The Top Ten home runs of all time
Some baseball fans will tell you that the most exciting play in the game is the triple.
I can see the logic. It is, indeed, electrifying to watch a player charge around the base paths, making that turn past second base as the crowd noise swells to a crescendo.
"He's trying for three!"
The ball is retrieved from the outfield, and relayed into the infield. Will there be a play at third base?
Yeah, I can see where that's exciting. No doubt.
But you ever hear bar room debates that start with, "What's the most exciting triple of all time?" Or, "What triple most impacted baseball history?"
The home run is, and always will be, the king of all baseball plays. The homer reigns supreme, because with one swing of a bat, an entire game, an entire series, and in some cases, an entire generation can be defined.
So without further ado, here are the ten greatest swats in MLB history, ranked from No. 10 to No. 1.
For the record, the criteria used included the home run's place in history, its drama, its back story, and the power of its memory, for one reason or another.
#10: Babe Ruth's "called shot", 1932 World Series
It's been immortalized in a painting. It's been talked about for generations. Grainy film exists of it, but even that doesn't really confirm what happened that October day in 1932.
It's a home run shrowded in mystery. Which is why it makes the list.
What we do know is this: Babe Ruth came to the plate in the fifth inning of Game Three of the '32 World Series in Chicago against the Cubs' Charlie Root. Films confirm Ruth making some sort of gesture, first toward the Cubs' dugout, then to pitcher Root. Reports were that the Cubs' "bench jockeys" were riding Ruth pretty good, and his gesture to them was because of it.
The count went to 2-2, with Ruth holding up one finger after the first called strike, then two fingers after the second. What happened next will be discussed forever, without any reconciliation.
Ruth can be seen on the films pointing, either toward Root or to center field. Eyewitnesses have claimed it could have been either one.
On the next pitch, the Babe swung mightily and drove the ball some 450 feet to straightaway center for a home run. As he circled the bases, Ruth can be seen on film jawing at the Cubs bench and making more gestures.
The "called shot" would be Ruth's final World Series hit.
#9 : Ruth's last three homers of his career, 1935
These are bunched together as one, for purposes of this list.
In 1935, approaching his 40th birthday, Ruth was duped into signing with the Boston Braves, with the promise from owner Emil Fuchs that Ruth would be a vice president, share in the team's profits, and become the team's manager after his playing days were done.
It was a lie--something to convince Ruth to sign on, strictly for box office reasons.
Realizing early in the season that he'd been victimized, and with his body aching, Ruth decided to retire, leaving the Braves high and dry.
But not before he had one last moment of glory.
On May 25, in Pittsburgh, Ruth hit three home runs in three consecutive at-bats, all convincingly. One of them landed over the right field roof at Forbes Field--the first time that had ever occurred.
About a week later, Ruth retired after hurting his knee.
#8: Chris Chambliss's walk-off in the 1976 ALCS
From 1976-78, the Yankees terrorized the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS. The first of these three series victories was made possible by a walk-off home run off the bat of one of the Yankees' quietest players.
In the deciding Game Five, in the bottom of the ninth at the newly-remodeled Yankee Stadium, first baseman Chris Chambliss came up against Royals righty Mark Littell.
The Royals had scored three times in the eighth inning to tie the game, 6-6.
Chambliss led off the ninth and moments later was fighting through a mob on the diamond as he tried to touch all the bases--and home plate. He took his batting helmet off and made like a fullback, plowing Yankees fans over on his way to making his walk-off home run official.
It would be the Yankees' last post-season win of '76, however. The Reds swept them in the World Series.
#7: Ted Williams' last at-bat, 1960
Williams had announced that 1960 would be his final season, so when he stepped to the plate in the season finale on September 28 in the bottom of the eighth inning with the Red Sox trailing, 4-2, the prospects of it being his last at-bat were very high.
Digging in against the Orioles' Jack Fisher, Williams gave the Fenway Faithful one last thrill.
Teddy Ballgame rocketed Fisher's offering deep into the right field seats. The crowd stood and cheered, loud and long.
Williams did his turn around the bases, but headed straight for the dugout, without even a glance in the fans' direction. Ted's relationship with the fans and the Boston media were, at times, strained.
After Williams' apparent dissing of the Fenway fans, a sportswriter summed it all up famously.
"Gods," he wrote of Williams, "don't answer letters."
A side note: Williams was 42 when he hit the home run, literally twice the age of Fisher, who was 21 when he served it up.
#6: Joe Carter's World Series winner off Mitch Williams, 1993
In 1992, the Toronto Blue Jays became the first non-U.S. team to win the World Series.
In '93, they were back for another title.
In Game Six, in Toronto, Carter came up against Phillies closer Mitch Williams in the ninth inning. The Phillies were nursing a 6-5 lead. With one out and two runners on base, Carter drilled Williams' pitch down the left field line, a laser that was a "no doubter" as soon as it left the bat.
Blue Jays win, 8-6, becoming back-to-back world champs.
#5: Bill Mazeroski wins the 1960 World Series
The 1960 Series was one of the strangest ever played.
The Pirates beat the Yankees in seven games, but not without some statistical oddities.
For the series, the Yankees outscored the Pirates, 55-27.
The Yanks' wins were mostly routs, while the Pirates won the close games. Like Game Seven.
The Yankees battled back from an early 4-0 deficit to take the lead, but found themselves trailing 9-7 heading into the ninth inning. A two-run uprising tied the game.
Pirates second baseman Mazeroski led off the Bucs' ninth against Ralph Terry.
With one swing of the bat, Maz sent everyone home giddy, smacking a home run and winning the Series for the Pirates.
The mighty Yankees had been cut down to size, despite their fearsome offensive display in the World Series.
#4: Mark McGwire's 70th homer of the 1998 season
The Cardinals' McGwire broke Roger Maris's single season home run record on September 8 with his 62nd dinger. Then the focus was on whether McGwire could reach the previously-unheard of number of 70.
With three days left in the season and McGwire still needing five homers for 70, it didn't look good.
Then McGwire, in the final series against the Expos in St. Louis, went on a mini-binge.
McGwire got his five homers--one on Friday, and two each on Saturday and Sunday.
No. 70 came in the seventh inning on Sunday, against righty Carl Pavano.
Leapfrogging Maris was a milestone, but McGwire became the first to reach the 70 homer plateau.
The feat has been tainted, in some people's eyes, by McGwire using steroids. But 70 is 70, and he was the first to do it--and always will be.
#3: Barry Bonds passes Hammerin' Hank, 2007
The modern all-time home run record had only changed hands twice prior to Barry Bonds' arrival: when Hank Aaron surpassed Babe Ruth in 1974, some 39 years after Ruth's last homer--and when Ruth himself became the king.
On August 7, 2007, Bonds stood in against someone named Mike Bacsik of the Washington Nationals. With flash bulbs popping and TV cameras beaming everything around the world, live, Bonds uncorked his famous uppercut swing and lofted a moonshot deep into the San Francisco night.
It was done. Aaron's 755 was passed. No. 756 landed in the seats.
The record, of course, has been awash in controversy, as a result of steroid allegations and use.
Still, it was an amazing moment in baseball history.
Curiously, the unknown Bacsik's career lasted four days longer than Bonds'. Bacsik's last big league game was September 30, 2007. Bonds' was September 26.
#2 Roger Maris and his "asterisk" homer, 1961
If Maris's pursuit of Babe Ruth's single-season home run record had occurred nowadays, the poor Yankees rightfielder may have drowned himself in the Hudson River.
Maris detested the media "blitz" that followed him during the 1961 season, but that pales in comparison to what it would have been like in today's times.
For most of the season, it was unclear who would have the best shot at eclipsing Ruth's 60 home run mark: Maris or teammate Mickey Mantle.
But Mantle faltered slightly, while Maris never really slumped.
Soon it was evident: Maris would be the one to break the record, if it was going to happen in '61.
Then Commissioner Ford Frick, a known ally of Ruth's, stepped in.
Frick declared, late in the season, that the only "real" way any player could be the new single-season king would be to hit 61 homers within 154 games, which was the length of the season in Ruth's day.
To that, Maris famously asked, "OK, but which 154 games?"
Frick indicated that if Maris was to hit No. 61 beyond 154 games, it would be "noted" somehow in the record books. Contrary to popular belief, Frick never used the word asterisk. But that's how it was, indeed, "noted."
Maris, sadly, was a tormented man during his assault on Ruth's record. He couldn't sleep. His hair started falling out. Baseball purists disliked him, simply because he was about to unseat the iconic Ruth. The media pestered him relentlessly.
After he finally smacked No. 61, on October 1st in the season finale at Yankee Stadium, Maris was forced by teammates to pop his head out of the dugout and tip his cap to the Yankees' fans. It was a fitting end to a journey fraught with angst.
#1: Hank Aaron becomes the new home run king, 1974
This lands on top of the heap because of its historical and societal significance.
There was a racial slant, which served to magnify how much progress we as a country still needed to make in terms of civil rights and race relations.
Aaron's life was threatened. His daughter needed police protection because of kidnapping threats. He received hate mail teeming with racial slurs.
Unlike Maris, the media was the least of Aaron's concerns. It was the wackiness and mental instability of certain blocs of the American people.
What made matters worse for Aaron was that he ended the 1973 season one home run shy of tying Ruth's 714 career dingers. So everyone had all winter to bother him.
Thankfully for him, though, Aaron didn't waste any time in 1974. He tied the record on Opening Day in Cincinnati, and broke it in the Braves' home opener, on national TV.
The pitcher was lefty Al Downing of the Dodgers. Coincidentally, Downing was in the Yankees' dugout as a 20-year-old rookie when Maris broke Ruth's single-season record.
In the fourth inning on April 8, 1974, on Monday Night Baseball, Aaron passed The Babe. As he rounded third base, he was joined in his trot by some zealous Braves fans. Aaron would later say that when he first saw them, he was afraid they were there to do him physical harm.
What Hank Aaron had to go through, which was at the same time a sad commentary on American society, makes his feat all the more significant.
And it makes it No. 1 on this list.