November 25, 2009
As the decade winds down to its final moments, Big League Stew is reflecting on the biggest baseball moments of the 2000s. Next up are the top playoff and record-breaking home runs from 2000-09, an up-for-debate list we created by taking each blast's history, impact and moment into account. Please note that we'll be doing a separate list of big regular season home runs — think Mike Piazza and Glenallen Hill — in December.
When Bonds launched a pitch from Washington's Mike Bacsik(notes) deep into the San Francisco night, he did more than just start a lottery ticket free-for-all in the bleachers of AT&T Park. The home run ended Hank Aaron's 12,173-day run atop the career homers list and provided the climactic moment in a saga that spanned several years and introduced the world to BALCO, Greg Anderson, Victor Conte, the cream and the clear.
Though many still want to attach an asterisk to his final total of 762 or recognize Hammerin' Hank as the rightful record holder, there's no doubt that Bonds' homer made the biggest impact upon baseball since 2000. Not only did it break arguably the sport's greatest mark, it made baseball fans explore weighty topics like ego, greed, race, truth, loyalty, nostalgia and idolatry. You may not agree with this selection, but even Time has to tab the controversial for Man of the Year when it's unpopular, yet still completely warranted.
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2. Boone's homer crushes Red Sox, sends Yankees to World Series — Oct. 16, 2003
It seemed like the Yankees' reign — and the Red Sox's misfortune — would never end when a little third baseman led off the bottom of the 11th inning of Game 7 with a home run off Tim Wakefield(notes). The homer clinched the sixth Yankee pennant in eight years and gut-punched the hopes of New England, which was dreaming of a World Series bid only three innings earlier with Pedro Martinez(notes) on the mound. There's no disputing this place as it was the only Game 7 walkoff of the decade, but in a weird twist it would prove to be the Yankees' final big highlight until the 2009 championship was clinched. Boone hurt himself in a pickup basketball during the ensuing offseason and was replaced by a fella named Alex Rodriguez(notes); Boston would win two titles before New York won another.
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If you hadn't watched this one live, it'd be hard to believe that a three-run home run in Game 5 of the '05 NLCS could be ranked this high, especially when the Cardinals were eliminated in Game 6. But those who bore witness to Pujols' home run will still be talking about it 50 years from now. The hit was equal parts majesty (hit near the train tracks atop Minute Maid Park) and devastation (Astros fans were one strike away from getting to celebrate the franchise's first World Series berth at home) and it still causes most fans to curse in amazement upon seeing the replay. The ball traveled so high and far that even the Astros made a joke to Lidge that they could see it outside their plane windows on the flight after the game. Quite simply a Hall of Fame moment for a Hall of Fame player.
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Paul Konerko(notes) made a lot of Chicago memories with a grand slam against the Astros earlier in the game and Geoff Blum(notes) made himself the answer to a trivia question with a 14th-inning homer a couple of days later. Still, the Sports Illustrated cover went to Scott Podsednik for his unlikely walkoff off Lidge — talk about your horrible weeks — in the bottom of the ninth inning. Pods did not hit a home run during the regular season — he hit one in the ALDS against Boston —but his fly to right field put the White Sox in the driver's seat for their first World Series title since World War I.
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5. Barry Bonds sets single-season record with 73rd home run — Oct. 7, 2001
A number of factors contributed to the apathy that America aimed toward Bonds' march to the single season home run mark in 2001. The summer of Big Mac and Sammy had occurred only three years earlier, Bonds was not an embraceable superstar and a large amount of his home runs were being hit when half of America was already asleep. The tragic events of 9/11 then pushed the chase to an understandable trivial spot and Bonds' final home run received such a relatively small amount of attention that one wonders if the Dodgers' Dennis Springer even remembers where he was when No. 73 was hit.*
There's an argument to be made that Bonds' season — which occurred as more fans were becoming wiser to PED use — ended baseball's "chicks dig the long ball" phase. Even still, this home run rewrote a line in the history book and set the bar that all future home run hitters will take a run at. *Springer was on the mound at AT&T Park
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Game 4 of the 2001 World Series started on Halloween night, but the calendar had already turned to November when Derek Jeter provided one of the defining moments in his career. With Byung-Hyun Kim(notes) well past his expiration date on the mound, Jeter pushed the Arizona reliever's 61st pitch of the night over the short right-field porch in old Yankee Stadium. The home run touched off a huge celebration in the Bronx, crushed Kim in the first of two straight games and evened the best World Series of the decade at two games apiece.
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David Ortiz hitting a game winning two-run homer off Paul Quantrill in the bottom of the 12th inning seemed like a "well at least the Red Sox won one" type of moment when it happened in Game 4 of that soon-to-be-legendary 2004 ALCS against the Yankees.
Of course, it turned out to be the equivalent of the movie monster opening his eye.
Well, no. The foreboding eye opening was probably caused by Dave Roberts(notes) stealing second while Big Papi's home run was more like Boston turning into Hulk Hogan and resisting the last slap to the face before launching into the routine leading to the big boot and leg drop.
* * *8. Magglio Ordonez(notes) seals ALCS sweep, sends Tigers to World Series — Oct. 14, 2006
Not every memorable postseason home run has to happen in the bottom of the ninth in the seventh game of the World Series. A good example would be Magglio Ordonez's mammoth three-run homer off a "pretty nasty Huston Street pitch." The blast completed an ALCS sweep of Oakland and sent hometown Detroit fans to their first Fall Classic since 1984.
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9. Alex Gonzalez wins Game 4 with 12th-inning leadoff — Oct. 22, 2003
Here's the toughest debate we had on the list: Because he played for the Marlins, no one seems to remember Alex Gonzalez roping a Jeff Weaver(notes) pitch over the left field wall at Pro Player Stadium for a 12th inning win over the Yankees in Game 4. But Gonzalez's homer is only one of 14 walkoffs in World Series history, so how are we going to include Jeter's and Podsednik's but exclude the one from A-Gone? The Marlins would go on to win the next two games to win the franchise's second World Series and if the teams (and shortstops) were reversed, you can bet people would insist this home run to be ranked much, much higher.
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It was the game that wouldn't end. The Astros and Braves battled for 17 1/2 innings with Atlanta putting off elimination as long as possible and Roger Clemens(notes) coming out of the bullpen to pitch three innings of relief. Then, with one out in the bottom of the 18th inning, Chris Burke roped a pitch from Joey Devine(notes) into the left field Crawford Boxes at Minute Maid Park. The homer sent Houston to its second straight NLCS and, eventually, the first World Series in franchise history. The Braves, meanwhile, haven't been back to the playoffs.
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Just missed: Yadier Molina(notes) helps the Cards in 2006 NLCS Game 7, Matt Stairs(notes) downs Dodgers in 2008 NLCS Game 4, BIG homers from Mark Teixeira(notes), Hideki Matsui(notes) and A-Rod in 2009 World Series, Chase Utley(notes) ties Reggie Jackson's mark in '09, A-Rod becomes fastest player to 500th, Griffey passes 600, Scott Brosius victimizes Kim in '01 World Series Game 5, Jim Thome(notes) hits a monster shot in 2008 AL Central tiebreaker, Big Papi resurrects Red Sox against Rays in '08 ALCS and sweeps the Angels with walkoff in '04, Shane Victorino's(notes) grand slam off CC in '08 NLDS, Manny Ramirez's(notes) walkoff against Angels in 2007 ALDS, Jeff Kent(notes) and Jim Edmonds(notes) hit walkoffs in back-to-back games in 2004 NLCS, Alfonso Soriano(notes) hits walkoff against Seattle in 2001 ALCS
Like we said, we'll be doing a regular season home run post, but what big homers do you remember from the 2000s?