Tag Archives: Baltimore Orioles

Ultimately, this kind of walk-off is just grand

I wanted to look up a game that featured an ultimate grand slam. For those unfamiliar, an ultimate grand slam is a walk-off home run that comes with two outs in the final inning and the home team down by three runs. There was a cool one this year with David Bote of the Cubs, but I prefer obscure to recent here, in case you didn’t notice.

There have been 15 ultimate slams in the time period for which Baseball-Reference.com has data, so there are some fun ones to choose from.

I am very much enjoying looking at the box score from the May 17, 1996 game between the Mariners and the Orioles. This was some game. Alex Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro each drove in six runs. Cal Ripken Jr. had four hits. Ken Griffey Jr. had three. Edgar Martinez had two.

But they were the secondary stories. In baseball, the last shot doesn’t always go to the superstars.

By the bottom of the ninth inning, the game was challenging the record for longest nine-inning game (it finished a minute short of the mark at the time, which coincidentally was set by the Orioles earlier in the season). Every player in the starting lineup for this game had at least one hit. Except for one. Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles, the No. 8 hitter, came to bat with his team trailing 13-10 with the bases loaded and two outs. Mariners reliever Norm Charlton had already pitched to two Hall of Famers in the inning – Ripken and Roberto Alomar. They were on the corner bases. Bobby Bonilla was on second.

Now, let’s not label Hoiles a bad player. He was a very good catcher, who happened to be in a mini-hit drought (he was 5-for-29 for the month). Charlton proved to be the cure.

The newspaper reports state that much of a crowd of more than 47,000 had left, perhaps turned off by the game’s length. Shame on them.

The count stretched to 3-2. Charlton threw his best pitch, a forkball, and Hoiles hit it out. Left fielder Brian Hunter jumped for it, but couldn’t get close enough to it.

“There were 80 hits out there and I was the only guy without one,” said Hoiles, who also holds the distinction of being the first catcher to hit two grand slams in the same game. “I just wanted to drive in a couple of runs.”

Orioles manager Davey Johnson was pretty excited. He called it “the most unbelievable thing I’ve seen in my life.”

We’d beg to differ given that he was in the Mets dugout when Bill Buckner let a ground ball go between his legs. But we understand and salute his passion for the rarity of the ultimate walk-off.

If you want to see the Hoiles homer, click here.

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Brooks Robinson’s last home run was a pretty cool walk-off

I like the idea of writing about a notable player’s notable walk-off every so often, so today I picked a notable player I like –- Orioles Hall-of-Famer Brooks Robinson.

When I was 12, I went to a baseball card show on Staten Island where Robinson was signing autographs. Since my dad was a vendor at the show, we got a freebie, and I got an autograph and (at Robinson’s insistence) a picture with Robinson. He couldn’t have been nicer. I’ve heard he’s that way with everyone.

The other story I like comes from Curt Gowdy, whom I got to interview when I worked at ESPN. He said he went on a hunting trip with Robinson once, and when they got back to the hotel, Robinson paused for a moment. Gowdy asked what was wrong, and Robinson said something to the effect of “I can’t believe we got beat by the Mets in 1969.”

So this brings us to Robinson and walk-offs, and he may have had one better than this, but I really like this one, so this is the story I’ll share.

In 1977, Brooks Robinson was 39 and at the end of an illustrious 23-year career that was best known for his 16 Gold Glove Awards for unbelievable defense. The Orioles had a young potential star at third base in Doug DeCinces, so Robinson was limited to a reserve role. The Orioles were playing the Indians, a team managed by former Orioles legend Frank Robinson, on April 19. Brooks Robinson hadn’t played in a week.

He watched from the bench as the teams battled to a 2-2 tie through nine innings. In the top of the 10th, the Indians scored three times. They could have scored more had Buddy Bell and Andre Thornton (two good hitters) not struck out with the bases loaded to end the inning.

Those turned out to be two important outs. In the bottom of the 10th, Ken Singleton singled and Doug Decinces walked to bring the tying run to the plate. Eddie Murray struck out, but Lee May followed with a single that scored Singleton. Earl Weaver, perhaps playing a hunch, called on Brooks Robinson to pinch-hit for lefty-hitting Larry Harlow against lefty pitcher Dave LaRoche (Adam’s father).

Bill Tanton, a columnist for Baltimore’s Evening Sun estimated that only hundreds remained from a crowd of 4,826. They saw an epic at-bat, one with seven foul balls and a 3-2 count. It kind of had the feel of Kirk Gibson against Dennis Eckersley, but with smaller stakes. And it ended similarly, with Robinson homering (to left field instead of right field) to win the game, and raising his fist in celebration.

“I feel like a little kid every time I put the uniform on,” Robinson told reporters after the game.

It was the 268th and last home run of Robinson’s major league career. He’d have 44 more at-bats before retirement. This was a good at-bat to remember him by.

Brooks Robinson Minutiae
– Brooks Robinson hit eight walk-off home runs, which I can say with 99.99% certainty is a Browns/Orioles franchise record. Baseball-Reference’s data dates to 1925 and there’s no one from the Browns within striking distance. Eddie Murray ranks second with six.

– Brooks Robinson had a walk-off RBI in Game 6 of the 1971 World Series. He hit a sacrifice fly in the 10th inning against the Pirates. Future Indians manager Frank Robinson scored the winning run.