As the 2014 World Series draws near, we can’t help but think ahead and wonder which player might live in baseball immortality by delivering a walk-off hit on the sport’s biggest stage. Every boy that loves the sport grows up with the scenario (that he’s played out dozens of times on the sandlot or in the backyard) ingrained in his head: Bottom of the ninth, two out, bases loaded, full count, Game 7 of the World Series. But each fall, players on the American League and National League champion teams have a chance to turn their lifelong dreams into reality with a single, double, triple, or even home run that fans will remember forever.
Here is a look back at the last 10 walk-off hits in World Series games, according to baseball-reference.com.
1. Marlins’ Edgar Renteria vs. Indians, 1997, Game 7
The 1997 Florida Marlins became the first wild-card team to win the World Series, thanks to Edgar Renteria’s 11th-inning Game 7 single up the middle. Renteria’s base hit, which came with the bases loaded, just barely got over the outstretched glove of Cleveland pitcher Charles Nagy and scored Craig Counsell with the Series-deciding run.
2. Yankees’ Chad Curtis vs. Braves, 1999, Game 3
The Yankees swept Atlanta in the 1999 World Series, with Chad Curtis’s Game 3 heroics being a major reason why. Curtis led off the bottom half of the 10th inning with his second home run of the game, lifting New York to a 6-5 win in a game the home team had previously trailed 5-1. It was the first walk-off homer in the Fall Classic since Joe Carter’s famous Series-ending blast in 1993 for Toronto.
3. Yankees’ Jose Vizcaino vs. Mets, 2000, Game 1
The Yankees won the 2000 ‘Subway Series’ in five games over the Mets, including a 4-hour, 51-minute marathon in Game 1. The then-longest game in World Series history was decided by a Jose Vizcaino bases-loaded hit in the bottom of the 12th inning. The single, No. 9 hitter Vizcaino’s fourth of the night, scored Tino Martinez with the winning run for the Yankees at 1:04 a.m. in New York.
4. Yankees’ Derek Jeter vs. Diamondbacks, 2001, Game 4
Has there ever been a Series with more drama than the 2001 Yankees-Diamondbacks classic? Derek Jeter’s walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 4 was merely a sign of things to come, with still not one, but two walk-off hits ultimately remaining in the seven-game thriller. Jeter’s solo shot to right field on Halloween night, which came after Tino Martinez hit a home run to tie things up in the ninth inning, evened the series at two games apiece.
5. Yankees’ Alfonso Soriano vs. Diamondbacks, 2001, Game 5
The very next evening, Arizona closer Byung-Hyun Kim’s World Series got even worse. Kim, who had given up both Martinez’s ninth-inning homer and Jeter’s 10th-inning game-winner in Game 4, once again couldn’t close things out in Game 5. Scott Brosius homered off Kim in the ninth to rally New York from a 2-0 deficit and set the stage for Alfonso Soriano, who singled home the winning run in the bottom of the 12th to score Chuck Knoblauch from second base. The Yankees won 3-2 and led the series 3-2.
6. Diamondbacks’ Luis Gonzalez vs. Yankees, 2001, Game 7
Despite sentimental favorite New York (with the nation rallying around that city after the September 11 terrorist attacks) seeming like a team of destiny after the pair of ninth-inning comebacks, in the end, it was Arizona that finally won the 2001 World Series, the first ever to extend into November. Fittingly, it was a ninth-inning comeback that sealed the Yankees’ fate. Luis Gonzalez capped off a two-run bottom of the ninth with a bases-loaded single over shortstop to give Arizona a come-from-behind 3-2 win and the 2001 championship.
7. Marlins’ Alex Gonzalez vs. Yankees, 2003, Game 4
The Marlins knocked out the 101-win powerhouse Yankees in six games to win the 2003 World Series. A crucial moment along the way came from shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who led off the bottom of the 12th inning in Game 4 against New York pitcher Jeff Weaver with a home run to left that tied the series. Gonzalez was only 5-53 from the plate in the 2003 playoffs until that moment, but, nonetheless, he made his mark on baseball history when it mattered most.
8. White Sox’s Scott Podsednik vs. Astros, 2005, Game 2
Chicago White Sox outfielder Scott Podsednik hit as many regular-season home runs in 2005 as I did — zero — but that didn’t deter Podsednik from becoming the surprising Game 2 hero in that autumn’s World Series. Podsednik’s drive to right-center in the bottom of the ninth gave the White Sox a dramatic 7-6 win en route to a four-game sweep of Houston.
9. Phillies’ Carlos Ruiz vs. Rays, 2008, Game 3
Philadelphia escaped with a 2-1 win in Game 3 of the 2008 World Series to take a 2-games-to-1 lead, thanks to a Carlos Ruiz bases-loaded single in the bottom of the ninth. The ball Ruiz hit a few feet down the third-base line may have traveled less distance than any walk-off in baseball history, but it was all the Phillies needed. Remarkably, Ruiz’s hit was only Philadelphia’s second of the series with runners in scoring position (in 33 such opportunities), and they eventually won the title in five games anyway. While it may not have been pretty, Eric Bruntlett beat Evan Longoria’s throw home and scored Game 3’s winning run at 1:47 a.m. (to wrap up a game that didn’t start until after 10 p.m. due to rain).
10. Cardinals’ David Freese vs. Rangers, 2011, Game 6
Entering 2014, there has only been one walk-off hit in a World Series game since 2008, and it belongs to Cardinals infielder David Freese. Amazingly, though, Freese’s homer to lead off the bottom of the 11th inning in 2011’s Game 6 might not have been his most clutch hit of the game. Instead, that would be the two-run triple in the ninth with the Cardinals down to their final strike. Freese staved off elimination for St. Louis, then followed up his heroics with a solo shot over the center-field fence two innings later to force a deciding Game 7, which would ultimately give the never-say-die Cards their 2011 championship.