The home run is the only single event in baseball that produces a run. The pitcher releases the ball, the hitter makes contact, and at least one run is put up on the scoreboard. This single event run can be as marginal as leading off a game for an early lead or as dramatic as a walk off home run to lead your team to a World Series Championship. Some home run stories have become part of folk lore and debate. Two of these famous home runs are Babe Ruth calling his shot and a 12 year old boy named Jeffery Maier changing the outcome of a Championship Series by assisting Derek Jeter with a home run. And of course, the home run did spawn one of the best commercials of all time, simply put, Chicks Dig the Long Ball.
A walk through the second half of the 20th century and early part of the 21st century is marked by home runs that have withstood the test of time and have become as much a part of American history as much as baseball history. Many moments in baseball history can serve as a vehicle for mental time travel to a simpler time in life, a point captured perfectly by the dialogue between Robin Williams and Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting.
The 50’s had the 'Shot Heard round' the World' and the 60’s opened with Bill Mazeroski hitting a dramatic home run to win Game 7 of the World Series. On October 1, 1961, Roger Maris would hit home run #61, to become the all time single season home run king. The home run would be the focal point of a season long quest between Roger Maris and teammate Mickey Mantle to top Babe Ruth’s single season record of 60 home runs.
The 70’s would see a group of dramatic home runs. On April 15, 1974, Hank Aaron would hit career home run #715 to become the all time Home Run King. On October 22, 1975, Carlton Fisk would hit a 12th-inning walk off home run to force a game 7. On October 2, 1978, light hitting Yankee shortstop Bucky Dent hits a 3-run home run to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead on route to a 5-4 victory and a trip to the World Series. On October 14, 1976, Chris Chambliss would hit a walk off home run against the Kansas City Royals to send the Yankees to the World Series. In Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, the Yankees Reggie Jackson would hit 3 home runs.
The 80’s would have two of the most unlikely of home run heroes. On October 14, 1985, in the deciding game 5 of the National League Championship Series, Ozzie Smith lined a home run off of Tom Niedendfuer to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals and move the St. Louis Cardinals to within one game of the World Series. Tom Niedendfuer would comment after the game that he could understand giving up a home run to Jack Clark, but not Ozzie Smith. Two days later, Clark would connect off Niedendfuer to hit a 3-run homer in the 9th inning to give the Cardinals the 7-5 victory and earn a trip to the 1985 World Series. On October 12, 1986, Dave Henderson would step up to the plate with the Red Sox down 3 games to 1 and trailing 5-4. Henderson would hit a game winning walk off home run off Angel’s reliever Donnie Moore. The series would return to Boston where the Red Sox would win both games to advance to the 1986 World Series. On October 15, 1988, Kirk Gibson would hobble off the bench to hit a dramatic 9th inning walk off home run off A’s reliever Dennis Eckersly. The home run off of Eckersly would be Gibson’s only at-bat of the 1988 World Series.
The 1990’s would see a repeat of the 1960 "Shot heard ‘round the World" and a repeat of the 1961 Mantle and Maris chase. On October 23, 1993, the Blue Jays were trailing by a run in the 9th inning of game six of the World Series. With 2 men on and 1 out, Joe Carter would homer on a 2-2 pitch from Phillies reliever Mitch Williams to win the World Series for the Toronto Blue Jays. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa would each spend the 1998 season chasing Roger Maris’ single season home run mark of 61 home runs. On September 8, 1998, Mark McGwire would hit HR number 62 on his way to setting the single season home run record of 70 home runs.
The first decade of the 21st century would see several more famous home runs. Of all the home runs presented in this post, the most emotional occurred in New York on September 21, 2001. America was trying to find herself and move beyond the tragic events of September 11th. Baseball had resumed play and the Mets Mike Piazza would hit a late inning home run which would come to symbolize more than just a home run, it would give the fans in New York something to cheer about, a reason to celebrate, and in many ways a semblance of what once felt normal a short time ago and a hope that normalcy would once again be possible. On October 5, 2001, Barry Bonds would hit home run number 71 to become the single season home run king. On October 17, 2003, Aaron Boone would hit a leadoff home run off Boston’s Tim Wakefield to send the Yankees to the World Series. On August 7, 2007, Barry Bonds would hit Home Run #756 to break Hank Aarons Career Record of 755 and become the All-Time Home Run King.