Congratulations to Harold Baines. That’s not for his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame, but rather his election to the Walk-Off Hall of Fame. Voting was done by a committee of one (me). To quote former NBA commissioner David Stern “It was a unanimous vote. One-zero.”
I know this was a controversial choice. There were certainly many worthy potential inductees, some of whom will likely be boosted by this selection in the future. I do feel that Baines is Walk-Off Hall-worthy.
The keynote to Baines’ election is the 25th-inning walk-off home run he hit for the White Sox against the Brewers on May 9, 1984. Baines’ current memory of that game, which was played over two days (it was suspended in the 18th inning) is foggy, per news reports from a few years ago, but to clear it up The game was tied 1-1 after 8. The Brewers scored two in the top of the ninth and the White Sox responded with two to tie it.
Neither team scored again until the Brewers tallied three runs in the top of the 21st. But the White Sox scored three of their own. Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk drove in the first one and Tom Paciorek drove in the other two.
After Hall-of-Famer Tom Seaver pitched a scoreless top of the 25th (not a misprint), Baines crushed a Chuck Porter pitch to straightaway centerfield, well over the fence for a game-winning home run. It concluded a game that lasted eight hours and six minutes, the longest by time in MLB history. The Baines home run was emblematic of his season. He hit a career-high 29 home runs that year and led the AL with a .541 slugging percentage.
If you want to see video highlights of the game, click here.
What else is noteworthy about Baines from a walk-off perspective?
– Baines had eight walk-off home runs for the White Sox, the most by anyone on the team in the time for which Baseball-Reference has complete data (dating to 1925) and presumably the most in franchise history. Joe Crede and Robin Ventura rank second with five. Hall-of-Famer Frank Thomas is well behind with three.
– He is the most recent player to hit two walk-off home runs in a season against the Yankees. He did it in 1996, both of John Wetteland, a year the Yankees won the World Series.
– His last of 18 walk-off RBI was a grand slam for the Orioles against his former team, the White Sox, as a 40-year-old in 1999. He tripled in a run as part of a rally to tie in the ninth (his first triple since the 1995 season), than hit the home run to win in the 10th.
– His first of 10 career walk-off home runs came as a rookie against a Hall-of-Famer, Ferguson Jenkins of the Rangers in 1980. It was described as a front-row shot by the Chicago Tribune. Said Baines afterwards: “I didn’t feel any excitement. I’m just not an emotional person.”
Here’s hoping he had a better reaction to Sunday’s news.