Hitting a home run is the ultimate symbol of power in baseball. And flashing that power in the playoffs to win a game for your team? That’s what makes you legendary.
There have only been 48 postseason walk-off home runs in a century of Major League Baseball, making those game-winning drives even more incredible. Legends like Mickey Mantle, Joe Carter, Carlton Fisk, and Bill Mazeroski have done it, and so has David Freese, etching their names into history with their late-inning, game-winning heroics.
Here are the most memorable MLB playoffs walk-off home runs since 2000:
David Ortiz has hit a lot of big home runs for the Boston Red Sox in his career, but none may be more significant than the one he hit during the 2004 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees. With the Sox battling back from a 3-0 series deficit—a hole no team had even been able to escape in postseason history—Ortiz stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 12th inning, well after midnight in Boston. The 6'3", 230-pound DH launched a massive shot off Yankees reliever Paul Quantrill, giving the Red Sox the victory and keeping them alive in the series. Boston continued to defy history, sweeping the Bronx Bombers over the next three games and breaking the curse of the Bambino as they won their first World Series since 1918.
During the 2011 American League Championship Series, Cruz hit the first official walk-off grand slam in playoffs history—Robin Ventura’s 1999 slam was officially ruled a single after his teammates ran out on the field. The home run off pitcher Ryan Perry in the 11th inning—Cruz's second of the game—powered the Rangers into the World Series, although they ultimately lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in a thrilling seven-game set.
Following Alex Rodriguez’s game-tying home run in the ninth inning, “The Teixecutioner” decided to send the Minnesota Twins to an early bedtime. With a split in the first two games at Yankee Stadium looking very possible, Teixeira needed only pitch to hit a game-winning home run off of Jose Mijares to give the Yanks a 2-0 series lead. It was the Yankees' first playoff walk-off home run since Aaron Boone in 2003, and a key moment on their march to an '09 World Series win.
It’s just Manny being Manny. With the Red Sox and Angels tied up at 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning and a man on base, Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia decided to bring in closer Francisco Rodriguez. It made sense: Considered one of the most dominant closers in baseball, K-Rod seemed like his best chance at shutting down a mighty Red Sox lineup. After Rodriguez walked David Ortiz, though, Ramirez stepped up to the plate and decided to end things with one swing of the bat. The dreadlocked outfielder blasted a fastball way over the Green Monster, raising his hands in excitement the moment the ball came off the bat. The Red Sox ended up winning the series 3-0 before eventually winning the 2007 World Series.
After not hitting a single home run during the 2005 season, Chicago's Scott Podsednik decided to prove he had some power in the playoffs while hitting one of the biggest home runs in White Sox history. Facing Houston Astros closer Brad Lidge—who had saved a career-high 42 games while posting a stellar 2.29 ERA during the regular season—Podsednik launched a 2-1 count fastball over the fence at U.S. Cellular Field, lifting the Sox up 2-0 and ultimately sweeping the Astros to win their first World Series title since 1917.
Chris Burke probably just wanted to go home.
In the bottom of the 18th inning of Game 4 in 2004, Burke took matters into his own hands to defeat the Atlanta Braves—sending the Astros to the National League Championship Series with one swing of his bat. The 5-hour, 50 minute game was the longest playoff game ever (since broken by the 18-inning Giants-Nationals matchup of 2014) and featured two grand slams by Lance Berkman and Adam LaRoche, but it was Burke who ended up the hero.
After Houston's Jeff Kent hit a walk-off home run to lift the Astros over the Cardinals in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, St. Louis outfielder Jim Edmonds decided to try one out for himself. The Cardinals were down 3-2 in the series and needed a win just to stay alive. Edmonds sealed the victory with a home run off of Dan Miceli in the bottom of the 12th inning, sending the series for Game 7—which the Cardinals won to clinch the NL pennant.
“Bleeping” Boone earned his nickname from Boston Red Sox fans for this shot in the playoffs.
Down three runs in Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series, the Yankees battled back to tie the game 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth. Boone, a third-generation major leaguer, stepped to the plate as the first batter in the 11th inning against Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Boone smashed the first pitch he saw into the left field stands to send the Yankees to the World Series, break millions of New Englander hearts, and seal his name in the history books.
The longtime Yankee shortstop earned the name “Mr. November” for his performance in this game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Because of the September 11 attacks, the playoffs were pushed back, meaning postseason games were played in November for the first time in baseball history.
With Game 4 going into extra innings and pushing into late fall, Jeter stepped up to the plate against D-Backs closer Byung-Hyun Kim. After battling through eight pitches, Jeter launched a home run into right field over “The Wiz” sign. The shortstop ran the bases with his fist high in the air, a hero for a city that deeply needed one.
After blowing a 3-1 lead in the ninth inning, the Marlins relied on some magic from their shortstop for some momentum. With the game tied in the 12th inning, Gonzalez smashed a ball from Yankees reliever Jeff Weaver deep, leading the home team to a 4-3 victory and pulling even in the series at two games apiece. The Marlins didn’t lose again, with Josh Beckett putting up an amazing performance in Game 6 to win the World Series.