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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 two outs.

   

Walk-Off Grand Slams

 

by David Fleitz (Updated on September 28, 2011)

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, Pirates 
June 16, 1952       Bobby Thomson, Giants
July 15, 1952       Eddie Joost, Athletics
*September 11, 1955 Del Crandall, Braves
May 11, 1956        Danny Kravitz, Pirates 
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, Cardinals 
*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 baptized.

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.