This Week in Baseball History: Oct. 12-18

Four of the biggest postseason dingers ever.

Every at-bat in the postseason has the potential to create magic. We saw that take place with Mike Brosseau’s game-winning dinger off Aroldis Chapman just a couple days ago. Who knows what other player will forever be immortalized in their team’s lore. Let’s look back upon four of the biggest postseason home runs ever.


Oct. 13, 1960: The World Series Game 7 Walk-Off


There have been 11 walk-off home runs to clinch a postseason series. This is the story of the first ever one.

In 1960, the Pittsburgh Pirates were in the midst of a long playoff drought. They last won the World Series in 1925. In the 30s, 40s, and 50s, they hovered around the .500 line, with their lowest point being back-to-back-to-back 100+ losses from ’52 to ’54. But in 1960, the Pirates played great baseball, with a 95-59 record that resulted from a deep roster headlined by NL MVP Dick Groat, MVP runner-up Don Hoak, and NL Cy Young winner Vern Law. They finished with the third-best team ERA (3.49) and wRC+ (103), leading to their first NL pennant since 1927.

Meanwhile, the New York Yankees dominated this same era, winning 15 World Series and 18 AL pennants from 1932 to 1958. They finished 1960 with a 97-57 record, touted as World Series favorites yet again thanks to the powerful bats of the M&M Boys, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.

The Pirates jumped out to a quick series lead, winning Game 1, although the Yankees responded with blowout wins in Games 2 and 3. The Pirates fought back with close, low-scoring wins in Games 4 and 5, and finally the Yankees retaliated with yet another dominant offensive performance to win Game 6. With the series tied 3-3, the Pirates trotted out Law to face the Yankees’ “Bullet Bob” Turley.

However, Turley misfired almost immediately as the Pirates slapped him around for two runs in the first inning. The Yankees went to their bullpen for the second, but it was all for naught as the Pirates knocked in a couple more runs to jump ahead 4-0. Law pitched four scoreless innings before giving up a leadoff homer to Bill “Moose” Skowron in the fifth. Law left the game after struggling in the sixth, and Yogi Berra put the Yankees ahead 5-4 with a three-run dinger. The Pirates’ win probability had plummeted from 83% to 36%.

This cratered even lower to just 6% after the Yankees drove in two more runs in the eighth to get a 7-4 lead. But in the bottom half of the inning, the Pirates responded with a five-run rally of their own, thanks to timely hits by Groat, Roberto Clemente and Hal Smith.

The Pirates’ pitching needed just three outs to clinch their first World Series championship since the Coolidge administration. The Yankees led off the ninth with back-to-back singles before Harvey Haddix retired Maris for the first out. But Mantle slapped an RBI single to right field, and then Berra hit an RBI fielder’s choice to tie the game 9-9. The Pirates escaped further damage, and they began the bottom of the ninth with their slap-hitting second basemen Bill Mazeroski stepping up to the plate to face Ralph Terry.

Mazeroski had the 17th lowest wOBA (.309) of any qualified hitter in 1960, with just 11 home runs in 591 PAs that year. He was more known for his defensive prowess, not his bat. But with a 1-0 count, Mazeroski pulled an outside breaking ball to the ivy covered left field wall of Forbes Field. With 36,683 fans rising to their feet, Berra ran to the warning track as the ball barely scrapped over the wall for the only Game 7 walk-off home run in World Series history.

The Yankees, who outscored the Pirates 55-27 in the series, “walked off the field like zombies” as they fell victim to a monumental upset. Mazeroski finished his career with eight Gold Gloves, 30.9 fWAR, and a 82 wRC+, but this incredible blast essentially punched his ticket to Cooperstown.


Oct. 14, 2015: The 7th Inning of Game 5


53 minutes. That’s right, the seventh inning of this ALDS Game 5 between the Texas Rangers (88-74) and Toronto Blue Jays (93-69) took nearly an hour. Why was it so chaotic?

These two teams met in the postseason for the first time ever. For Toronto, this was their first playoff berth since 1993, which ended in arguably the biggest walk-off ever by Joe Carter. Meanwhile, Texas was fighting for their third World Series appearance (and hopefully first win) in the 2010s.

The Rangers jumped out to a commanding 2-0 series lead. But the Blue Jays clawed their way back with two wins to force a pivotal Game 5. These two teams went tit-for-tat against each other in the first six innings, with solo shots by Shin-Soo Choo and Edwin Encarnación to make the score 2-2.

Rougned Odor led off the top of the seventh with a single to left off Aaron Sanchez, and a sac bunt and groundout put Odor on third with two outs. Choo stepped up to the plate again, and after the fourth pitch of the AB, Jays catcher Russell Martin accidentally hit Choo’s hand while trying to throw the ball back to Sanchez. As the ball squibbed away to third on the ricochet, Odor sprinted home, but the HP ump initially ruled it a dead ball and sent Odor back. The umps then convened, the managers pleaded their case, and in the end Odor’s run had counted. The Rangers were ahead 3-2.


Angry Toronto fans pelted the field with garbage in response, resulting in an 18-minute long delay. Choo then struck out to end the inning, sending Toronto up to bat.

Martin, the lead-off hitter, started the inning with a routine grounder to Elvis Andrus, who booted the ball for an error. The next batter, Kevin Pillar, hit a routine double play to first, which was misplayed again for another error. Ryan Goins then laid down a bunt to advance the runners on first and second, but the Rangers got one more error to load the bases. This was the first time in postseason history that one team recorded three errors in a single inning of an winner-take-all game. Two batters later, Josh Donaldson tied the game with a pop up that barely floated over Odor’s head. With two outs and runners on first and third, Jose Bautista stepped up with the chance to break this game wide open.

On the third pitch of the AB, Sam Dyson tried squeezing an 97 mph inside fastball past Bautista. But a prime Joey Bats is not going to miss that. He turned on the pitch and admired the shot with an epic bat flip, launching the nearly 50,000 fans in the Rogers Centre into a frenzy as the ball pelted the second deck façade to put the Jays ahead 6-3.


The Rangers attempted to respond with an eighth inning rally of their own, but Roberto Osuna shut them down by striking out four of five batters to send the Blue Jays to the ALCS.

For Bautista’s lengthy Blue Jays career as a perennial MVP contender, this postseason AB was his most important moment.


Oct. 15, 1988: The Pinch-Hit, Hobbled Homer


The 1987 Dodgers (73-89) desperately needed hitting. They finished the year with the lowest team wRC+ (83), wOBA (.297) and fWAR (7.5). Their best hitter was Pedro Guerrero (154 wRC+), and no other starter had a wRC+ greater than 111.

In the offseason, they added the 30-year-old slugger Kirk Gibson, who earned the 1988 NL MVP and became the Dodgers’ best hitter with 25 HR, 76 RBI, 106 R, 31 SB to 4 CS, a .290/.377/.483 line, and a 150 wRC+. His performance, along with a Cy Young season from Orel Hershiser, propelled the Dodgers (94 – 67) to first place in the NL West.

The Dodgers faced the Mets (100-60) in the NLCS, and even though Gibson hit just .154/.233/.385 in 30 plate appearances, he managed two critical home runs in Games 4 and 5 and an electric catch in Game 3.


Thanks to Gibson’s clutch performance, the Dodgers advanced to face the Oakland Athletics (104-58) in the World Series. Unfortunately, due to injuries Gibson suffered in both legs at different points in the NLCS, nobody expected him to play.

This meant that the Dodgers’ lineup would miss their biggest bat while facing an Athletics lineup littered with sluggers, from José Canseco (169 wRC+) to Dave Henderson (151 wRC+) to Mark McGwire (137 wRC+).

In Game 1, the Dodgers jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to a second-inning homer by Mickey Hatcher. But Canseco responded in the next half inning by crushing a pitch off the outside part of the plate to dead center for a grand slam that ricocheted off the cameraman.


Dodgers’ pitching toed the line after Canseco’s blast, holding the Athletics scoreless for the rest of the game. But the Athletics starter, Dave Stewart, was locked in after his first inning struggles. The Dodgers tried to fight back, scoring one run in the sixth. Eventually, they arrived in the bottom of the ninth inning with the score remaining at 4-3. The Athletics turned it over to their elite closer, Dennis Eckersley, who had finished second in that year’s Cy Young voting while leading the AL in saves.

He recorded two quick outs before walking Mike Davis on five pitches. With the game on the line, the Dodgers decided to bring in Gibson as a pinch hitter as the fans in Dodgers Stadium exploded.

Everyone could see that Gibson was in pain as limped out of the batter’s box after fouling off the first pitch. He fouled off the next pitch to immediately go down 0-2. But Gibson put together an extremely tough at-bat against one of the game’s best pitchers, and eventually he worked the count full after Davis stole second base.

The tying on second, the winning run at the plate. Eckersley delivered a 3-2 off-speed pitch to the bottom outside corner, and Gibson flung the barrel of his bat at it.

Miraculously, Gibson had enough power in his upper body to force the ball over the right field fence and win the game. Dodgers poured out of the dugout as Gibson hobbled around the bases in of the most iconic home run trots ever.


Gibson did not have another at-bat that series, but it wasn’t needed as the Dodgers trounced the Athletics and won the series in five games, notching their second World Series win of the 1980s.


Oct. 16, 2003: The ALCS Game 7 Walk-Off


The history behind the Yankees and Red Sox rivalry needs no introduction. But despite their decades of bitter battles, they only met in the postseason for the first time in the 1999 ALCS. The Yankees emerged victorious in five games, en route to their third World Series win in four years. Just four years later, they fought again in the wild back-and-forth that was the 2003 ALCS.

The Red Sox won Game 1, thanks to knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who out-dueled the Yankees workhorse Mike Mussina. The Yankees responded with two straight wins, before Wakefield won Game 4 by a score of 3-2. The Yankees and Red Sox each won one of the next two games, tying the series at 3 – 3 as they entered Game 7.

This was an extremely close series, with each game being decided by four runs or fewer. In 2003, the Red Sox were the No. 1 offense (120 wRC+), while the Yankees were No. 2 (115 wRC+). The Yankees did have a edge in pitching (3.66 FIP/4.03 ERA) compared to the Sox (3.99 FIP/4.49 ERA), but don’t forget about that year’s ERA leader, Pedro Martínez.

He started the Game 7 battle against Roger Clemens, who was knocked out of the game quickly after giving up 4 ER in just 3 IP. Martinez, on the other hand, dominated every Yankees hitter over the first seven innings except Jason Giambi, whose tallied two solo shots of the Sox ace. But in the top of the eighth, David Ortiz responded with his own home run to give his team a 5-2 lead and a 92% win probability.

Red Sox manager Grady Little decided to throw Martinez out their to start the eighth, even though he had already thrown 100 pitches. The Yankees lineup staged a crucial rally that began with a Derek Jeter one-out double and culminated with a Jorge Posada two-run double to tie the score at 5-5 and knock Martinez out of the game.

The Red Sox bullpen ended that threat, while the Yankees turned it over to Mariano Rivera to throw as many pitches as needed. As the game went into extras, the Red Sox countered with their own weapon, Wakefield, who the Yankees had failed to conquer so far in that series.

Wakefield pitched a perfect 10th, and Rivera responded with a perfect half inning of his own as his pitch count reached 48. With Mo approaching the end of the line and the Yankees having already thrown out their best pitchers due to Clemens’ abbreviated outing, the Bombers needed a miracle.

Enter Aaron Boone, an All-Star third basemen acquired in a mid-season trade with the Cincinnati Reds. Boone had subbed in as a pinch runner for Rubén Sierra during the eighth, and this was his first at-bat of the game. On the very first pitch, and with his brother Bret Boone in announcers’ box, Boone launched the very first pitch from Wakefield around the left field foul pole to send the Yankees to the World Series.


As Boone rounded first, Rivera ran out to the mound and collapsed in joy and exhaustion after throwing three scoreless innings. Even though the Yankees ultimately lost the World Series to the Marlins, this blast ensured that Boone would join Bucky Dent as two names that Red Sox fans would forever curse under their breath.

Feature Graphic designed by James Peterson (@jhp_design714 on Instagram and Twitter)

Alex Kleinman

Journalist who loves the Yankees and the Bears. One gives me strength, the other leads me to existential dread. When I'm not obsessing over baseball, you can find me at a concert, hiking in a National Park or chasing my dog, Frankie, who has probably stolen one of my socks.

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