Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What's Cooler Than a Walk-Off Home Run?

In short, nothing.  The walk-off home run is by far the coolest moment that can occur in any sporting event and when witnessed live is nothing short of amazing.  Yes other sports have their version of the walk-off home run like an overtime goal in hockey or a winning touchdown/field goal in football but neither of those moments match the true awesomeness that is a walk-off home run.

The walk-off home run is such a perfect moment for so many different reasons.  For one it can only occur in the home teams ballpark due to the fact that in baseball the home team always bats last.  Therefore, unlike in hockey, basketball or football no fans ever have to witness their team losing in such a devastating fashion at home.  This cannot be emphasized enough as there is nothing worse than watching your team lose in their own building. Just ask Flyers fans who last year had to watch as the Stanley Cup was given to the Chicago Blackhawks at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. 

That particular Stanley Cup Finals illustrates another reason why the walk-off home run is king.  Unlike the overtime goal in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, which no one other than Patrick Kane knew went in, the walk-off home run is a no-doubter that everyone in the building can see.  Just the sound of the ball hitting the bat is all players and fans need to hear to know that the game is over.  The batter tosses the bat to the side and like a giant wave you see the hands of every fan in the ball go up in the air out of pure joy.

Hockey isn't the only sport that can have an anti-climatic finish to a game.  Think about how many overtime football games end with a field goal.  One team will win the coin toss and gain 40-50 yards and then the kicker comes on to try and win the game.  Yeah its pretty exciting because there is always the chance the guy could miss but in comparison to a walk-off home run it isn't even close.  Plus too often in football games only one team gets possession of the ball in overtime which really kills the excitement level.

But the best thing about a walk-off home run is that its just the batter out there on his own.  Everyone in the entire stadium is focused on one person who can't rely on his teammates to win the game.  He has to do it all himself and its because of all that extra added pressure that walk-off home runs are so great.  In no other sport is there that much emphasis/pressure placed on just one individual and to me that makes the walk-off so great.

Although the idea of the walk-off home run is as old as baseball itself the actual term "walk-off home run" only became part of the baseball lexicon in the early 1990s.  It was Oakland A's closer Dennis Eckersley who coined the phrase as he called a home run that ended the game "walk-off pieces" due to the fact that the pitcher had to walk off the field with his head hung in shame.  Since then the walk-off has gone from having a negative connotation to a positive one as it now refers to the batter, who won the game, instead of the pitcher who lost it.

According to there have been 2944 walk-off home runs in the history of baseball.  Who has hit the most walk-off home runs you ask?  There is currently a three-way tie for 1st place as Frank Robinson, Mickey Mantle and Jim Thome all have 12 career walk-off homers to their name.  Also worth noting is that of those 2944 walk-off homers 10 were hit by pitchers and 14 of them were inside the park walk-off home runs.

Some of the greatest moments in baseball history are walk-off home runs.  Kirk Gibson's famously coming off the bench to hit the winning walk-off home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.  Bobby Thompson's "shot heard round the world" to win the pennant for the Giants in 1951.  Carlton Fisk's "stay fair" home run to win Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.  Joe Carter's World Series clinching home run in Game 6 back in 1993 and the most famous of them all Bill Mazeroski's home run to win Game 7 of the 1960 World Series which to this day is still widely considered the greatest moment in baseball history.

Every kid that has ever played baseball has always grown up dreaming of one day hitting that big walk-off home run that wins the World Series.  Everyone wants that feeling of running the bases knowing that all your teammates are waiting at home plate to mob you while thousands of people cheer deliriously.  It is a perfect moment and in terms of sports there is nothing cooler.

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Kyleevans'Brain said...

Without reading past the title I can answer. Anything in hockey. Baseball is boring as shit dude.

James Choleras said...

find me a moment in hockey better than Joe Carter's 1993 World Series clinching home run

Anonymous said...

extremely opinionated