Sunday, February 17, 2008

Top 10 Red Sox Home Runs

I'm blatantly stealing this from Blue Jay Way, but it's a fun idea anyway. Here's the problem, though - I'm completely biased towards 1) big home runs in my lifetime and 2) big home runs in the recent championship era. It's going to be damn hard to whittle this list down to ten, so I'll list every other one I could think of in the honorable mention section. If I missed any that you guys somehow remember, let me know.

For clarification, by "top ten" I pretty much mean "most memorable."

Honorable mention in a losing effort:
Bernie Carbo, 1975 World Series - That other home run from Game Six, the pinch-hit, three-run job off of Rawly Eastwick that tied the score at 6 in the 8th inning. They won this game of course, but, well, you know.
Dave Henderson, 1986 World Series - That Game. Hendu continued his playoff heroics by belting a Rick Aguilera pitch out of Shea to lead off the tenth. The rest of the world knows what happened next, but at that moment, Hendu could have been elected mayor of any town in New England.
David Ortiz, 2003 ALCS - the forgotten homer, and, quite honestly, the first time I ever believed that the Red Sox could beat the Yankees. Watching Game Seven from the right field upper deck at Yankee Stadium after Jason Giambi had just hit his second homer to cut the Sox lead to 4-2, I let out a subdued fist pump after Ortiz hit David Wells' first pitch into the right field seats. That was it - that was the insurance run they needed to topple the Yanks. I will always believe that, Grady Little and Aaron Boone be damned.

Honorable mention, non-playoffs:
Ted Williams vs. Orioles in '60 - The Kid homers in his final career at-bat. Can you imagine this happening with someone like A-Rod or Pujols today?
Dwight Evans vs. Tigers in '86 - Dewey sets an MLB record by homering on the first pitch of the season.
Wade Boggs in '89 all-star game - Bo Jackson and Wade Boggs go back-to-back to lead off the game. Given the phenomenon that was Bo and the fact that Boggs never really had any power, this was a big deal when I was 11.
Mo Vaughn vs. Mariners in '98 - Mo hits a walk-off grand slam in the home opener.
Trot Nixon vs. Yankees in '00 - Trot hits a two-run shot in the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium, breaking a 0-0 tie between Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens, who had likely just started to cycle. This barely misses the top ten for me.
Bill Mueller vs. Yankees in '04 - as does this one. This was the two-run walk-off that ended the A-Rod/Varitek fight game, and the symbolic turning point of the Red Sox season. It also earned Mueller the nickname "Bill Mueller, Yankee killer" (note: this nickname may have only been used in my household).
Trot Nixon vs. Yankees in '05 - the first inside-the-parker I ever saw in person.
David Ortiz vs. Twins '06 - Ortiz's 51st of the season breaks Jimmie Foxx's Red Sox record. He would also hit #52 in this game before ending up with 54.
Jason Varitek vs. Yankees in '07 - the 4th in a string of back-to-back-to-back-to-back homers off of Chase Wright.

Honorable mention, playoffs:
Manny Ramirez in '03 ALDS - a mammoth 3-run shot off of Barry Zito in Game Five that barely gave the Sox all the runs they would need to finish the comeback from being down two games to none.
David Ortiz in '04 ALCS - this was the homer in the first inning of Game Seven, after Dale Svuem got Johnny Damon thrown out by five feet at home plate for the second out. Yankee Stadium was electric after the play at the plate, and Ortiz calmly hit the first pitch he saw out of the park. This was eerily similar to the above homer off of Wells in '03.
Dustin Pedroia in '07 World Series - this one is mostly symbolic, as Pedroia led off the series with a homer on the second pitch, sparking the sweep of the Rockies.
Bobby Kielty in '07 World Series - off of Brian Fuentes, Kielty hit the only pitch he saw in the series into the left-field stands for what would prove to be the winning run in the clincher at Coors Field.

Top Ten:
10. J.D. Drew in '07 ALCS - the Sox loaded the bases in the first inning of Game Six with nobody out, but made two outs without scoring any runs. J.D. Drew strolled to the plate, as most of Fenway strolled to the concession stands, and calmly swatted a grand slam, effectively telling the Indians that they were not winning this series at Fenway Park. This home run was so unlikely that I thought nothing about abandoning the radio to switch cars in mid-at-bat. If anyone else in Red Sox history was batting in this situation, I would have stayed in the first car to hear what happened, but I was convinced Drew would make an out. In my fifteen-second transfer, I missed the slam, which is probably why I don't rank this higher. I'm still not sure it really happened.
9. Mark Bellhorn in '04 World Series - a sloppy, back-and-forth Game One went into the bottom of the eighth tied at nine, where Bellhorn slammed a Julian Tavarez pitch off of Pesky's Pole for a two-run shot and the final margin of victory.
8. Manny Ramirez in '07 ALDS - the game-winner off of Francisco Rodriguez beat the Angels in Game Two and traveled roughly 850 feet.
7. (tie) Johnny Damon in '04 ALCS - it's hard to tell which was bigger, so I'm including them both. Damon had struggled in the ALCS, but after leading off Game Seven with a single before later being thrown out at the plate, he greeted Javier Vazquez in the second inning by knocking his first pitch for a grand slam, and followed it up with a two-run, first-pitch upper deck shot, also off of Vazquez, in the fourth. The game was a rout, but Damon built the coffin with these two blasts.
6. Carlton Fisk in '75 World Series - the Game Six walk-off is a sentimental favorite, but they lost the series. I can't put this near the top.
5. Trot Nixon in '03 ALDS - Game Three was full of controversial baserunning plays, and Nixon's two-run shot in the 11th broke a 1-1 tie and kept the Sox from being swept by Oakland.
4. (tie) Troy O'Leary in '99 ALDS - like Damon above, I'm including both of O'Leary's big homers. Twice in Game Five Mike Hargrove walked Nomar Garciaparra to pitch to O'Leary. O'Leary responded with a grand slam off of Charles Nagy in the third and a three-run shot off of Paul Shuey in the seventh, the last homer breaking an 8-8 tie and giving Pedro the lead for good, capping yet another comeback from being down two games to none.
3. Dave Henderson in '86 ALCS - in the ninth inning of Game Five, the Sox trailed 5-2 and were on the verge of being eliminated by the California Angels. Anaheim cops were even circling the field in anticipation of a raucous, pre-Rally-Monkey celebration. Don Baylor hit a two-run bomb to make it 5-4, knocking starter Mike Witt out of the game. Hendu followed it up a few batters later with a two-run shot of his own off of Donnie Moore to give the Sox a 6-5 lead, which they promptly coughed up in the bottom of the inning before winning it on a sacrifice fly (by Henderson, of course) in the 11th. This game doesn't get nearly enough credit as one of the all-time great playoff games, probably because as great as this series was, it was the worst of the three in the '86 playoffs.
2. David Ortiz in '04 ALDS - the walk-off in the tenth inning of Game Three, finishing the sweep of the Angels. Ortiz hit Jarrod Washburn's first pitch the other way; a lot of these homers have been of first pitches, no?
1. David Ortiz in '04 ALCS - the walk-off in the twelfth inning of Game Four, staving off a Yankee sweep. Ortiz belted a Paul Quantrill pitch into the visiting bullpen just after midnight; it would be the first of his two walk-offs that day.

So that's 28 without doing any research (other than finding exact dates for the links). I'm sure there are more, especially from the 20th century, but these stick out. I struggled with "series-winning vs. elimination-avoiding" homers when it came to walk-offs, but Ortiz gets the top two spots pretty much because October 2004 was the most memorable time in the history of the franchise.


Sully said...

I just came up with one that I missed - Ted Williams' 502-foot shot into the upper right field bleachers, the one that was memorialized with a red seat where it landed. They're changing out all of the seats in the bleachers this off-season, I hope they keep a red one. Anyway, this one wouldn't crack the top ten for me.

I'm trying to brainstorm a Yankee list, but I'm far from an expert on the subject. Off the top of my head, and in no particular order:

Ruth's 60th
Maris' 61st
Mr. October
Mantle's near-600-footer
Jim Leyritz in '96
One or both of the Byung-Hyun Kim homers
Brosius off of Hoffman
Jeffrey Maier

That's ten, but I'm sure I'm missing others that are deserving. Tino's grand slam in the '98 series has to be up there. Didn't Soriano have a walk-off against Kaz Sasaki? And Soriano's shot off of Schilling in Game Seven in 2001 has to be an "honorable mention in a losing effort," right?

Does the Pine Tar homer count?

Ross said...

Ruth's Called Shot immediately comes to mind.

Ross said...

Bernie Williams Walk-Off in '96 ALCS.