If I asked you who hit the most home runs of the 1960s, you’d probably guess from among Harmon Killebrew, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson and Willie McCovey. Those are the top five in that stat for that decade.
Now, if I asked you who hit the most walk-off home runs of the 1960s, and you responded with those names, I’d laugh. Because the answer is a player you’ve probably not heard of, unless you’re a highly-sophisticated baseball fan. I hadn’t even heard of him.
I’m referring to former outfielder Don Lock, whose 921-game major league career spanned 1962 to 1969 with the Senators, Phillies, and Red Sox. In that time, he hit only .238, but he was a useful hitter, who tallied 122 home runs, including six walk-offs.
|Most Walk-Off Home Runs – 1960s|
Lock came up through the Yankees farm system, but had the misfortune of being traded by them to the Senators during the 1962 pennant race. The benefit was playing time the next season. The down side was that Lock was on some mediocre baseball teams.
Lock hit 27 home runs for the 1963 Senators, who finished 56-106 and 28 for the 1964 Senators, who were a little better at 62-100. His SABR bio describes his huge home run swing, which produced its share of long balls. Lock hit two walk-off home runs in 1963, two more in 1964 and two in 1966, a season in which the Senators went 71-88, which was a little better, but still rendered them a second-division team.
Lock’s first walk-off was a fun one. It came on May 8, 1963 in an epic game with the Indians. The epic nature was in the form of a pitcher’s duel between two you probably don’t know – Jack Kralick for the Indians and Don Rudolph for the Senators.
Rudolph was the better of the two through most of the night, but only by a little bit. In the first 12 innings, he allowed a total of one hit, and had a stretch in which he retired 25 straight Indians hitters. Kralick was no slouch, allowing one run through 12 frames.
In the unlucky 13th, Rudolph wilted, allowing two runs (for those curious, produced by a triple from John Romano and a single by Vic Davalillo). But after Romano’s hit, Indians manager Birdie Tebbetts pinch-hit for Kralick, a move that didn’t have a positive dividend, because the pinch-hitter struck out.
Nonetheless, a two-run lead should have been secure. It wasn’t. Three straight hits produced a run to start the inning, cutting the Indians lead to 3-2. A fielder’s choice resulting in a Senators player being thrown out at home slowed things for a moment. But then Chuck Hinton walked to load the bases.
Up stepped Lock. On a 2-2 pitch, he homered to right field to win the game.
Tebbetts was so mad, he lambasted his team’s “atrocious relief work.”
Lock’s second was pretty cool. It came against the White Sox on July 29 of that season. Most notable about that one was that it ruined the day for White Sox pitcher Joe Horlen, who took a no-hit bid through one out in the ninth inning. Chuck Hinton spoiled the history attempt with a single, but Horlen still had a chance for a 1-0 win with Hinton on first and two outs in the ninth.
Lock hit a hanging curveball over the wall to win the game. If it’s any consolation, Horlen did throw a no-hitter four years later. Of course, that day, he didn’t have to worry about Don Lock.
Lock actually had another walk-off home run with his team trailing 1-0 in the ninth inning. It came against the Kansas City Athletics on May 24, 1966. His pinch-hit winner with two outs drew the writers covering the game his way. When teammate Ron Kline, who pitched two scoreless innings, noted that he deserved attention too, Lock had a quip ready.
“I know you did … But I hit the homer.”
One other note on Lock’s walk-off prowess. In 1963, his walk-off home runs came on May 8 and July 29. A year later, they came on May 9 and July 29. Kind of spooky.