A couple of people have contested my proclamation that the walk-off home run by weak-hitting pitcher Bob Grim produced the strangest walk-off win in the history of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.
One game they cite is a favorite of Don Mattingly’s and for good reason, I suppose. It took place on September 18, 1993. The Yankees were in second place, chasing the first-place Blue Jays, three games back with 13 to play. The Red Sox were slightly above .500, but basically out of the race.
Boston played spoiler early. Mo Vsughn’s two-run home run against Jimmy Key in the first inning gave the Red Sox a 2-0 lead. A third-inning bases-loaded walk by Carlos Quintana made it 3-0. Paul O’Neill’s seventh-inning home run against Nate Minchey cut the lead to 3-1, but that’s where the game stayed until there were two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.
The rally began with the Yankees win probability at two percent when Mike Gallego got hit by a pitch. Than things got goofy. Mike Stanley hit what appeared to be a game-ending popout to left field, except that prior to the pitch, umpire Tim Welke called time because a teenage fan had sprinted onto the field.
The fan did not interfere with the play in any way (Filip Bondy of the Daily News talked to police officers who said the kid was crying, regretted what he did, and was let go). Had play continued, the catch would have counted and the game would have been over. No dice.
Stanley promptly singled to put the tying runs on base. Next came Wade Boggs, whose ground ball in the first base-second base hole was fielded on a dive by Scott Fletcher. Boggs was safe at first and Gallego scored to make it 3-2. Dion James then drew an eight-pitch walk from Greg Harris to load the bases for Mattingly.
On a 1-1 pitch, Mattingly hit a ground-ball single in the hole scoring both pinch-runners Gerald Williams and Andy Stankiewicz to win the game. As Jim Kaat said on the CBS broadcast, never before had a team celebrated so much for a game that it had really lost.
“We were all trying to get the fan in here,” Stanley told reporters afterwards. “He’s probably the MVP of the game.”
This game is well remembered by the diehardest Yankees fans (and Mattingly), but it’s not in my pantheon of all-time Yankees wins. Perhaps that’s because of what happened next.
It might have been baseball karma that bit this team, because the Yankees lost their next five games to fall out of the division race.