noun: A homerun that the ends the game.
variances: Walk-off hit, Walk-off error, walk-off walk
I’ll say this from the get-go… it took me a while to get used to the term ‘walk-off homerun’. I didn’t ring right with me when I started hearing it. It had a media-driven “buzzword” feel to it that left a bad taste in my mouth when I said it.
That all said, I’m surprised that it took baseball fans as long as they did to come up with an apt term for one of the most exciting events in a baseball game. The term didn’t gain popularity until around mid 90’s to 2000. We’ve had the more vague term ‘game winning homerun’ but of course that encompasses so much more. A game winning homerun, for example. can take place in the 8th inning. ‘Walk-off’ means simply that. You hit the homer and you walk off.
Interestingly, one of the known origins of the term comes from the perspective of the batter and his happy teammates but from the pitcher who gave up the homerun. San Francisco Chronicle writer Lowell Cohn wrote an article describing Oakland reliever Dennis Eckersley’s notations about homers. He wrote:
“For a translation, I go in search of Eckersley. I also want to know why he calls short home runs ‘street pieces,’ and home runs that come in the last at-bat of a game ‘walkoff pieces’. . . .”
Yes, the pitcher has to walk off too, I suppose.
Famous Walk-off Homeruns
Most baseball history buffs are familiar with one the most famous walk-off homerun of all time (though it wasn’t billed as such). I’m talking about Bill Mazeroski’s homerun at Forbes Field that clinched the World Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960 against the Yankees. Here is the boxscore for Game 7 of 1960. Do a Google search on “Greatest Homerun” and I’ll bet Maz’ homerun will show up #1.
Other Walk-off Homeruns of note
- Bobby Thomson’s homer in the Dodgers-Giant’s 1951 NL tie-breaker.
- Carlton Fisk’s famous homerun to tie the World Series against the Reds in 1975.
- LA Dodger Kirk Gibson’s fist-pumping homerun against the A’s in 1988 (I remember Tommy Lasorda jumping up and down quite distinctly).
For those interested, Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of walk-off homeruns in postseason play.
Leaders in Walk-off Homeruns
Baseball Reference has done some fancy stat work and figured out who the career leaders in walk-off homers are. These stats reflect figures since 1950:
|Player||Career Walk-off HR|
Other uses of “Walk off”
As noted above, “Walk-off” can be attributed to pretty much any offensive statistic that can score a run and therefore win a game. Sports journalists and broadcasters are known to use the term with hit, walk, hit by pitch, even steal. Case in point, this video was trending a few weeks ago: High school ball player executes the super rare walk-off steal thanks to some fancy footwork.
Yes, I suppose I’ve gotten used to the term.