5 MLB Postseason Home Runs You May Have Forgotten - 2017 Edition!
Hey all! It's here, it's here, it's finally here! It's high time for the 2017 Major League Baseball season to welcome in the most exciting period of its calendar: the playoffs. I remember the old FOX commercials they used to put out during the postseason, reminding us all that you can't script October. This one marketing scheme always stuck with me because of how dang true it is. Every year we watch the playoffs religiously, and every year it never goes down in a cut-and-dried fashion. Never.
Take last year for example. You want a handful of unforeseen moments that will live on forever? How about Baltimore Oriole manager Buck Showalter neglecting to use eventual 2016 Mariano Rivera Award winner Zach Britton in the tied AL Wild Card game, leading to an epic walk off win for Toronto? Or the unforgettable sights of Clayton Kershaw warming up in the bullpen, then entering the deciding Game 5 of the NLDS, earning the save in his tired teammate's Kenley Jansen's stead? And of course, the drama and unpredictability was never higher than it was in the World Series itself, when two teams, the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians, met in an ultimate battle to decide whose extensive championship drought would be the one to end. Players like Roberto Perez, to Coco Crisp, to Addison Russell, to David Ross (honorable mention David Ross moment here! They're don't win without this!), to Rajai Davis, to Ben Zobrist all had career highlights in the 2016 World Series. With the Cubs winning the final 3 games after being down 3 games to 1, including one of the most riveting ballgames of all time in Game 7, 2016 was just another shred of evidence that you simply can't script October.
So for today, let's celebrate the upcoming baseball playoffs by remembering history. 2 years ago, I blogged about some of baseball's forgotten home runs in postseason play, I think we should rehash the subject! So without further preamble, here are 5 more MLB postseason home runs you may have forgotten!
We'll start our list off with a player who we sadly lost this year in Don Baylor. Baylor had a great reputation both on and off the field, having both a fine career and no shortage of coaching and managerial jobs after he retired. Baylor had a lengthy 19-year career which included a season and a half long stint with the Boston Red Sox towards the end. In 1986, Boston went to the ALCS after winning the AL East, but found themselves in a 3-1 hole in the bottom of the 9th of Game 5, trailing the California Angels 5-2. With a runner on first and one out, Baylor dug in against Angels starter Mike Witt (who was working on a complete game). On a 3-2 pitch, Baylor hit one over the leftfield fence to draw the Red Sox closer. This moment is often forgotten, due to Dave Henderson hitting a go-ahead home run later on in the frame, and then driving in the winner later in extras on a sac fly. It's become known as basically "The Dave Henderson Game". However, without Baylor prolonging the ballgame with his blast, Henderson would have been a goat in a would-be Angels victory, as he deflected a fly ball over the outfield wall earlier in the game, resulting in a home run. Thanks to Baylor's largely forgotten home run, Henderson's outfield blunder has also been forgotten. The Red Sox wound up overcoming their deficit in the series, and eliminated the Angels in 7 games. (suggested reading: Red Sox Rhymes: Verses and Curses)
We just discussed "The Dave Henderson Game" above, now let's move onto what's known as the "The Bill Mazeroski Game". Though if it wasn't for some shoddy relief work, this game may've been known as "The Hal Smith Game". Allow me to explain. The 1960 World Series pitted the Pittsburgh Pirates against the New York Yankees. An absolute see-saw affair if there ever was one, Pittsburgh came into the bottom of the 8th inning trailing 7-4. With outs at a premium, the Pirates bats went to work. After a pair of RBI singles by two future MVP-Award winners Dick Groat and Roberto Clemente, the Pirates drew within one. Smith, Pittsburgh's second-string catcher, came up with two runners on blasted a Jim Coates offering way over the leftfield wall to put the Pirates up 9-7. This should have placed his name directly into baseball lore. But unfortunately, the Pirate bullpen allowed 2 runs to cross in the top half of the 9th, setting the stage for Bill Mazeroski's heroics in the bottom half, as he homered to bring Pittsburgh its first World Series victory in 35 years. Thus today, it's Mazeroski's name that everyone remembers, while poor Hal Smith's clutch long ball has largely been forgotten. Let's give him some recognition here. (suggested reading: Kiss It Good-Bye: The Mystery, the Mormon, and the Moral of the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates)
Years ago, I read famed author Roger Kahn's book called The Era, 1947-1957: When the Yankees, the Giants, and the Dodgers Ruled the World, which was released 21 years after his better known The Boys of Summer first hit shelves. It was a fascinating read. I learned tons, and one of the biggest things I took away from the book was that 1947 was one of baseball's most headline worthy years. Between Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby integrating baseball, Brooklyn Dodger manager Leo Durocher getting suspended due to gambling, and the thrilling 1947 World Series, I could probably sit here and talk about 1947 with you guys all day. However, we'll stick to one particular moment that may have been forgotten, and save all that other stuff for another day. It happened in Game 5 of the Fall Classic, the Brooklyn Dodgers facing the New York Yankees. With the Series tied at 2 games apiece, Game 5 was critical. Whichever team won would put their opponent's backs firmly against the wall. So what happened? With the Yankees up 1-0 in the top of the 5th at Ebbets Field over in Brooklyn, Joe DiMaggio hit a solo home run to put the Bombers up by 2. And that ended up being the deciding run! Yanks rookie starter Spec Shea ended up tossing a complete game, allowing just a single run. Yankees win 2-1. Had DiMaggio not hit that dinger when he did, who knows what ends up happening. Maybe the Dodger franchise wouldn't have had to wait until 1955 to finally win their first title. (suggested reading: Electric October: Seven World Series Games, Six Lives, Five Minutes of Fame That Lasted Forever)
Hey I'll be totally honest with you here. For a World Series that ended in a sweep, the 2005 World Series is one of my favorites. I watched every second of it in high school. And I will say, for a series that obviously was completely in the Chicago White Sox's favor (they swept the Houston Astros), the 4 games were all close, none decided by more than 2 runs, and the Series as a whole had its fair share of memorable moments. From Paul Konerko's grand slam, to Geoff Blum burning his former team, to Mark Buehrle notching a save, to the 1-0 final score in the deciding game, I really liked the 2005 World Series. But the most shocking of moments came courtesy of Scott Podsednik. Podsednik had a nice year playing leftfield for the 2005 Chisox, posting a .290/.351/.394 slash line, stealing 59 bases, and finishing 12th in the American League MVP voting. But one thing he didn't do a lot of in 2005 was hit for power, in fact he hit 0 home runs over 568 plate appearances. Podsednik then surprisingly hit one in a blowout victory in the Sox opening playoff game against Boston. You'd think we'd all be satisfied with that one postseason bomb after a season where he hit none. Then Podsednik outdid himself. In Game 2 of the World Series, right after 37-year old Jose Vizcaino (no stranger to October heroics) tied the game for the Astros in the top of the 9th, Podsednik came to bat in the bottom portion of the inning with one away. And he did the improbable. Podsednik hit a walk-off home run off Astros closer Brad Lidge, his second of the postseason, after recording ZERO in the regular season. You can't script October! (suggested reading: Sox and the City: A Fan's Love Affair with the White Sox from the Heartbreak of '67 to the Wizards of Oz)
This is one of baseball's all-time most dramatic home runs hit by one of baseball's all-time best players. So what happened? In 1972, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds squared off for the National League pennant in a rematch of the 1970 NLCS (which was won by the Reds). The two teams traded wins in this best-of-5 series, and entered the deciding Game 5 with 2 wins each. With the Pirates leading 3-2 going into the bottom of the 9th, it looked as if they'd avenge their 1970 loss. The Bucs sent out closer Bob Giusti, with 2.2 scoreless innings to his credit already in the Championship Series, to close the door on the pennant. Instead, what resulted was a meltdown. Bench led off the frame with a game-tying home run, destroying any chance of Pittsburgh winning in regulation. After back-to-back singles, Giusti was replaced by Bob Moose. After recording the first two outs (though one of them via a deep fly ball allowing the lead runner George Foster to reach third), Moose uncorked a wild pitch to score the winning run as the Reds stunned the Pirates for the National League crown. It wouldn't have been possible if Bench didn't get the party started. What an ending! (suggested reading: Echoes of Cincinnati Reds Baseball: The Greatest Stories Ever Told)