Blastoff in the Bronx: A Look at the Best Home Runs in Yankees History
“The Yankees can’t win it all just by hitting home runs. In October, when the weather is cold and the pitchers are elite, they’ll need to play small ball.” – Ken Davidoff in the New York Post (7-19-2012, ‘The Yankees, home runs and October’)
Well, Ken Davidoff, you were right in 2012 and you might be right this year, but I’m not worried about that right now. The Yankees are driving the ball out of the stadium at a record pace. And I like that.
Coming into the 2018 season, Yankees fans had yabos on their minds. With the acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton and the return of the young core, many were eager to see if these Bronx Bombers could surpass the team single-season home run record, held by the 1997 Seattle Mariners (top 6 can be seen below).
Despite an injury to Greg Bird and a few slow starts, the Yanks find themselves on top of the home run column. Didi Gregorius had one of the best months in recent memory. Austin “They Didn’t Even Know” Romine closed his stance and hits bombs now. Even the kids, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, are putting a dent in the home run category. Start adding up Judge’s and Stanton’s production, and the 1997 record seems within reach.
Currently, the Yankees sit at 103 long balls, which puts the team on pace for just a hair more than 278. With the lineup Aaron Boone gets to pencil in every night, it would be nothing less than a hot take to say the Yankees won’t grab the record this year. Is it a hot take to say it’s a hot take to not think that? Did that sentence make any sense?
|Toronto Blue Jays||257||2010|
|New York Yankees||245||2012|
Of course, the record seems very achievable this year. But it’s that old baseball adage, “it’s early,” and we really don’t know. Even though I’ve already got this record as a lock, let’s put it off to the side for a moment and talk about some past Yankees home run moments.
With a franchise as storied as this one, great home runs come aplenty. I’ve taken the liberty of assembling some of the best ones into a list I like to call “Bob’s Top 10 Yankees Home Run Moments.” Very clever, I know.
This list was way harder than I thought. There are plenty of 21st century dingers that are great, but what about the early 20th century? New York has been a stomping ground for sluggers for a long time. I really enjoyed researching the old teams and digging through box scores to find those franchise-defining moments. Sure, you might disagree with some of my decisions, but I tried to take into account the home run itself, who hit it, the moment in time, and what it meant going forward. Hopefully, you can at least agree with my thought process. If not, I don’t care.
With that being said, take a gander at the Top 10 Yankees home run leaders and then my Top 10 home runs list!
|Rank||Player||Yankee Dingers||Total Dingers|
Bob’s Top 10 New York Yankees Home Run Moments
10. 08-01-1932 Babe Ruth WS Game 3
Every little kid has stepped into an imaginary box in his (or her) backyard and pointed a wiffle ball bat out past the fence, just before pretending to crank a game-winning home run. Or maybe that was just me… Either way, everyone is familiar with this iconic motion.
The real thing, however, allegedly occurred during Game 3 of the 1932 World Series when Babe Ruth stepped up to the plate against Chicago Cubs’ pitcher Charlie Root. Cubs players had been heckling Ruth all game, and The Bambino was giving it right back at them. Legend says, Ruth pointed his bat at the centerfield bleachers on the second pitch of his 5th inning at-bat and proceeded to send the ball flying 440 feet into the Chicago sky. With film of the incident emerging in the 1990s, it is still unclear whether Ruth pointed at the Cubs’ bench, Root, or the bleachers. The folkloric allure of the incident is why it cracks my list, but is also why it only sits at number 10: we aren’t sure if it really happened.
9. 10-10-2012 Raul Ibanez ALDS Game 3
With an aging Alex Rodriguez struggling in the postseason, Joe Girardi made the move to pinch hit veteran and resident Voldemort look-alike Raul Ibanez in the bottom of the 9th with the Yankees down 2-1. On the second pitch of the at-bat, Ibanez took a knee-high fastball into the Yankee Stadium short porch, sending the game to extras.
The one solo shot was impressive enough, but Raooooool had grander plans. In the bottom of the 12th, he stepped to the plate again and wasted no time pulling the first pitch of the inning into the second deck of right field. With that walk off, the Yankees took a 2-1 lead in the series and would go on to advance to the ALCS.
8. 08-06-1952 Mickey Mantle WS Game 6
With the Yankees trailing the Dodgers 2-3 in this best of seven series, game 6 was the definition of a must-win for the defending World Series champions. Yogi Berra would tie the game at 1 in the 7th with a solo shot of his own, but it was Mantle’s 8th inning blast that would solidify the Yanks 3-2 victory as the Dodgers would hit a solo homer of their own in the bottom of the 8th. Of course, the Yankees would go on to win the series 4 game to 3.
In the moment, Mantle’s home run may not have been #8 all-time on a Yankees home run list – it wasn’t even a walk-off or game-tier – but its future significance is what makes it so memorable. Not only did it help the Yankees win their 15th World Series Championship, it was the first of his still MLB record 18 World Series home runs. Mantle would hit his final World Series home run in 1964.
7. 11-01-2001 Scott Brosius WS Game 5
If the 2001 World Series stood for anything, it was that a simple game can be powerful. If you believe in fate, the fact a New York team hosted part of the fall classic was a testament to that. If not, then it certainly was a much-needed coincidence. Although the Yankees fell to the Arizona Diamondbacks in seven games, the series provided myriad memorable moments.
One of those was Scott Brosius’ game 5, 9th inning game-tier against Byung-hyun Kim. After Jorge Posada began the inning with a double, it looked to be all for not as the next two batters recorded outs. But surely the powers that be would not let the Yankees lose at home this World Series; not after all the city had gone through. In this case, that power came from the swing of the Yankees’ third baseman who scraped a 1-0 pitch over the left field fence, sending the game to extra innings. Eventually, Alfonso Soriano drove in Chuck Knoblauch in the 12th inning to take a 3-2 series lead back to the desert. We don’t have to talk about what happened next…
6. 07-09-2011 Derek Jeter 3,000th hit
The 2011 season ended up a bit of a dud for the Yanks, losing 2 games to 3 to the Tigers after finishing with the best record in the American League. Thankfully, the Captain provided a memory for a lifetime.
After an injury delayed Derek Jeter’s much anticipated 3,000th hit, the 5-time World Series champion returned for a shot at history. In the third inning of a home game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Derek Jeter showed a flair for the dramatic, launching a game-tying solo shot to left field off none other than David Price. Jeter became only the second player in MLB history to hit a round-tripper for number 3,000.
(Wade Boggs did it in 1999 as a member of the Devil Rays, and Alex Rodriguez became the third to do so in 2015).
5. 1961 season Mickey Mantle & Roger Maris
We all know how this goes. Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, the M&M Boys, battled it out to surpass the 34 year old record for most single season homers held by Babe Ruth. Eventually, Roger Maris would do so on October 1st, the final game of the season.
That day, Yankee Stadium ushered in only 23,154 people. MLB commissioner Ford Frick decided that for a new home run record to stand, a player would need to accomplish the feat in 154 games – the amount played during Ruth’s time. This, along with the Yankees’ reluctance to highlight the event, are often cited as reasons for the low attendance numbers.
Like number 10 on this list, the story surrounding the event garners more interest than the actual feat. The 1961 home run race has more myths than realities. I encourage you to read Eleanor Barkhorn’s article from The Atlantic where she addresses the six most popular myths.
4. 08-02-1978 Bucky Dent AL East Tiebreaker Game
The 1978 season saw the Yankees and Boston Red Sox finish the season with identical 99-63 records. Therefore, a tiebreaker game was played for the first time in the American League since 1948. After winning a coin toss, Boston would be the home team.
The game pitted “Louisiana Lightning” Ron Guidry against Mike Torrez, who had lost six consecutive games coming in to the tiebreaker. The Yanks were down 0-2 heading into the 7th inning, but 9 hitter and perennial powerless hitter, Bucky Dent, drove a ball over the Green Monster. The Yankees took a 3-2 lead and never looked back, eventually winning the game 5-4. Dent would go on to have a fabulous postseason, garnering World Series MVP honors and a less than prodigious nickname from Red Sox fans. Always a class bunch.
3. 08-18-1977 Reggie Jackson WS Game 6
After getting swept in the 1976 World Series, George Steinbrenner, in what would become a typical Steinbrenner move, went after Reginald Martinez Jackson only a month later. During the 70s, Jackson was the face of sports the same way (trigger warning) LeBron James is now. New York was a perfect match for the high profile slugger. Although his inaugural season in pinstripes was a rocky one, just ask Billy Martin (RIP), it all worked out in the end.
Up 3 games to 2 and heading back to the Bronx, the Yankees were in prime position to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers. In case those pesky left-coasters had any ideas of stealing the series, Jackson made sure those plans never came to fruition. After drawing a walk in his first plate appearance, Mr. October proceeded to catapult three consecutive home runs, on three pitches, against three pitchers. This performance, along with his entire World Series, helped solidify the Yankees’ 21st World Series championship.
2. 08-31-2001 Derek Jeter WS Game 4
“How do these fans come up with signs? There’s a fan who has a sign. You know what the sign says? Mr. November.” Oh John Sterling, you didn’t even know.
I talked about the background of the 2001 World Series a bit with number 7 on this list, so I won’t get into that again. The game was another classic. The Yankees were able to tie it up late and force extras, which also brought about the month of November when the clock struck midnight. Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly decided to leave Byung-Hyun Kim in for the 10th inning after already working two. He retired Scott Brosius and Alfonso Soriano, leaving it up to Derek Jeter.
Jeter went down 2 strikes right away but battled back to 3-2, hoping Kim would leave a mistake over the plate. And that he did. The captain propelled a pitch over the right-field wall, sending Yankee Stadium into a frenzy. Like the man in the stands’ sign said, Derek Jeter became Mr. November.
1. 07-23-2014 Chase Headley Walk off in 14th inning
1. 10-16-2003 Aaron Boone ALCS Game 7
When I mentioned earlier this list was difficult to make, this is what I meant. Lots of you are probably upset I don’t have the Mr. November home run as number 1. The captain! How!? Well, in case you forgot, we lost that World Series. If we won, it’s not even a question. Instead, I have the Boone blast.
Sure, we lost this World Series as well, but we wouldn’t have had a chance without Boonie’s presence. Additionally, he did it against the Red Sox and Tim Wakefield. I can’t stand Wakefield and that stupid knuckleball.
This home run is a great story but became even better when Aaron Boone was named the skipper for this season. You’ve got to wonder, if he didn’t hit that 11th inning walk-off would Brian Cashman even have interviewed Aaron Boone?
Follow on Twitter: @RobRosene
Credit @Jomboy_ for the videos.
**Stats and box scores from ESPN and Baseball Reference
04-18-1923 Babe Ruth First game in Yankee Stadium
1927 season Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, & company “Murderers Row”
08-09-1928 Babe Ruth WS Game 4
08-09-1937 Lou Gehrig WS Game 4
08-9-1939 Charlie “King Kong” Keller WS Game 3
08-23-1996 Jim Leyritz WS Game 4
08-20-1998 Scott Brosius WS Game 3
10-21-2001 Alfonso Soriano ALCS Game 4
10-31-2001 Tino Martinez WS Game 4
05-17-2002 Jason Giambi Walk off Grand Slam
10-09-2009 Alex Rodriguez & Mark Teixeira ALDS Game 2
07-11-2011 Robinson Cano Home Run Derby
08-25-2011 Robinson Cano, Russell Martin, & Curtis Granderson Three Grand Slams
08-08-2017 Greg Bird ALDS Game 3
2017 season: Aaron Judge