Chris Chambliss is best known for his home run that won the Yankees a pennant in 1976. But it turns out that Chambliss had a great flair for the dramatic beyond that game.
Chambliss had three instances in which he hit a walk-off home run with his team trailing, including one earlier in the 1976 season against the Red Sox.
These Red Sox were not a threat to the eventual AL champion Yankees, but it’s fun to reminisce regardless. The game of note was on July 25, 1976. Don Zimmer had just taken over as Red Sox skipper and his team was in a bit of a funk. A disastrous 14-game road trip ended in New York.
The day started well for the Red Sox. They led 5-0, but frittered it away. Still, they had a 5-3 edge with two on and two outs in the ninth inning. Zimmer called on lefty Tom House (best known for catching Hank Aaron’s 715th home run) to pitch to the left-handed hitting Chambliss. House had the edge here – Chambliss was 0-for-8 in his career against House. Not for long.
House threw one pitch and Chambliss hit it over the wall for a game-winning three-run home run.
“I told (House) to pitch him tough,” Zimmer said. “If that’s pitching him tough, than I don’t know what tough is.”
The next of these walk-off home runs came the next season against the White Sox. The Yankees entered the day 4 ½ games out of first place with 46 to play, so wins were necessary to catch both the first-place Red Sox and second-place Orioles.
This was a bonkers baseball game. The Yankees led 9-4 in the ninth inning, but Ron Guidry, Sparky Lyle and Ken Clay combined to blow the lead, allowing six runs, with the go-ahead hit being Oscar Gamble’s two-run single.
Trailing 10-9, a leadoff walk to Thurman Munson proved costly for the White Sox. Two batters later, Chambliss hit a walk-off home run off rookie Randy Wiles. If you’ve never heard of Wiles, that’s not surprising. He pitched in five MLB games. This one was his last.
Speaking of last, the last of the three home runs in our story is a cool one. It came in an otherwise nondescript season for the Braves against the Padres on August 13, 1986.
The Braves trailed 7-4 in the bottom of the ninth inning. With two men on and one out, Padres Hall-of-Fame closer Rich Gossage struck out the Braves best hitter, Dale Murphy. But Ken Griffey Sr. followed with an RBI single. The game came down to Gossage versus Chambliss. It ended in Chambliss’ favor with a walk-off home run against a high fastball.
“Isn’t that great?” said Braves manager Chuck Tanner afterwards.
It was great beyond just that moment.
It was the last home run of Chambliss’ career.
Not a bad way to go out.