Not All Walk-off Home Runs Are Created Equal
The game’s most exciting play has thrilled us in a variety of ways. We’re taking a historical look at most of them and discovering which walk-off kings have a shot at the all-time record, who holds the single-season mark, who has done it most when trailing, and more.
The walk-off hit is one of the most unforgettable, moving moments in baseball.
And the walk-off homer just might be No. 1 on that list.
Some of history’s greatest walk-offs are likely coming to mind, like Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” in Game 3 of the 1951 NL playoffs, Bill Mazeroski’s homer in Game 7 of the ’60 World Series, Carlton Fisk waving on his shot in Game 6 of the ’75 Series, Kirk Gibson limping around after his improbable homer in Game 1 of the ’88 Series and Joe Carter leaping after his walk-off in Game 6 of the ’93 Series – just to name a few.
So we’re celebrating the walk-off dinger by unveiling the game’s all-time walk-off kings in various scenarios.
First, let’s start by taking a look at the players who have come through when the tension has been at its peak. Some call these ultimate grand slams, others refer to them as super slams. It could be argued these are the most dramatic walk-offs of all:
“Ultimate” Grand Slams: Walk-off Grand Slams When Trailing By Three Runs
|9/5/2021||Daniel Vogelbach, Milwaukee Brewers||Alex Reyes, St. Louis Cardinals||9||6||5|
|8/12/2018||David Bote, Chicago Cubs||Ryan Madson, Washington Nationals||9||4||3|
|7/30/2017||Steve Pearce, Toronto Blue Jays||Bud Norris, Los Angeles Angels||9||11||10|
|6/30/2014||Rajai Davis, Detroit Tigers||Sean Doolittle, Oakland A’s||9||5||4|
|9/27/2011||Ryan Roberts, Arizona Diamondbacks||Javy Guerra, Los Angeles Dodgers||10||7||6|
|8/16/2011||Brian Bogusevic, Houston Astros||Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs||9||6||5|
|7/7/2011||Travis Hafner, Cleveland||Luis Perez, Toronto Blue Jays||9||5||4|
|5/20/2010||Brooks Conrad, Atlanta Braves||Francisco Cordero, Cincinnati Reds||9||10||9|
|6/30/2006||Adam Dunn, Cincinnati Reds||Bob Wickman, Cleveland||9||9||8|
|5/17/2002||Jason Giambi, New York Yankees||Mike Trombley, Minnesota Twins||14||13||12|
|7/28/2001||Brian Giles, Pittsburgh Pirates||Billy Wagner, Houston Astros||9||9||8|
|5/17/1996||Chris Hoiles, Baltimore Orioles||Norm Charlton, Seattle Mariners||9||14||13|
|6/21/1988||Alan Trammell, Detroit Tigers||Cecilio Guante, New York Yankees||9||7||6|
|8/29/1986||Dick Schofield, California Angels||Willie Hernandez, Detroit Tigers||9||13||12|
|4/13/1985||Phil Bradley, Seattle Mariners||Ron Davis, Minnesota Twins||9||8||7|
|8/31/1984||Buddy Bell, Texas Rangers||Pete Ladd, Milwaukee Brewers||9||7||6|
|4/13/1983||Bo Diaz, Philadelphia Phillies||Neil Allen, New York Mets||9||10||9|
|5/1/1979||Roger Freed, St. Louis Cardinals||Joe Sambito, Houston Astros||11||7||6|
|4/22/1973||Ron Lolich, Cleveland||Sonny Siebert, Boston Red Sox||9||8||7|
|8/11/1970||Carl Taylor, St. Louis Cardinals||Ron Herbel, San Diego Padres||9||11||10|
|8/2/1970||Tony Taylor, Philadelphia Phillies||Mike Davison, San Francisco Giants||9||7||6|
|8/31/1963||Ellis Burton, Chicago Cubs||Hal Woodeshick, Houston Astros||9||6||5|
|7/25/1956||Roberto Clemente, Pittsburgh Pirates||Jim Brosnan, Chicago Cubs||9||9||8|
|5/11/1956||Danny Kravitz, Pittsburgh Pirates||Jack Meyer, Philadelphia Phillies||9||6||5|
|9/11/1955||Del Crandall, Milwaukee Brewers||Herm Wehmeier, Philadelphia Phillies||9||5||4|
|7/15/1952||Eddie Joost, Philadelphia Athletics||Satchel Paige, St. Louis Cardinals||9||7||6|
|6/16/1952||Bobby Thomson, New York Giants||Willard Schmidt, St. Louis Cardinals||9||8||7|
|7/8/1950||Jack Phillips, Pittsburgh Pirates||Harry Brecheen, St. Louis Cardinals||9||7||6|
|5/23/1936||Sammy Byrd, Cincinnati Reds||Cy Blanton, Pittsburgh Pirates||9||4||3|
|9/24/1925||Babe Ruth, New York Yankees||Sarge Connally, Chicago White Sox||10||6||5|
|6/10/1890||Jack Stivetts, St. Louis Cardinals||Fred Smith, Toledo Maumees||9||9||8|
|9/10/1881||Roger Connor, TRY||Lee Richmond, WOR||9||8||7|
Big Dan Vogelbach has the most recent one, crushing a one-out pitch in the bottom of the ninth as the Milwaukee Brewers rallied with five in the ninth to stun the St. Louis Cardinals. Three players lead the way with three career walk-off grand slams of any kind: Alex Rodriguez (1994-2016), Vern Stephens (1941-1955) and Cy Williams (1912-1930).
Since 1988, Dante Bichette, Brian Jordan, David Ortiz and Charlie Blackmon are the only players with multiple two-strike, two-out, walk-off home runs with their teams trailing.
Maybe the situation isn’t quite as tenuous as being down three runs in the final inning, but here are the players who have supplied the most walk-offs with their team simply behind:
Ryan Zimmerman – known as Mr. Walk-off or Mr. National – has announced his retirement. But he’s joined some Hall of Fame company with Babe Ruth and Frank Robinson, who is also tied for most extra-inning walk-off home runs of all time. And some believe Fred McGriff should be a Hall of Famer given his resume.
Seven of McGriff’s 493 career homers came in extra innings. In an extra-inning affair when one swing can end it, these are the guys that teammates have wanted at the plate – and the ones the opposition has feared:
We’ll see more of Robinson and Jim Thome later. Perhaps Albert Pujols’ most famous homer was a three-run rocket off Brad Lidge with two outs in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 2005 NLCS. But it came in the top of the inning and Jason Isringhausen still had to close out a 5-4 win at Houston.
Pujols has made a couple of our leaderboards, including a place among the latest walk-off home runs ever hit. His came in the bottom of the 19th against the Boston Red Sox on Aug. 9, 2014.
Pujols also pulled off a rare feat in June 2011 when he walked off the rival Chicago Cubs on consecutive days – both in extra innings:
Players With Walk-off Home Runs on Back-to-Back Days (All Time)
|Player||Game 1||Game 2|
|Jonah Heim, Texas Rangers||7/31/2021 vs. Seattle Mariners||8/1/2021 vs. Seattle Mariners|
|Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals||6/4/2011 vs. Chicago Cubs||6/5/2011 vs. Chicago Cubs|
|Albert Belle, Cleveland||8/30/1995 vs. Toronto Blue Jays||8/31/1995 vs. Toronto Blue Jays|
|Alvin Davis, Seattle Mariners||8/15/1986 vs. Minnesota Twins||8/16/1986 vs. Minnesota Twins|
|Fred Lynn, Baltimore Orioles||5/10/1985 vs. Minnesota Twins||5/11/1985 vs. Minnesota Twins|
|Tom Paciorek, Seattle Mariners||5/8/1981 vs. New York Yankees||5/9/1981 vs. New York Yankees|
|Ron Santo, Chicago Cubs||5/28/1966 vs. Atlanta Braves||5/29/1966 vs. Atlanta Braves|
|Johnny Callison, Philadelphia Phillies||9/13/1962 vs. Milwaukee Braves||9/14/1962 vs. St. Louis Cardinals|
|Don Dillard, Cleveland||7/4/1962 vs. Detroit Tigers||7/5/1962 vs. Detroit Tigers|
|Steve Souchock, Detroit Tigers||7/25/1952 vs. New York Yankees||7/26/1952 vs. New York Yankees|
|Johnny Moore, Philadelphia Phillies||9/22/1935 vs. Boston Braves||9/23/1935 vs. Brooklyn Dodgers|
|Wes Ferrell, Boston Red Sox||7/21/1935 vs. Detroit Tigers||7/22/1935 vs. St. Louis Browns|
Pujols’ back-to-back walk-off performances against the Cubs had been the most recent until Jonah Heim ended the 10-year drought by breaking the Seattle Mariners’ hearts two days in a row.
Both of Albert Belle’s winners against the Toronto Blue Jays came in extra innings and were part of Cleveland’s magical run to its first World Series appearance since 1954. Note that this is walk-offs on consecutive days, not in consecutive games as there are others who did so with an off day in between. This also includes players who played another game in between as part of a doubleheader.
As mentioned earlier, Pujols sent sleepy Los Angeles Angels fans home happy with a walk-off shot off Brandon Workman in the 19th inning of a 5-4 win over the Boston Red Sox on Aug. 9, 2014. But it’s not nearly the latest walk-off in baseball history – that honor goes to Hall of Famer Harold Baines:
Baines’ blast mercifully ended the longest game in Major League Baseball history as the Chicago White Sox outlasted the Brewers 7-6 in 25 innings and over eight hours, six minutes, on May 8, 1984.
In case you’re wondering, the latest walk-off homer in postseason history came in the 18th inning. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Max Muncy did it against the Red Sox in Game 3 of the 2018 World Series and the Houston Astros’ Chris Burke clinched a series win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 4 of the 2005 NLDS.
Speaking of Burke’s blast, here are the homers that sent a team through to the next round or won them a ring:
Postseason Series-Ending Walk-off Homers (All Time)
|10/6/2021||NL Wild Card||Chris Taylor, Los Angeles Dodgers||St. Louis Cardinals||9||2||2-Run Home Run|
|10/19/2019||ALCS Game 6||Jose Altuve, Houston Astros||New York Yankees||9||2||2-Run Home Run|
|10/4/2016||AL Wild Card||Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays||Baltimore Orioles||11||1||3-Run Home Run|
|10/16/2014||NLCS Game 5||Travis Ishikawa, San Francisco Giants||St. Louis Cardinals||9||1||3-Run Home Run|
|10/14/2006||ALCS Game 4||Magglio Ordonez, Detroit Tigers||Oakland A’s||9||2||3-Run Home Run|
|10/9/2005||NLDS Game 4||Chris Burke, Houston Astros||Atlanta Braves||18||1||[pill]Solo Home Run|
|10/8/2004||ALDS Game 3||David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox||Anaheim Angels||10||2||2-Run Home Run|
|10/16/2003||ALCS Game 7||Aaron Boone, New York Yankees||Boston Red Sox||11||0||[pill]Solo Home Run|
|10/9/1999||NLDS Game 4||Todd Pratt, New York Mets||Arizona Diamondbacks||10||1||[pill]Solo Home Run|
|10/23/1993||WS Game 6||Joe Carter, Toronto Blue Jays||Philadelphia Phillies||9||1||3-Run Home Run|
|10/14/1976||ALCS Game 5||Chris Chambliss, New York Yankees||Kansas City Royals||9||0||[pill]Solo Home Run|
|10/13/1960||WS Game 7||Bill Mazeroski, Pittsburgh Pirates||New York Yankees||9||0||[pill]Solo Home Run|
There are only three players in baseball history with multiple walk-off homers in the postseason: David Ortiz, Bernie Williams and Carlos Correa. And one of Ortiz’s shots took out the Anaheim Angels in the 2004 ALDS.
Joe Carter’s iconic home run in 1993 remains the most recent to end a World Series. There have been 16 walk-off dingers in the Fall Classic, with the previously mentioned Muncy homer being the most recent. It was the only game the Dodgers won against the Red Sox in the series.
Texas Rangers slugger Nelson Cruz’s bomb against the Detroit Tigers in Game 2 of the 2011 ALCS was the only walk-off grand slam in postseason history.
Carlos Guillen, like Cruz a former Mariner, delivered a walk-off single that closed out a sweep of the White Sox in Game 3 of the 2000 ALDS and hit for the cycle six years later as a member of the Tigers.
Some players have achieved the impressive individual feat by slugging a walk-off homer:
George Brett had a walk-off dinger and hit for the cycle against the Baltimore Orioles on May 28, 1979, but the walk-off was his second homer of the game and he had already reached the cycle earlier.
Hitting for the cycle certainly isn’t the only important personal feat that’s been achieved while walking an opponent off. Thome’s shot in 2007 might be the best milestone homer reached on a walk-off:
There have been 107 occasions on which a player’s first career homer was a walk-off. Yadiel Hernandez did this for the Washington Nationals against the Philadelphia Phillies on Sept. 22, 2020, while the Phils’ Luke Williams had the most recent one versus the Braves on June 9, 2021.
Three players have belted walk-off grand slams for their first career home runs: Rick Joseph of the Phillies in 1967, Danny Kravitz of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1956 and Al Unser of the Tigers in 1944.
Foxx hit a total of 534 home runs during his Hall of Fame career and Sievers smashed 318. Ethier only hit 162 over his 12 seasons with the Dodgers, but he went deep a career-high 31 times in 2009 and joined a club that had only Foxx and Sievers for 52 years.
His heroics earned him the nickname “Captain Clutch” from Dodgers fans. Ethier led the majors with six walk-off hits overall that year, including back-to-back winners against the Phillies in June.
That leads us to the ultimate list, the who’s who of walk-off home runs in baseball history. These are the offensive closers, the ones pitchers have feared late in close games, and those who have made careers out of changing the outcomes.
As expected, there are plenty of the game’s biggest names. But there are also some surprises:
Thome’s record 13th walk-off homer was his only one as a pinch-hitter and came 18 years after his first one with Cleveland in June 1994. He belted the first walk-off home run at Target Field in 2010, crushed a walk-off grand slam against the Tigers in 2002 and ended a win over the Angels with his 500th career home run in 2007.
Who has a chance to catch him? Pujols, who may have another year in him, figures to have the best opportunity to get there first as he tops all active players with 12 career walk-off homers.
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Research support provided by Stats Perform’s Sam Hovland. Design by Matt Sisneros.