You love baseball. Tim Kurkjian loves baseball. So while we await its return, every day we’ll provide you with a story or two tied to this date in baseball history.
ON THIS DATE IN 2012, Jim Thome hit a record 13th walk-off home run.
Six players have 12 career walk-off home runs, the only active one being Albert Pujols. So, in honor of No. 13 for Thome, we will celebrate the always exciting, walk-off home run.
I had never heard that term until 1988 when the Dodgers’ Kirk Gibson ended Game 1 of the World Series with his famous blast off Dennis Eckersley. After the game, Eck used that phrase. I asked about it
“Guy hits a homer … and everyone walks off the field,” Eck said.
Bill Mazeroski hit the greatest walk-off home run in baseball history — Game 7 against the Yankees in the 1960 World Series; Mazeroski hit one walk-off homer in the regular season in his career. Bobby Thomson, Joe Carter, Carlton Fisk, Kirby Puckett, David Freese, Derek Jeter, Ozzie Smith, Eddie Mathews, David Ortiz, Aaron Boone and many, many others hit walk-off home runs that will live forever. The All-Star Game has featured three walk-off homers: Ted Williams (1941), Stan Musial (1955) and Johnny Callison (1964).
Williams hit three walk-off homers in his career in the regular season. So did Jeff Bagwell, Manny Ramirez and Lou Gehrig. And yet, infielder Charlie Culberson, who has 23 homers in his career, has four walk-offs, including one that clinched an NL West title for the Dodgers in 2016 in Vin Scully’s final regular-season home game as a broadcaster. In 1935, Red Sox pitcher Wes Ferrell hit two walk-off home runs, they came in consecutive games, the first as a pinch-hitter, the second gave him a complete-game victory.
Last year, the Dodgers became the first team ever to get a walk-off home run in three consecutive games, all by rookies: Matt Beaty, Alex Verdugo and Will Smith. In 2008, Ryan Zimmerman hit a home run in the first game at Nationals Park to become the third player to christen a ballpark with a walk-off, joining Bill Bruton at County Stadium in 1953, and Dante Bichette at Coors Field in 1995.
The Indians’ Tyler Naquin, in 2016, is the last player to hit a walk-off, inside-the-park homer. Before that, it was the Giants’ Angel Pagan in 2013. Players over the years have gotten very creative in their celebration of a walk-off, although Gatorade showers are now standard. The best (although not for the opponent) was when the Brewers’ Prince Fielder hit a walk-off, his teammates lined up around home plate like bowling pins, then Fielder, pretending to be a bowling ball, knocked them all down for a strike.
Norm Cash never had such a moment: His 377 career homers are the most ever without a walk-off. The Red Sox’s J.D. Martinez has 231 homers, including four in one game, but no walk-off homers. That is most homers among active players without one. Mark Teixeira hit a walk-off in the 2009 postseason, but he got to 408 homers during his regular-season campaigns without a walk-off. In the final week of his career, he hit No. 409, a walk-off grand slam to beat the Red Sox. But since the Red Sox had clinched the AL East title earlier in the evening, they celebrated with champagne even though they’d just lost on a walk-off slam.
Teixeira played three more games to finish his career. His last homer was his first regular-season walk-off.
“I should have retired right then,” he said.
Other baseball notes for June 23
In 1971, Rick Wise pitched a no-hitter and hit two home runs against the Reds. The final out was made by Pete Rose.
In 1984, Ryne Sandberg went 5-for-6, and hit home runs off Cardinals star closer Bruce Sutter in the ninth and 10th innings. It was the first time Sutter had ever allowed two homers to the same hitter in one game.
In 2003, Barry Bonds became the first member of the 500-500 club: 500 homers, 500 steals. There is still no one else in the 400-400 club.
In 1960, pitcher Jim Deshaies was born. He is from Massena, New York, hometown of Hal Smith, the actor who played Otis Campbell, the town drunk on “The Andy Griffith Show.” In 1991 at the Astrodome, Deshaies was made an honorary citizen of Mayberry, Texas, by the local chapter of the Andy Griffith Show Fan Club. A Barney Fife look-alike was on hand, among other dignitaries. “I even got one of Aunt Bee’s cookbooks,” Deshaies said. “It was a special night.”