What is a Walk Off in Baseball?
A walk-off is a game winning hit that has been hit by a batter on the home team in Baseball or Softball.
This scenario only occurs within regular game play in a baseball game because the other three major sports are timed. Time sports don’t really have a walk-off scenario until overtime rules apply.
Even still, Basketball remains timed in overtime. And, the NFL has changed their first points to win mentality over the last so many years, offering the kicking/defensive team an opportunity to still score if the receiving/offensive team only kicks a field goal in OT.
One of the worst parts of a walk-off is being the losing team in the field. You can just see the sadness in the eyes of every player as they walk off the field. This is amped up 10x in the playoffs, where every game and every inning is pressure packed.
Recent Walk Off Homers
Cal Raleigh of the Seattle Mariners cracked one to end Seattle’s 21 year playoff drought in 2022. He worked the count full, fouled off a pitch to remain at the dish, and then uncorked a deep drive to right off Acevedo to win 2-1.
Not bad for a pinch hit homer.
Yordan Alvarez then went on to destroy the hopes of Seattle fans with his own walk off at the very next game. Manager Dusty Baker was quite proud of that one. He probably even got a new pair of gloves to honor the occasion.
Ways to Walk Off
The traditional walk off was a walk-off homerun in the final inning, which can also be extra innings. Somehow, maybe via the internet or sports media, we’ve incorporated all types of hits into being a walk-off, including singles, doubles, triples, and of course, homers.
Since a walk (or hit by pitch) is as good as a hit, we’ll casually allow it for consideration as well. Yes, a walk-off walk. Sounds lame, but a win is a win.
You will never (and should never) see an intentional walk as a walk off. That’s just asinine. But other walk off factors for the home team include a Sacrifice Fly, a Balk, and a Wild Pitch.
Here’s some of MLB’s greatest playoff walk-off pieces. Some are even series-clinching. But all are Game-Winning home runs.
Hey, at least home runs make the umpire’s job easier.
The Ultimate Walk-Off Grand Slam?
The Ultimate Walk-Off is a Grand Slam Home Run that is hit with a full count, the bases loaded and two outs in the 9th inning when the home team is down by three runs. Oh, and it must be Game 7 of the World Series.
That’s the scenario that every kid dreams of when they’re goofing around in their backyard or out at the park. They even say the words out loud as they “step to the plate”.
There can be no walk-off that is greater than a bottom of the ninth inning grand slam with two outs in the World Series. None. Ever.
The closest we’ve come is the 1960 World Series where Bill Mazeroski of the Pittsburgh Pirates hit a Game 7 Walk Off Homerun to win the game, 10-9. The second baseman hit a solo shot that broke the tie that the (losing) Yankees had established in the Top of the Ninth Inning.
Famous Walk-Off Homers
Why are we showing you famous walk-off homers? Because they’re awesome, that’s why.
And also because walk-off single sounds lame. Sure, the runner on third base advances to home plate and the home team scores and wins. But just saying it sounds lame.
Same goes for a game in which the away team “walks off” because their pitcher threw a passed ball to lose it. Save the phrase for homers only, thank you.
Before we go too far, let us not forget Mike Piazza’s post 9/11 walk off homer when he played for the New York Mets.
Joe Carter’s Game 6 homer in 1993
Game 6 is pretty close to the dream of the best walk-off wins. In this case, Joe Carter’s Dream and not Mitch Williams of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Carter, of the Toronto Blue Jays, blasted a three-run homer over the left-field wall with the tying run on second and the winning run on first. He didn’t need a game-ending hit, he just needed to drive home the guy from second. But we’re fairly certain he enjoyed the results.
Other than Mazeroski, Carter’s postseason heroics come the closest to the fictional dream of every kid hitter.
Kirk Gibson’s Pinch Hit homer in 1988 World Series
Number 23, Kirk Gibson, of the Los Angeles Dodgers has one of the most famous walk-off homers in the history of Major League Baseball.
With a runner on first base and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and with the Dodgers trailing the Oakland Athletics 4-3, Gibson hobbles up to the plate (he was hurt) and works the count full. Lasorda even had Davis steal second to try and get him into scoring position, so certainly no one was planning on Kirk hitting a walk off homer.
Facing a tough Dennis Eckersley, Gibson had his work cut out for him. The TV broadcast even highlighted that Eck hadn’t given up a homer since August 24th of that year. Apparently Dennis was due.
At 3-2 and the runner on second, Kirk smacks a full count curveball over the fence in right center. Ol’ Uncle Charlie just didn’t bend enough for Eck and his A’s. Kirk goes on to the give the 80s fist-pump as he rounds second and the rest is history as the Dodgers win Game 1, 5-4.
What’s kind of crazy is how much Kirk Gibson looks like Wade Boggs. Maybe that’s why pitcher Dennis Eckersley gave up the dinger, because he thought it was his good buddy Wade from the Sox.
Aaron Boone Game 7 Homer in 2003 ALCS
Aaron Boone, the current manager of the New York Yankees, took knuckleballer Tim Wakefield yard in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. Not a single fan of the Boston Red Sox slept that night, or any night, until they completed the most improbable comeback in sports the next year, defeating the New York Yankees in 7 games after being down 0-3.
Back to 2003, with no baserunners on, Aaron Boone steps up to home plate and sends the first pitch he saw over the fence. His stat-line for the playoffs at the time?
That’s right, Boone was hitting .161 in the playoffs with only 1 RBI. If you were looking for a clutch, game-winning homer from the person at-bat, it wasn’t him. But hit one he did. And the 11th was the last inning of that game.
When did the term Walk-Off start?
Sources around the internet credit Eckersley and the 1988 World Series performance with the term walk off. We’re not sure. We’re conducting more research and will let you know.
Can the Visiting Team hit a Walk Off?
No, a visiting team cannot hit a walk off hit (or walk) because the game doesn’t end if the visiting team goes ahead. Play resumes until all outs or a winning score has been established in a complete game. No one “walks off” the field is the visiting team suddenly has more runs than the home squad.
Every team has their own walk-off stories, both at the plate and on the field. The Giants do, the St. Louis Cardinals sure do (David Freese comes to mind). Same with the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, and Chicago Cubs.