Nelson Cruz and the 10 Greatest Grand Slams in MLB Postseason History
Only in the grand game of baseball can magnificent historic accomplishments intermingle so seamlessly with the feats of the present day.
Naturally, this makes it only fitting that Major League Baseball's first postseason walk-off grand slam—a Nelson Cruz blast that sealed the Tigers' ALCS Game 2 fate—occurred exactly (and eerily) 91 years to the day after Major League Baseball's first postseason grand slam by Elmer Smith of Cleveland off Brooklyn's Burleigh Grimes on the 10th day of October, 1920.
In between Cruz's and Smith's historic bases-full four-baggers, there have been quite a few whose stories bear retelling. Here are the top 10.
10. Lance Berkman, Houston Astros: Game 4, 2005 NLDS
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Lance Berkman's bases-loaded big fly was huge for one main reason: It was pivotal in the Astros' advancement to the NLCS. Had they not made it that far, they wouldn't have made it to the franchise's first World Series against the Chicago White Sox.
Where they were unceremoniously swept. Whoops. But hey, it's pretty cool they made it.
9. Aramis Ramirez, Chicago Cubs: Game 4, 2003 NLCS
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
This grand slam is notable for many reasons, perhaps most importantly because this can be viewed as one of the last positive things that happened to the Chicago Cubs during the 2003 postseason.
A mere two games later in this historic (for all the wrong reasons, if you're a Cubs fan) NLCS, with the Cubbies just five outs away from their first World Series berth in 58 years, some dude named Bartman, with goofy headphones and sillier glasses...well, you know the rest. All downhill from there.
Well, except for the Florida Marlins; they were cool with it.
8. Don Baylor, California Angels: Game 4, 1982 ALCS
Big Don Baylor is now a coach with Kirk Gibson's recently departed (from postseason play) Arizona Diamondbacks. With Gibson, Alan Trammell and Baylor on their coaching staff, the Diamondbacks could really wreak havoc on an old-timers' softball league, no doubt.
Back in the day, though, Don Baylor was a serious power threat. It certainly was no surprise when he hit a grand salami against the Milwaukee Brewers way back in the 1982 postseason.
7. Jim Thome, Cleveland Indians: Game 2, 1999 ALDS
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Jim Thome is going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, without question. He'll be enshrined based on his steroid-era home run totals, all done without the help of steroids.
To be a slugger in an era marred by drug abuse, and to surpass all—save a few—users in that era, while remaining clean, is unbelievable. What many people fail to remember—or choose to forget—is that the pitchers were on the "juice" too.
It's hard to believe that of all Thome's homers, his postseason production doesn't "count" in terms of cultivated statistics. Too bad, too, because this dude was almost better in October than in the preceding months.
6. Jim Thome, Cleveland Indians: Game 6, 1998 ALCS
Al Bello/Getty Images
Jim Thome. Hey, hey...what do you know? It's Thome time take two. This time it was an even bigger slam than the previous slide's!
Why, you ask? Well, that's easy. This one took place in the ALCS—Game 2—and helped the Tribe to almost surpass the 114-win New York Yankees.
The Indians, despite Thome's October greatness, fell to the Yankees in six games in that year's ALCS.
5. Edgar Martinez, Seattle Mariners: Game 4, 1995 ALDS
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Edgar Martinez might just be one of the most underrated hitting stars of the 1990s, if not of all time.
The 1995 Mariners squad had an extremely solid team—a young Alex Rodriguez, a not-so-young Jay Buhner, a fully mulleted Randy Johnson—that absolutely stunned the New York Yankees by eliminating them in the '95 ALDS.
Poor Don Mattingly—this would be his only postseason appearance in what proved to be his final season in the major leagues (as a player.)
4. Mike Cuellar, Baltimore Orioles: Game 1, 1970 ALCS
What an excellent photograph. It perfectly captures the youthful exuberance of winning on a grand stage.
Mike Cuellar was the left-handed ace of the powerhouse Baltimore Orioles squad of the 1970s. Featuring Brooks Robinson, who is probably the best third baseman of all time, and an unbelievably good starting rotation—most often compared to today's Phillies rotation, but unlike the Phils, the O's actually won in the postseason—Cuellar's grand slam is so magical mainly because he was a pitcher.
3. Robin Ventura, New York Mets: Game 5, 1999 NLCS
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Robin Ventura has been in the news recently due to the fact that he was named the Chicago White Sox's successor to Ozzie Guillen as skipper.
But in 1999, Ventura hit a walk-off grand slam to beat the Atlanta Braves in Game 5 of the NLCS.
This would rank higher were it nor for three reasons:
1. Robin Ventura charged the mound against Nolan Ryan once and was promptly beat down by a man twice his age.
2. Robin Ventura's "grand slam" wasn't a grand slam after all, as his frenzied teammates mobbed him as he rounded first base. It's to be remembered as the "Grand Slam Single" for all time.
3. The Mets wound up losing the NLCS in six games, 4-2 to the Atlanta Braves.
2. Johnny Damon, Boston Red Sox: Game 7, 2004 ALCS
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
This one was about as big as you can get without being a true walk-off slam. When Damon connected for this Game 7 four-bagger against the Yankees, Red Sox fans started to believe.
The rest is history, and extremely entertaining too, as Damon's Sox went on to eliminate the Yankees while making Major League Baseball history by overcoming a 3-0 ALCS deficit.
For icing on the cake—plenty of which I'm sure got stuck in Damon's caveman beard—the Red Sox would go on to win their first World Series Championship in 86 years.
Then Damon would sign a free-agent contract with the "Evil Empire" after the 2005 season, shave his beard and cut his hair, which can be described as the ultimate baseball sellout move.
But I'm sure all BoSox fans would rather not think about that one too much. Actually, since the Sox would win another World Series just three years later without the self-described "idiot," Boston fans probably don't care that Damon jumped ship.
1. Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers: Game 2, 2011 ALCS
Harry How/Getty Images
Well, sure. It has to be the only man in the history of Major League Baseball to hit a walk-off grand slam! It's not Cruz's fault that Ventura's teammates held him to a single.
His slam has other historical implications for the Texas Rangers too. It's the first time his team has ever been up 2-0 in the ALCS.
Hey, I didn't have to stay up all night doing research to share that little knowledge nugget with you; they've only been in the ALCS once before, and the first time was last year.
I haven't killed that many brain cells yet.
I say yet, because who knows how many more cells I'll smother to death with sweet, sweet victory beers if the Texas Rangers continue—in this fashion—towards their 2011 goal of world domination, with the World Series championship as their postseason prize?
If you crave more on the Texas Rangers...