Ordoñez One of Few To Hit a Walk-Off Home Run To Win the Pennant

There’s some debate about who coined the phrase “Walk-off homer.” My money is on Dennis Eckersley, the clever-tongued, colorful former pitcher who now earns a paycheck as a television broadcaster for the Red Sox.

It was Eckersley who pinpointed the sadness of the event, the other side of the game-winning, game-ending home run. That’s the walk the losing team has to make off the field in shame and sorrow. 

Some shame and sorrow, however, is worse than others.

Eckersley knew a little something about a walkoff: in Game One of the 1988 World Series he was victimized by former Tiger Kirk Gibson.

A walk-off homer in May is not the same as one during a pennant race in September. A walk-off homer doesn’t make the pitcher feel as bad when it comes during a Tuesday night game in August in Seattle between a fifth place and third place team, as when it comes in the playoffs. 

There have been many walk-off homers in baseball history (reportedly Jim Thome holds the MLB record with 13). There have even been two that ended a World Series (Bill Mazeroski in Game Seven of the 1960 Series, and Joe Carter in Game Seven in 1993).

But while World Series-winning walk-off homers are amazing, it seems more dramatic somehow when a batter hits a ball over the fence that ends an entire regular season chase for the flag.

In the history of the big leagues only seven times has a player hit a home run that ended the pennant race. You probably remember some of these.

Batters Who Hit a Walkoff Home Run To Win the Pennant

Bobby ThomsonGiantsOct 3, 1951Game 3 of Playoff, 3-run HRRalph Branca
Hank AaronBravesSep 23, 1957Regular season, 2-run HR in 11thBilly Muffett
Chris ChamblissYankeesOct 14, 1976Game 5 ALCS, first pitch solo HRMark Littell
Aaron BooneYankeesOct 16, 2003Game 7 of ALCS, solo HR in 11thTim Wakefield
Magglio OrdoñezTigersOct 14, 2006Game 4 of ALCS, 3-run HRHuston Street
Travis IshikawaGiantsOct 16, 2014Game 5 of NLCS, 3-run HRMichael Wacha
Jose AltuveAstrosOct 19, 2019Game 6 of ALCS, 2-run HRAroldis Chapman

Only the Thomson walk-off changed the lead, the Giants were trailing 4-2 when he hit his homer at the Polo Grounds.