim Leyritz not hit a 3-run 8th inning home run to tie Game 4 at 6 a piece – Yanks went on to win the game in the 10th. If the Braves had ended up winning the series and if the Yanks still lost to Cleveland in the first round in ’97, maybe Steinbrenner would have given up on Torre.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays: March 31, 1998 – First Game in Devil Rays history. Since the D-Rays have never won more than 71 games in a season, it’s tough to pin point a dramatic moment in their history. Only once in the team’s nine-year history have the D-Rays been over .500 after April (’99 D-Rays were 22-21 on May 22 before falling apart). That being said, the nod goes to Hall-of-Famer Wade Boggs who notched the franchise’s first ever home run. Fittingly, the Rays were down 11-0 at the time, en route to an 11-6 loss.
Toronto Blue Jays: October 23, 1993 – World Series Game 6 vs. Philadelphia (Toronto up 3-2): Joe Carter did what only had only been done one other time – end the World Series with a walk-off home run. The shot came in the bottom of the ninth with the Jays trailing the Phillies 6-5. It gave the Toronto its second straight World Series title.
Chicago White Sox: October 23, 2005 – World Series Game 2 vs. Houston (Chicago up 1-0) After White Sox closer Bobby Jenks blew a save in the top of the ninth, giving up two runs to tie the score at 6-6, the Astros brought in their stopper in the bottom of the ninth. Brad Lidge fared just as well, surrendering a solo home run to Scott Podsednick, giving the Sox a commanding 2-0 series lead. Amazingly enough, Podsednik had not hit a home run all season.
Cleveland Indians: October 15, 1997 – ALCS Game 6 at Baltimore (Cleveland up 3-2): One year after Alomar beat the Indians, Tony Fernandez answered back – hitting a solo shot in the top of the 11th inning off of Armando Benitez to win Game 6 1-0 and send the Indians to the World Series for the second time in three seasons. Fernandez had two of the Indians three hits on the day as they were stifled by Mike Mussina for eight innings. Baltimore could do nothing with the 10 hits and 14 men it left on base.
Detroit Tigers: October 4, 1987 – Until this year, the Tigers haven’t exactly been around in dramatic times. Going into the last weekend of the 1987 season, Detroit trailed Toronto by one game as the teams got set to meet. Detroit won the first two games and in the final game, Larry Herndon hit a second inning home run, leading the Tigers to a 1-0 division-clinching victory.
Kansas City Royals: October 27, 1985 – World Series Game 7 vs. St. Louis – After winning a dramatic Game 6 by scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth to win it, the Royals wasted no time taking control of the deciding Game 7. With one out in the bottom of the second, Darryl Motely homered to give the Royals a 2-0 lead en route to an 11-0 complete game shutout by MVP Bret Saberhagen
Minnesota Twins: October 26, 1991 – World Series Game 6 vs. Atlanta (Atlanta up 3-2): “And we’ll see you tomorrow night” said Jack Buck. Tied 3-3 in the 11th inning, Kirby Puckett hit the most famous home run in Minnesota Twins history. His shot off of Charlie Leibrandt tied the series a three games a piece and set up the classic seventh game which the Twins won 1-0 in the bottom of the 10th inning.
Los Angeles Angels: October 26, 2002 – World Series Game 6 vs. San Francisco (San Francisco up 3-2): Russ Ortiz was cruising to what seemed to be a series-clinching victory. He had only given up two hits over the first six innings and the Giants led 5-0. Then with one out, he gave up back-to-back singles and was pulled. Scott Spiezio then came up against Felix Rodriguez and hit a three-run home run to get the Angels back within two. The Angels scored three more times in the eighth to win the game and won the series the next day.
Oakland Athletics: October 15, 1989 – World Series Game 2 vs. San Francisco (Oakland up 1-0): In what was a rout of a series – interrupted half way through by the Bay Area earthquake – it’s tough to pinpoint one moment that made the difference. Terry Steinbach’s 3-run home run in the 4th inning gave the A’s a 5-1 lead, which turned out to be the final score. Oakland never looked back, sweeping the Giants in four games.
Seattle Mariners: October 7, 1995 – ALDS Game 4 vs. Yankees (Yankees up 2-1): Everyone remembers Edgar Martinez’s double to end that series, but it may never have gotten there had Martinez not hit a tie-breaking 3-run home run in the 8th inning of Game 4. Edgar owned the Yanks in that series, hitting .571 with 2 HRs and 10 RBIs.
Texas Rangers: October 1, 1996 - ALDS Game 1 at Yankees: The Rangers were stifled by the Yankees three times in the ALDS in the 90s – in ’98 and ’99, Texas managed just one run in each series while being swept. In ’96, however, the Rangers were very competitive thanks to Juan Gonzalez’s five home runs in the four game series. The Game 1 home run gave the Rangers a 3-0 lead en route to their only win of the series.
Rob Hyman's column, "The Weekend Warrior", appears alternate Fridays