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Chris Hoiles erased a
three-run deficit with a walk-off grand slam homer in 1996. It came in a 14-13 Baltimore
victory over Seattle, in which Hoiles hit his homer on a 3-2 pitch with
by David Fleitz (Updated on September 28,
Here's the situation:
The home team is trailing by three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning. They get the bases loaded, and then someone belts a grand-slam home run to win the game.
A game-ending home run is called a "walk-off" homer now. Bill Mazeroski's solo homer that ended the 1960 World Series was one; so was Joe Carter's shot that ended the 1993 Series.
We've all seen walk-off homers.
The question is, how many people have hit walk-off homers with the bases
loaded and their team down by three?
I would have guessed that the number of such walk-off grand-slam home runs
was in the hundreds. The major leagues have been in business since 1876.
I looked at Baseball-Reference.com and saw that as of July 10, 2011, the
total number of major league games played during the past 136 seasons is
199,088. Add in the five National Association years immediately
before that and the total reaches 200,094. I don't know if they
count the contests played in the Union Association (1884), the Players
League (1890), and the Federal League (1914-15) as major league games, but
the number is huge in any case.
I was surprised to learn that only 27 of those 200,000 or so games have ended with a
three-run deficit erased by a grand-slam homer. This kind of walk-off grand-slam is more rare than a no-hitter, and almost as rare as a perfect game.
Here's the list ( a * means it came with two outs):
*September 10, 1881 Roger Connor, Trojans
September 24, 1925 Babe Ruth, Yankees
May 23, 1936 Sammy Byrd, Reds
July 8, 1950 Jack Phillips,
June 16, 1952 Bobby Thomson, Giants
July 15, 1952 Eddie Joost, Athletics
*September 11, 1955 Del Crandall, Braves
May 11, 1956 Danny Kravitz,
July 25, 1956 Roberto Clemente, Pirates
*August 31, 1963 Ellis Burton, Cubs
August 2, 1970 Tony Taylor, Phillies
*August 11, 1970 Carl Taylor, Cardinals
*April 22, 1973 Ron Lolich, Indians
*May 1, 1979 Roger Freed,
*April 13, 1983 Bo Diaz, Phillies
*August 31, 1984 Buddy Bell, Rangers
*April 13, 1985 Phil Bradley, Mariners
*August 29, 1986 Dick Schofield, Angels
*June 21, 1988 Alan Trammell, Tigers
*May 17, 1996 Chris Hoiles, Orioles
*July 28, 2001 Brian Giles, Pirates
May 17, 2002 Jason Giambi, Yankees
*June 30, 2006 Adam Dunn, Reds
May 20, 2010 Brooks Conrad, Braves
July 7, 2011 Travis Hafner, Indians
August 16, 2011 Brian Bogusevic, Astros
*September 27, 2011 Ryan Roberts, Diamondbacks
A few points:
- Connor's homer in 1881 was the first grand slam of any kind in National League history. Ruth's was the first
such walk-off grand slam in American League history and the first in the majors in 44 years.
- Four Pittsburgh Pirates have done it, but no Dodgers, Twins, White
Sox, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Padres, etc.
- Only three Hall of Famers have ever hit walk-off grand slams when
down by three: Connor, Ruth, and Clemente. Mays, Aaron, Mantle, Gehrig, Williams, Musial - none of them ever managed the feat.
- Clemente's shot in 1956 was an inside-the-park blow. Ruth hit his in
the 10th inning, and Giambi did it in the 14th.
- When Babe Ruth died in 1948, only three men had belted such walk-off grand slams, and they were all connected to Ruth. One was Ruth himself; another was Roger Connor, the man whose career home run record Ruth broke in 1921. The third was Sammy Byrd, who did it for the Cincinnati Reds in 1936. Byrd played for the Yankees in the early 1930s and spent a lot of time pinch-running for the aging Ruth. The writers called Byrd "Babe Ruth's Legs."
- Ellis Burton hit one on my 8th birthday, and Buddy Bell hit one on my 29th birthday. Del Crandall of the Braves hit his on Sunday, September 11, 1955, the day I was
So, if you go to a game this summer and see a three-run deficit erased
with a game-ending grand slam, consider yourself lucky. You will have seen something that happens only slightly more frequently than a perfect game. Only an unassisted triple play happens much less often in major league baseball.