15 Most Epic Walk-off Homers in MLB League Championship History

Dan Tylicki@DanTylickiAnalyst IOctober 11, 2012

15 Most Epic Walk-off Homers in MLB League Championship History

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    In League Championship Series history, there have been 16 total walk-off home runs. Whether they have come in extra innings or with a team coming behind, every one made their mark, at least at the time.

    Some have went on to become a part of baseball lore, while others fell into obscurity, mainly if the team ended up losing the LCS anyway. Nonetheless, all 15 players (one had two walk-offs) have become known for clutch playoff performances.

    All 16 walk-offs are ranked here, with the man who made it happen twice combined into one, since both home runs came in nearly identical situations.

15. John Lowenstein

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    John Lowenstein is not exactly a guy known for home-run hitting during his time in Cleveland and Texas. It was only when he joined Baltimore in 1979 that he began hitting double-digit home runs somewhat regularly.

    In Game 1 of the 1979 ALCS, Lowenstein came on as a pinch-hitter in the 10th inning, facing John Montague. With two outs, Montague walked Al Bumbry to get to Mark Belanger, but Lowenstein was brought in instead.

    It turned out to be the right move, as he hit the walk-off homer to win the game, 6-3. The Orioles went on to not only sweep the series but came within a game of winning it all that year.

14. Johnny Bench

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    On the surface, ranking the first LCS walk-off home run this low is surprising. However, it is what happened afterward that made this less significant.

    The Mets and Reds faced off in Game 1 of the 1973 NLCS with the score tied at 1-1 in the ninth. Tom Seaver remained in the game, despite giving up a home run to Pete Rose the inning prior. He got Tony Perez out with difficulty, and Johnny Bench came up to bat.

    The only player to get more than one hit off Seaver that game hit a solo shot to give the Reds a 2-1 win. The Mets, however, rallied to win the series, 3-2.

13. Jeff Kent

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    2004 was a great year for walk-offs. Three of the 16 walk-off home runs came that year, with two of them very well-known in playoff lore. This is the third one.

    The Cardinals and Astros were tied at two games each heading into Game 5, which became one of the most unheralded pitching duels in baseball. Woody Williams allowed one hit through seven innings, while Brandon Backe allowed one hit through eight.

    Jason Isringhausen relieved Williams, and in the ninth, allowed Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman to get on base. Jeff Kent came up to bat and hit a three-run homer to win the game for the Astros, putting them within a game of the World Series. As for what happened next, that is later on the list.

12. Alfonso Soriano

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    Alfonso Soriano is the first of four Yankees to appear on the list. In 2001, he was in his first full year with the Yankees. In Game 4 of the 2001 ALDS, with the Yankees up 2-1 over the Mariners, he made his mark.

    The score was 1-1 through eight innings, with only two hits allowed from both pitching staffs. After Mariano Rivera got through the top of the ninth, Kazuhiro Sasaki came up for the Mariners.

    With one runner on base and one out, Soriano hit the ball deep to center right, giving the Yankees the 3-1 win. The Yankees won Game 5 before losing in the World Series, while Soriano rode the wave high, finishing third in MVP voting the following year.

11. Bert Campaneris

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    The 1973 Oakland A's had plenty of power in Reggie Jackson and Sal Bando, among others. Bert Campaneris, however, was a defensive specialist who only hit double-digit homers once and only four in 1973.

    The Orioles and Athletics were tied 1-1 in Game 3, with Mike Cuellar and Ken Holtzman in a pitcher's duel. Campaneris led off the bottom of the 11th and immediately hit a home run, giving the A's both a 2-1 win and 2-1 series lead.

    He went on to have three home runs in the 1973 postseason, the only home runs he hit in nine playoff series. The A's, meanwhile, won the World Series that year.

10. Magglio Ordonez

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    The Detroit Tigers crushed the Oakland Athletics in the 2006 ALCS, sweeping them in four games. That contest ended with a bang when Magglio Ordonez stepped up to the plate.

    In the bottom of the ninth with a 3-3 tie, Ordonez faced Huston Street with two on and two out. Street was in his third inning of work, which may have taken his toll, as Ordonez crushed a home run to win the series, 6-3.

    Ordonez struggled in the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, who the Tigers lost to, but his home run remains their last World Series appearance.

9. Chris Chambliss

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    In 1976, the Kansas City Royals made their first ever playoff appearance, and in the ALCS, they went to the deciding Game 5 against the New York Yankees. After scoring three runs in the eighth, the Royals tied the Yankees at 6-6 heading into the ninth.

    Mark Littell pitched a clean eighth for the Royals and faced Chris Chambliss to start the ninth who not only had a career year but hit over .500 in the ALCS. He put an exclamation point on that run with a home run off Littell to give the Yankees the series win.

    Chambliss hit well in the World Series, but the Yankees did not follow, getting swept by the Reds, despite Chambliss' heroics.

8. Nelson Cruz

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    Cruz gets the narrow nod over Ordonez and Chambliss because of two small things he did with his walk-off. In 2011, the Texas Rangers were looking to make the World Series again, and in Game 2, they were tied with the Tigers, 3-3.

    In the 11th inning, Ryan Perry was brought in, and he allowed three straight singles. This brought up Nelson Cruz, and Perry remained in the game to pitch to him. That proved costly, as he hit a walk-off grand slam deep to left field, the only walk-off grand slam in LCS history.

    Cruz went on to havesix home runs and 13 RBI in one of the most dominating playoff performances ever as the Rangers won in six games, though they lost in the World Series again.

7. Bernie Williams (Twice)

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    In Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS, the Orioles and Yankees were tied 4-4 in the 11th inning when Bernie Williams came up to lead off the inning. He hit a walk-off homer off Randy Myers to give the Yankees the win as they went on to eventually win the series.

    Three years later, in Game 1 of the 1999 ALCS, the Yankees and Red Sox were tied at 3-3 in the 10th. Bernie Williams led off the inning against Rod Beck, hitting yet another walk-off home run as they went on to win the World Series yet again.

    The Yankees won both ALCS series in five games, and for those who consider him a borderline Hall of Famer stat-wise, these two homers could very well be the difference-makers.

6. Steve Garvey

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    The San Diego Padres never made it to the playoffs until 1984. In Game 4, the Cubs had a 2-1 series lead, and the Padres were close to being eliminated from the playoffs.

    After a rare blown save by Goose Gossage in the eighth, the Cubs and Padres were tied at five apiece. Former saves leader Lee Smith struck out Alan Wiggins and allowed a single to Tony Gwynn, bringing Garvey up.

    He hit a deep home run to give the Padres the win, and after his teammates carried him off the field, he went on to lead the Padres to their first ever World Series appearance after a Game 5 win.

5. Lenny Dykstra

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    The 1986 Mets had a magical run through the NLCS. Games 5 and 6 were both won in extra innings, with Game 6 going 16 innings. What started the run, however, was Lenny Dykstra's game three heroics, when the Mets and Astros were tied at one game each.

    Entering the bottom of the ninth, the Mets were down 5-4. The Astros brought in Dave Smith. He allowed a bunt single by Wally Backman before getting Danny Heep out. This brought up Dykstra who was in his second season and came into the game as a pinch-hitter.

    Dykstra hit the ball down the right field line to win the game, 6-5, giving the Mets a 2-1 series lead. He followed that up with two homers in the 1986 World Series, helping the Mets win it all that year.

4. Jim Edmonds

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    Something about the 2004 NLCS was great. In Game 5, Jeff Kent had a walk-off home run to give the Astros a 3-2 lead over the Cardinals as they went back to St. Louis.

    The Astros scored a run in the ninth to tie the game at 4-4. The Astros brought Dan Miceli in for the bottom of the 12th, hoping to bounce back after losing Game 2. After Albert Pujols walked and Scott Rolen popped out, Jim Edmonds and his 42 home runs on the year came to the plate.

    Edmonds hit the ball deep to center right, giving the Cardinals the win. They rallied to win Game 7 as well, overcoming the 3-2 deficit and advancing to the World Series, where they came across something a bit more magical that comes later in the list.

3. Ozzie Smith

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    When you think of Ozzie Smith, the last thing that likely comes to mind is home runs. Even in 1985, his best year in that regard, he only had six during the regular season.

    Nonetheless, in Game 5 of the 1985 NLCS, the Cardinals and Dodgers were tied at two games apiece. In the bottom of the ninth, Smith came up to face Tom Niedenfuer. He hit the ball over the right field fence for the game-winning home run.

    What is remembered is not just the most unlikely home run on the list but the call by Jack Buck. The call, "Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!" and the home run are considered the greatest moment in Busch Stadium history.

2. David Ortiz

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    In 2004, the New York Yankees looked like they were going to crush Boston's hopes yet again, taking a swift 3-0 lead in the ALCS. In the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox managed to tie the game, sending the game to extra innings.

    In the bottom of the 12th, the Yankees brought Paul Quantrill on, who had yet to allow a run in the playoffs. A Manny Ramirez single brought up Big Papi himself, David Ortiz, who hit a walk-off to win the game for the Red Sox, 6-4.

    At the time, it wasn't a big deal, since it merely made the series 3-1. A second walk-off hit by Ortiz in Game 5 led to a 4-3 series victory, the only time in baseball history this has happened. In hindsight, it makes the Game 4 shot that much more amazing.

1. Aaron Boone

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    In Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, the Red Sox and Yankees squared off. The Yankees rallied to score three runs in the eighth and moved the game to extra innings.

    While the Yankees kept Mariano Rivera in and had him pitch three innings, the Red Sox handed the ball to Tim Wakefield in the 10th. In the bottom of the 11th, Aaron Boone came up to bat. The Yanks' deadline-deal acquisition was hitting under .200 in the series, but all that mattered was this one hit.

    On the very first pitch, Boone blasted it over the fence for the game-winning, and series-winning, home run. It was yet another year of misery for the Red Sox as they came that close to winning the series, and Aaron Boone became a hero in New York.

    Yes, the Red Sox got their revenge the following year, but Boone's home run went right up there with Bucky Dent's in both Yankee and Red Sox lore.