There is nothing in all of sports quite like watching a majestic home run sail up into the air and out of a ballpark. Time seems to stand still for at least a few seconds as the pitcher that tossed the ball and the outfielders behind him can do nothing but helplessly watch as the baseball floats onward and upward toward the stands
Not all home runs are, of course, the same. Some live on for years and even for generations due to how historic they are in nature, or because of the responses the round-tripper elicits from the audience in attendance and/or from those following the game from all around the country.
Sit back and enjoy as we count down the 10 most memorable home runs in Major League Baseball history.
10. Ted Williams Says Goodbye
It was no secret at the time that the man known as “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived” was stepping up to the plate for the final at-bat of his legendary career on September 28, 1960. In front of a home crowd at Fenway Park, Teddy Ballgame launched a shot deep into center field and over the wall, ending his playing days with one final trip around the bases.
Williams had a tumultuous relationship with both the local media and with Red Sox fans, to the point that he had, years before his final homer, stopped tipping his cap to acknowledge those in the stands. Despite the adulation showered upon him on that late September day, Williams still held that policy up through his final moments as an active Major League Baseball player.
He wouldn’t tip his cap toward Boston fans until decades later.
9. McGwire Hits 62
Yes, we all know better now.
We all know the truth about the validity of the numbers put up by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa during the summer of 1998. The truth is that baseball fans all around the country were naive for years, maybe even for decades, about all that was happening behind the scenes of America’s Pastime.
Think back to that June. That July. That August. That September.
It was, while absolutely tainted, a magical time for baseball fans. Gone were the anger and bad feelings many had about the 1994 work stoppage and the loss of a World Series. That negativity had been replaced by a moment that, with its luster now forever gone, was at the time one of baseball’s finest hours.
8. Joe Carter Walk-Off
The Philadelphia Phillies were three outs away from forcing a Game 7 in the 1993 World Series against the Toronto Blue Jays when Mitch Williams came on in the bottom of the ninth to close out the Jays. With one man out and two runners aboard, Joe Carter stepped to the plate. Carter worked the count to 2-2 before Williams hung one low and inside.
The big right-handed batter pulled the ball deep to left field and over the wall, winning the game and the Series for the Blue Jays. It was the second time that a World Series had been won on a walk-off home run (more on that later), and it is also the moment that “Wild Thing” Williams is remembered for to this day.
7. Babe Ruth Calls His Shot; Maybe
What is, for sure, known about Ruth‘s most significant at-bat of the 1932 World Series, one that occurred when the New York Yankees were at the Chicago Cubs, is not all that interesting. Members inside the Cubs’ dugout, along with Chicago fans, had been heckling Ruth. Ruth, in the fifth inning of game three, twice made some gesture(s) with a single hand before belting a homer to the deepest part of the ballpark.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Ruth never came out on his own to admit to “calling any shot.” Once the press began bringing it up, the ultimate showman in baseball history did his part to play along. Do I think Ruth actually called his shot on that mythical day?
Why not? It’s in the papers, isn’t it?
6. Mr. November
The first post-September 11 moment mentioned in this piece came partially as a result of the terrorist attacks. Professional sports, including Major League Baseball, went on breaks as the nation mourned, pushing the 2001 playoffs back several weeks from when they had originally been scheduled.
Thus, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter stepped into the batter’s box into the early morning hours of November 1, the first MLB at-bat to ever occur during that month. The future Hall-of-Famer went opposite field, barely clearing the right field wall to send the New York crowd into elation, an incredible moment for a city that still had bigger things on its mind.
5. Kirk Gibson
It is arguably the greatest home run to ever win any World Series Game ever. Gibson entered the 1988 Fall Classic as the walking wounded, dealing with two injured legs and also a stomach bug. He was not in the starting lineup for the Los Angeles Dodgers in their Game 1 contest versus the Oakland Athletics, and speculation was that he wasn’t going to make an appearance in the Series.
Gibson was called to pinch hit in the bottom of the ninth. With the count at 3-2, reliever Dennis Eckersley threw, as was his history when facing such a scenario, a backdoor slider. Gibson, remembering the scouting report, prepared himself for the pitch.
Eckersley threw it, and the ball landed in the right field seats.
Gibson, in pain during his trip, limped around the four bases before cross home. It was his final at-bat of the Series, and the Dodgers went on to win it all.
4. Carlton Fisk Wills it Fair
There’s something about sports that causes grown men and women to revert back to their childhood states. Athletes are more than just mere mortals to us, and we fans can absolutely affect the outcomes of events by what we do during certain parts or games, or by what outfits we wear on what days.
In Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, a man, perhaps thousands alongside with him, willed a baseball to remain in the figurative field of play for as long as it had to be.
It doesn’t matter that the Boston Red Sox didn’t defeat the Cincinnati Reds in Game 7 of the Series. Carlton Fisk, with his arms and with his will, caused a ball to remain fair for a home run. Anybody who says otherwise is far too cynical to be a sports fan.
3. World Series Walk-Off
The greatest single at-bat in the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise occurred during Game 7 of the 1960 World Series when the Buccos were taking on the New York Yankees. It was a wacky contest, in which the two sides traded leads multiple times. The game was tied at nine apiece when Mazeroski led off the ninth inning.
He would be the final batter of the Series.
Mazeroski drove a 1-0 pitch over the left field wall to win the game and the Series for the Pirates. It was the first time that a World Series had been won by a walk-off homer. No other Series has, to this day, been finished off by a walk-off home run that occurred in Game 7.
2. Mike Piazza Brings Normalcy
The first professional sports event to take place in New York City following the September 11 attacks occurred at Shea Stadium in Queens when the New York Mets hosted the Atlanta Braves. With the Mets trailing by a run in the bottom of the eighth inning, Piazza, the most beloved player on the team, stepped up to bat. Nearly overcome by the moment in a pre-game ceremony, Piazza hit maybe the greatest home run in Mets history, a towering drive to straightaway center.
That two-run shot did more than propel the Mets to a victory. It gave New Yorkers and Americans in general both a reason to cheer and also a reminder that life would, for the majority of us, get back to normal at some point.
1. Giants Win the Pennant
There will come a time centuries down the road when some civilization will locate thousands upon thousands of pieces of audio and video footage of sports highlights from the past 100-or-so years. They’ll see how football became America’s Game, watch the brutality of hockey fights, and marvel at how some human being with “Jordan” on the back of his jersey seemed to float in air.
Then, they’ll come upon this.
There never has nor will there ever be a more famous sports moment in the history of the United States than “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” Books, documentaries and TV scenes have been dedicated to the home run, and also to Russ Hodges’ call.
THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!
Sports get no better than that.