NLCS 2010: Cody Ross and the 10 Least Likely MLB Playoff Heroes
Through just two games and six at-bats in the 2010 NLCS, Cody Ross has hit an astounding three home runs.
Ross homered twice off Roy "Doc" Halladay, which is fascinating given the fact that Ross' name backwards is "ssory doc" (sorry Doc).
Ross, who was claimed off waivers from Florida, has been one of the least likely playoff heroes in recent memory, which begs the question: Who is the most improbable postseason hero of all time?
10. Todd Walker
Todd Walker was always a solid player. He played first, second and third while hitting .289 with 107 home runs in 12 seasons.
However, in the 2003 playoffs Walker was an absolute beast.
Playing for the Red Sox, Walker hit five bombs in 46 at-bats with a .326 average. almost leading the Red Sox to their first World Series appearance since 1986.
9. Rich Aurilia
Rich Aurilia was never a household name. He made one All-Star appearance in 2001 but was otherwise forgettable.
That all changed in 2002.
On the season Aurilia was mediocre, posting a .257 average with 15 HR and 61 RBI, but his postseason was utterly unforgettable. Aurilia hit two homers in a series win over Atlanta, two more against the Cardinals and yet another two in the seven-game World Series against the Angels.
While Aurilia and the Giants may not have won the series, his six dingers and 17 ribbies exemplify the unlikely postseason hero.
8. B.J. Upton
Upton has always been a conundrum. Blessed with unbelievable speed and strength, he consistently fails to capitalize on his endless talents.
His career batting average of .262 poorly reflects Upton's gifted ability, but in 2008 it was a different story. After hitting only .273 with nine home runs during the regular season, Upton exploded during the postseason.
During the ALDS Upton went deep three times, and in the ALCS against the Red Sox, Upton tallied four round trippers and 11 RBI.
Upton's seven playoff home runs were the most amongst any postseason participant and led to the Rays' first WS berth in the team's history.
7. Dave Roberts
In Boston, Roberts is remembered like a god for one play during the 2004 ALCS.
The Red Sox trailed the Yankees 4-3 in the ninth inning of a 3-0 series when Kevin Millar walked and was replaced on the basepaths by Dave Roberts.
With Mariano Rivera on the mound, everybody knew Roberts would be running, as baserunners have always been scarce against the Yankees closer.
Roberts successfully nabbed second base in what is now known as "the steal." Bill Mueller followed up the steal with an RBI single, and the Sox went on to win the game and the series before winning their first World Series ring since 1918.
6. Andruw Jones
To this date, my favorite Andruw Jones memory comes from a Sox-Braves game where a fan kept heckling Jones by yelling, "Who spells Andrew with a W?!"
Dyslexic Fenway faithful aside, Jones had a very unique and exciting career. Despite the presence of Kenny Lofton and Marquis Grissom in center field, the Braves called up a 19-year-old Jones in August of 1996.
In 106 ABs, AJ batted only .217 but added five dingers and three steals in his limited playing time. The Braves eventually made the World Series, and Bobby Cox shocked many fans when he tabbed Jones as his Game 1 starter.
Cox must have gotten good advice from Ms. Cleo, because Jones homered twice in his first two at-bats, becoming the youngest player to hit a WS home run in the process.
Of course Jones went on to a terrific career, but at the time a 19-year-old rookie dominating on the national stage was utterly improbable.
5. Livan Hernandez
Livan Hernandez was only 22 to start his rookie season and couldn't have dreamed about the success he would have in his freshman campaign.
In 17 starts, Hernandez was 9-3 with a 3.18 ERA, but he made waves with his phenomenal postseason performance. He was awarded the NLCS MVP before winning Games 1 and 5 of the World Series to take home the series MVP.
The next year, the Marlins famously cleaned house, trading away players like Moises Alou and ace pitcher Kevin Brown, but Hernandez remained a member of the Marlins until being traded to the Giants during the 1999 season.
4. Aaron Boone
As a diehard Red Sox fan, this list has brought back many painful memories—perhaps none more damaging than this.
In 2003, the Red Sox and Yankees met in the ALCS, and for once Boston appeared to have the superior team. The series was tightly contested and ended up needing a decisive Game 7.
The Sox jumped out to an early lead but allowed the game to be tied when Grady Little notoriously left Pedro Martinez in the game and Jorge Posada hit a game-tying double.
The game went to extra innings before little-used utility man Aaron Boone hit a walk-off homer off a Tim Wakefield knuckleball. Boone left the Yankees after the 2003 season, but his legacy will forever be remembered in both Boston and New York.
3. Bucky Dent
Bucky "Bleeping" Dent. He may be the most hated athlete in Boston—and we're a city with a laundry list of enemies.
Back in 1978, the Red Sox led the hated Yankees by 14.5 games yet managed to blow the lead and force a one-game playoff. In that game, Dent exemplified the so-called curse that had plagued the Red Sox for years.
Despite only 40 career home runs in 12 seasons, Dent hit a three-run shot that gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead in a game they would go on to win 5-4. Dent went on to hit .417 in the World Series to capture the series MVP award despite batting out of the ninth spot in the batting order.
2. Don Larsen
Most of us are aware that Don Larsen threw the first (and until recently only) no-hitter in MLB postseason history, but few know much else about the former Yankees pitcher.
During Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, Larsen did the unthinkable when he threw a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers. It took only 97 pitches to complete against a potent Dodgers offense that featured Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges and Duke Snider.
Truth be told, other than his perfect game Larsen was a somewhat forgettable pitcher. On his career, Larsen was 81-91 with a 3.78 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP, making his perfecto that much more impressive and ensuring his place as one of the least likely playoff heroes.
1. Kirk Gibson
Gibson had a solid career during which he batted .268 with 255 home runs, but during the 1988 World Series, Gibson may have produced the most memorable moment in baseball history.
In Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, Oakland held a 4-3 lead with future Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley on the mound. At the time Eck was the best closer in all of baseball, and he needed only three outs to seal a Game 1 victory.
Gibson was suffering from injuries to both legs as well as a stomach virus and was not expected to play, so it came as a shock to everybody in attendance when Tommy Lasorda pinch-hit Gibson with the tying run on first base.
Gibson dragged his ailing body to the plate before awkwardly taking his place in the batter's box. Gibson fell behind 0-2 before working the count full. On the 3-2 pitch, the big lefty clumsily stepped forward before taking a running swing that sent the ball flying over the right field wall.
The Dodgers went on to win the series, and Gibson took home MVP honors despite only one at-bat. To this date it is my favorite moment in baseball history, one that exemplifies the power of the human spirit.