Bill Mazeroski, Carlton Fisk, Kirk Gibson, Joe Carter, and Derek Jeter all have the distinction of hitting home runs to win World Series games in walk-off fashion. Relatively few fans recall Robin Ventura’s walk-off homer for the New York Mets in the 1999 National League Championship Series. It turned out to be the grand slam that wasn’t.
Robin Ventura got a boost from a change of scenery
Robin Ventura arrived in the major leagues in 1989 as a 22-year-old third baseman for the Chicago White Sox, for whom he played the first 10 of his 16 seasons. He began to blossom in 1991, when Ventura hit 23 homers, batted .284, and earned the first of his six Gold Gloves. That season began a six-year span during which Ventura averaged 23 homers and 94 RBIs while batting .282.
Ventura played only 54 games in 1997 and then batted just .263 the following season in his contract year with the White Sox.
Ventura signed with the New York Mets ahead of the 1999 season and enjoyed his best season in the majors: 32 homers and career highs of 120 RBIs and a .301 average.
The two-time All-Star went to the New York Yankees in 2002 in a trade and made his final move in 2003 to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a trade-deadline deal. By the time he retired after the 2004 season, Ventura had accumulated 294 homers and 1,182 RBIs to go with a .267 average.
Robin Ventura’s grand slam single ended a marathon playoff game
The Atlanta Braves held a 3-1 lead in the 1999 NL Championship Series against the New York Mets entering Game 5 at Shea Stadium on Oct. 17, 1999.
The game was tied at 2-2 through 14 innings, but Mets pitcher Octavio Dotel surrendered a run-scoring triple to Keith Lockhart in the top of the 15th to break the tie. In the bottom half of the inning, the Mets loaded the bases before Todd Pratt worked a walk against Kevin McGlinchy to force home a run and bring Robin Ventura to the plate.
Ventura then hammered a McGlinchy offering over the wall in right field for what looked to everyone like a walk-off grand slam and a 7-3 victory. However, there was a complication: As Roger Cedeno scored the winning run crossed the plate, Pratt abandoned the basepaths to come back toward first base and picked up Ventura as the celebration began.
Mobbed by teammates, Ventura never finished circling the bases and was officially credited with a single and one RBI, making the final score 4-3.
It made for a zany ending to a drama-filled game, but the Mets’ victory proved to be a moot point. Two nights later, the Braves wrapped up the series with a 10-9 win in 11 innings as Kenny Rogers walked Andruw Jones with the bases loaded.
The way the game ended mattered to bettors
The strange developments after Robin Ventura knocked the ball over the right-field wall in the bottom of the 15th inning had no effect on who won the game. However, the same could not be said regarding bets placed in Las Vegas’ legal sportsbooks.
The over/under on runs scored in the game had been set at 7.5 by most of the casinos. Had there been a conventional ending, Ventura would have circled the bases behind the three runners. The final score would have been 7-3 instead of 4-3.
A few casinos started cashing tickets based on a 7-3 score immediately after the game. However, some bettors who wagered on the “under” undoubtedly threw out their tickets upon seeing Ventura hit what appeared to be a grand slam. They were sent scurrying to reclaim them once everyone realized what had happened.