The postseason is a time of heightened intensity. With a team's season dependent on the outcome of a best-of-seven or five, or even a one-game series, each run and out takes on a greater meaning than it would in the regular season.
Never is that increased tension more acutely felt than in a walk-off. As we saw on Sunday night with Justin Turner's walk-off home run to put the Dodgers up 2-0 in the National League Championship Series, these sorts of situations are really fun.
But Turner's was only one in a long history of postseason walk-off home runs, so, let's take this occasion as an opportunity to look back on some of the best.
Before we get to the rankings, it would be negligent to ignore Bobby Thomson's walk-off three-run home run in Game 3 of the 1951 playoff for the National League pennant between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants. However, because the series was a playoff to break a tie in the regular-season standings, it -- unfortunately -- does not technically qualify for consideration.
9. Scott Podsednik off Brad Lidge, 2005 WS Game 2
Though Podsednik was an All-Star in 2005, the left fielder hit zero home runs in the regular season (he notched his first dinger of '05 in the ALDS). Even so, the Astros and Brad Lidge probably did not feel that the game was immediately on the line when he came to the plate with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning of a 1-1 game.
Podsednik's walk-off gave the White Sox a 2-0 series lead on their way to a four-game sweep of the Astros.
8. Aaron Boone off Tim Wakefield, 2003 ALCS Game 7
After four innings of Game 7, the Red Sox seemed well on their way to the World Series. Not only did they hold a 4-0 lead over the Yankees, but they had Pedro Martinez on the mound. All was going according to plan until the bottom of the eighth inning when a 5-2 Red Sox lead turned into a 5-5 tie on four straight one-out hits from Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada.
The bullpen got out of the inning and kept the game tied until the bottom of the 11th when Aaron Boone -- who entered the game in the eighth inning as a pinch-runner -- led off and took the first Wakefield knuckleball he saw to the left-field corner of Yankee Stadium:
The home run sent the Yankees to their sixth World Series in eight years. Now that's something to get excited about.
7. Kirk Gibson off Dennis Eckersley, 1988 WS Game 1
Having injured both his legs in the NLCS, Gibson was not expected to appear in the World Series. However, with a man on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Tommy Lasorda sent Gibson to the plate as the winning run in a 4-3 game.
Fortunately for Gibson, the Dodgers and history, there was enough strength in his upper body to smack Eckersley's offering over the right-field fence:
If you'd prefer to hear Vin Scully's iconic call:
6. David Ortiz off Paul Quantrill, 2004 ALCS Game 4:
After an uncharacteristic blown save from Mariano Rivera, the Red Sox found themselves in extra innings with their season hanging in the balance. They had already lost the first three games of the ALCS and were in danger of extending their championship drought to 87 years.
In the bottom of the 12th inning, Ortiz came up in a 1-1 game and gave the Red Sox their first win on the way to a historic comeback in the ALCS and their first World Series title since 1918:
5. Chris Chambliss off Mark Littell, 1976 ALCS Game 5
In a back-and-forth series through the first four games, the Yankees and Royals found themselves tied entering the ninth inning of a decisive Game 5 after a three-run Royals rally in the eighth.
With All-Star first baseman Chris Chambliss leading off the bottom of the ninth, Yankee Stadium was pumped up and ready to go wild. When Chambliss hit the first pitch of the inning over the wall in right-center field to send the Yankees to the World Series, fans rushed the field. It was an adventurous trip around the bases for Chambliss:
For safety, Chambliss ran to the clubhouse before even reaching home plate. After the crowd dispersed, he was brought back out to touch home only to find that the plate had been stolen. So, he did the best he could under the circumstances: He touched the area home plate used to be.
Either way, the home run and the win counted. Unfortunately, it would be the Yankees' last win of 1976 as they were swept by the Big Red Machine in the World Series.
4. Kirby Puckett off Charlie Leibrandt, 1991 WS Game 6
After losing three straight games in Atlanta, the Twins needed to win Games 6 and 7 at home to earn the World Series title. Fast forward to the 11th inning of Game 6. The game was tied, 3-3, and neither team had scored since the seventh inning. No runners had even advanced past first base after Puckett stole second in the eighth inning.
Puckett led off the bottom of the 11th and quickly put an end to the pitching-and-defense battle:
The dinger forced a Game 7, which the Twins won, 1-0, on a walk-off single in the 10th inning.
3. Carlton Fisk off Pat Darcy, 1975 WS Game 6
Cincinnati was close to finishing off Boston in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, the Reds were up, 6-3. But then, pinch-hitter Bernie Carbo hit a three-run homer and tied it up. Just like that, the Sox were back in the game.
And they stayed in it for the ninth. And the tenth. Yes, the game went on into extras, and it wasn't until the bottom of the 12th that Carlton Fisk hit what at first appeared to be a long foul ball:
The image of Fisk waving the ball fair (successfully!) to force a Game 7 is one of the most indelible in Boston postseason history.
2. Bill Mazeroski off Ralph Terry, 1960 WS Game 7
Mazeroski's was and remains the only Game 7 walk-off home run in World Series history. The Pirates likely thought they had the game won after a five-run eighth inning gave them a two-run lead. The Yankees tied the game in the ninth with RBIs from Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle.
It went to the bottom of the 9th at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh tied, 9-9, with light-hitting second baseman Mazeroski leading off the inning. So, of course, he did this:
Some consider that Game 7 the greatest game in baseball history. With four lead changes, 19 total runs, zero strikeouts and the only Game 7 walk-off dinger in World Series history, it presents a strong case.
1. Joe Carter off Mitch Williams, 1993 WS Game 6
All the walk-offs we've considered thus far have come in tie ball games. While they were all great, only Carter's ninth inning home run against the Phillies in '93 both won his team a World Series and erased a deficit on the scoreboard.
Williams was two outs away from protecting a 6-5 lead and sending the 1993 World Series to a Game 7 when Joe Carter came to the plate with Rickey Henderson and Paul Molitor already aboard. Carter sent a 2-2 fastball from Williams over the left-field fence to win the Blue Jays their second consecutive World Series.
Carter "touched them all" 402 times in his career between the regular season and postseason, but no trip around the bases was bigger than this one that both avoided a Game 7 and won the World Series.