Weird, wild walkoffs

Almost nothing beats a game-ending home run in the ninth, expect those rare finishes that come from nowhere.

Updated: September 23, 2003, 11:18 AM ET
By Mark Simon | ESPN Research

If you're a regular viewer of Baseball Tonight, you probably have heard Tim Kurkjian say "The best thing about baseball is that you never know when you'll see something that has never happened before."

Earlier in September, when the Twins scored both the tying and winning runs with two outs in the ninth inning, after a collision between Dustan Mohr and Angels catcher Bengie Molina turned a game-ending out into an improbable Twins' 6-5 victory.

Earlier this year we went in search of similar such unique game-ending plays. Forget Robin Ventura's grand-slam single, Bill Buckner's error, or Ken Griffey Jr.'s inside-the-park home run. They weren't unusual enough to make our list. With the help of Retrosheet's David Smith, several members of the Society for American Baseball Research, and various ESPN staff members, here are a few of our favorites.

The walkoff steal of home
It has been nearly 21 years since the last walkoff straight steal of home, which came from a backup catcher. The Cardinals and Giants were locked in a 4-4 tie in the 12th inning on Aug. 22, 1982 and had the bases loaded with two outs and a 2-2 count on David Green when Glenn Brummer decided to give it a go against Giants pitcher Gary Lavelle, beating the throw with a head-first slide. The Giants argued that the steal should not have counted, because the pitch appeared to be strike three, but was called a ball. Brummer, whose career spanned an undistinguished 178 games, admitted in a newspaper interview, years later, that the pitch was right down the middle.

A couple of other steal-of-home walkoff notes, courtesy of David Smith.

  • The last two players prior to Brummer to win games via the walkoff steal of home were Hall of Famers George Brett for Kansas City (Aug. 17, 1976 vs. Cleveland) and Eddie Murray with the Orioles (Aug. 15, 1979 vs. Chicago on the front end of a double steal).

  • The walkoff steal of home played a big role in the collapse of the 1964 Phillies, who blew a 6½-game lead with 12 games to play. On Sept. 19, the Phillies lost in 16 innings to the Dodgers on a walkoff steal of home by Willie Davis. Amazingly, in a four-day span, the Phillies allowed three steals of home, two of which cost them potential wins. The most famous one occurred a few days prior when Reds utility man Chico Ruiz stole home in the sixth inning to win a game 1-0 in Philadelphia.

    The walkoff pebble-shot
    The 1924 World Series came down to a decisive seventh game between the Washington Senators and the New York Giants. The Giants led 3-1 in the eighth inning, but the Senators rallied to tie on a two-run bad-hop base hit by Bucky Harris past rookie third baseman Fred Lindstrom. With Hall of Famer Walter Johnson emerging from the bullpen on a day's rest to toss four scoreless innings, neither team scored again until the last of the 12th. The Senators took advantage of a pair of Giants errors to put runner on first and second with one out. Earl McNeeley followed with another grounder to third. Legend has it that the ball struck a pebble (perhaps the same one that caused the bad hop in the eighth inning) and skipped over Lindstrom's head for a game-winning double. Lindstrom, who was only 18 at the time, emerged from the game unscarred, and went on to become a Hall of Famer as well.

    The walkoff intentional walk gone awry
    On May 28, 1993, the Twins and Indians were even, 6-6, heading into the last of the ninth. With runners on second and third and nobody out, Cleveland decided to intentionally walk Kirby Puckett. But Eric Plunk's first pitch got past catcher Lance Parrish for a passed ball, enabling the winning run to cross the plate.

    The walkoff throwaway
    On May 18, 1986, the Red Sox trailed the Rangers 5-4 in the last of the 10th with Steve Lyons on second, one out, and Marty Barrett up against Greg Harris. Barrett hit a line drive to right field that George Wright dove for, and trapped. Lyons, unsure whether the ball was caught, rushed back to second base, sliding into the bag as Barrett came in standing up. Meanwhile, Wright started to run the ball into the infield, as Lyons made a dash for third. Wright finally threw the ball, which skipped past third baseman Steve Buechele and Harris into the Texas dugout. By rule, both Barrett and Lyons were awarded home plate and the Red Sox had an unusual 6-5 win.

    As if that wasn't enough, the next night, the Red Sox trailed the Twins 7-6 in the last of the ninth. Two walks sandwiched around a double loaded the bases for Jim Rice, who also walked to tie the game. This brought up backup catcher Marc Sullivan, who had all of 94 career at-bats to that point. Twins reliever Ron Davis plunked Sullivan with his second pitch, bringing in the winning run.

    The walkoff balk
    Perhaps this was a foreshadowing for the great playoff series for the Red Sox and Angels in 1986. On July 10, the Angels led the Red Sox 7-4 with two outs in the bottom of the 12th inning, but Boston staged a remarkable rally, tying the score against Mike Cook and Todd Fischer (after Rick Burleson's error extended the inning), then winning when Fischer balked in the winning run.

    The walkoff 'lookout!'
    On June 1, 1991, the St. Louis Cardinals picked up a wacky win against the New York Mets. Tied at five with a runner on third and two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning, Milt Thompson hit a broken-bat ground ball to first base. Mets first baseman Dave Magadan had to duck out of the way of the shattered wood, and could only watch helplessly as the ball slipped through along the same path.

    The walkoff strikeout
    On Aug. 15, 1970, the Mets led the Braves, 2-1 with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning. Tom Seaver struck out catcher Bob Tillman, but the pitch got past Jerry Grote for a passed ball. The tying run crossed the plate and the winning run followed when Grote made an errant throw home after retrieving the ball.

    The walkoff rule violation
    On Aug. 12, 1995, the Pirates and Dodgers played a wild game in Los Angeles that featured one of the most bizarre endings in major-league history. The winning run crossed the plate when, with a runner on third base, a pitch got away from Pirates catcher Angelo Encarnacion, who broke a little-known rule by illegally scooping the ball out of the dirt with his mask. The violation resulted in the runner on third being awarded home plate, and the Dodgers had an odd 11-10 win.

    The walkoff fall-down
    The Cubs picked up a bizarre 5-4 win over the Colorado Rockies on Aug. 7, 2001, due partly to inept baserunning by Ricky Gutierrez, who with the score tied in the last of the ninth, fell down rounding third base after a Joe Girardi base hit. As a result, Girardi got caught between first and second, not realizing that the runner on second was stuck there. Girardi kept himself alive in the rundown long enough, so that Gutierrez was able to get back up and race for the plate. Girardi finally got tagged out, but Gutierrez beat Gabe White's throw to the plate, going from goat to hero in a matter of moments.

    Mark Simon is a researcher for ESPN's Major League Baseball broadcasts. He can be contacted at Mark.A.Simon@espn.com