In baseball, a walk-off home run occurs when a home run ends the game. When a team scores a run that gives them the lead in the bottom of the inning, the game will end as a “walk-off.” Because the home team always bats in the bottom of the inning, only the home team can hit a walk-off shot.
Why Is It Called a Walk-Off Home Run?
The term is called a “walk-off home run” because the opposing team walks off the field immediately following the home run, while the winning team celebrates. The game doesn’t go on any longer and they will not finish the inning if the home team takes the lead in the bottom of the ninth.
For a walk-off home run to be legal, all winning runs must still be scored at home plate. A walk-off is also referred to by sportscasters as a walk-off double, walk-off wild pitch, walk-off balk, or some other variation of the term walk-off with the type of drive that ended the game.
History of the Term Walk-Off Home Run
The term was first coined in 1988. Pitcher Dennis Eckersley used the term “walk-off piece” after giving up a dramatic walk-off home run to a limping Kirk Gibson in the World Series. Eckersley originally used the term with a negative undertone, referring to the pitcher walking off the field in shame. The term gained widespread popularity in the late 1990s and the early 2000s.
Walk-Off Home Run Statistics and Fun Facts
There have been more than 250 walk-off grand slams recorded by MLB since 1916. There have been 29 instances in MLB history where a player has hit a walk-off grand slam that erased a three-run deficit. All 29 instances have occurred during the regular season. 15 of those instances occurred with two outs. Scoring a walk-off grand slam while erasing a three-run deficit with two outs is often referred to as the ultimate grand slam.
Jim Thome was one of baseball’s greatest power hitters. Thome currently holds the record for the most walk-off home runs with 13 walk-off homers throughout his 22-year career.
The record for most walk-off home runs by all teams in a single year occurred in 2018 with 98 total walk-off homers by all teams combined.
Famous Walk-Off Homers
Walk-off home runs are not that common so when they occur it is usually in spectacular fashion. They often result in the home team celebrating and meeting the runner at home plate. The most famous walk-off home runs often revolve around controversy or memorable victories:
- “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World” refers to the famous walk-off home run hit by Bobby Thomson of the New York Giants in the 1951 playoffs against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
- Bill Mazeroski of the Pittsburgh Pirates hit a tie-breaking walk-off home run in game 7 of the 1960 World Series against the New York Yankees.
- In game 6 of the 1975 World Series, Carlton Fisk of the Boson Red Sox hit a walk-off in the 12th inning. This homer was featured in a scene from the movie “Good Will Hunting“.
- The 1993 World Series ended in a 3-run walk-off homer, hit by Joe Carter of the Toronto Blue jays, giving them their second straight championship.
Walk-off home runs are cherished treasures in baseball and always make the game more exciting. If you have seen one in person, consider yourself lucky to have experienced one of the greatest moments in all of baseball.