Few plays in baseball, if any, are more exciting than a walk-off hit — a game-ending knock that sends the home team and crowd into a frenzy. Make it a walk-off home run, and, well, that’s about as thrilling as it gets.
Such a dramatic event doesn’t happen all that often, so you may be wondering: Which players have experienced that instant power surge followed by the immediate joyous celebration of a walk-off homer the most?
It shouldn’t be shocking to find out this list of regular-season walk-off home run leaders is packed with some of baseball’s biggest names, and there are a few surprise sluggers, too.
1. Jim Thome: 13
One of baseball’s best all-time power hitters, Thome was the eighth player to join the 600-home run club, thanks in part to the fact that 13 of his 612 career long balls were of the walk-off variety. That puts him in a class all by himself, at least for now.
Thome played for six teams in his 22-year career but did most of his walk-off damage with Cleveland (nine). He also remains the only player to hit a walk-off blast for career home run No. 500, which he did on Sept. 16, 2007, with the White Sox.
Perhaps most impressively, eight of Thome’s game-ending home runs came in extra innings, including one on his bobblehead day in the 11th frame on April 21, 2001. That’s tied for most in history with Frank Robinson and Albert Pujols, whose names you’ll be seeing very soon.
2 (tie). Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Albert Pujols, Frank Robinson, Babe Ruth: 12
Checking in right behind Thome with a dozen walk-off blasts: a group of players most baseball fans know merely from their first names: Jimmie, Mickey, Stan, Albert, Frank and Babe. That’s five inner-circle Hall of Famers plus Pujols, who will be regarded within that same category in Cooperstown five years after retiring.
Among these prestigious power hitters, the only one who didn’t reach 500 career homers is Musial, who belted 475. Stan “The Man,” however, was better than anybody at ending games on his terms; his nine bases-empty walk-off homers are the most in history. Musial had a special knack for driving himself in when it was needed the most.
Mantle, meanwhile, is tied with Musial for most walk-off dingers for one team. “The Mick” played all 18 seasons of his career with the Yankees, of course, and Musial wore only a Cardinals uniform for his 22 years in the big leagues.
As for the most walk-off taters hit while trailing — it doesn’t get much more dramatic — on record (dating back to 1925), that mark belongs to Robinson, whose five are tied with Fred McGriff. Robinson also victimized a whopping nine different teams with his walk-off homers. That’s tied for the most with a trio of players below, each of whom took advantage of Interleague Play, unlike Robinson, whose career spanned 1956-76.
Going back further, Ruth was the first player in history to reach double digits in walk-off home runs. At the time he retired in the middle of the 1935 season, his dozen were twice as many as the player with the second most at the time (Cy Williams). Although it only took until 1941 for Foxx to match Ruth’s total, those two stood alone atop the walk-off homer pedestal until Musial made it a trio in ’62.
**8 (tie). David Ortiz, Tony Perez, Ryan Zimmerman: 11
**The most walk-off long balls with two outs? Perez racked up a record seven of those as part of his 379 career home runs over his 23-season Hall of Fame career.
Raising the stakes quite a bit to walk-off shots while trailing with two outs and two strikes, Ortiz is tied for the most (with Dante Bichette and Brian Jordan). The record may be only two such blasts, but it feels fitting that Ortiz — one of the most widely recognized clutch performers in baseball history — is unsurpassed in this rare, down-to-the-final-strike feat.
10 (tie). Dick Allen, Harold Baines, Barry Bonds, Adam Dunn, Jason Giambi, Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, Sammy Sosa: 10
Wrapping up with the remaining players to reach double digits in the walk-off homer department, this batch of nine provides the most variety.
It’s no real surprise that baseball’s all-time home run king, with 762, is on a list involving a category of homers.
Hall of Famers Jackson (563) and Schmidt (548) both surpassed 500 home runs during their overlapping careers that stretched across the 1970s and ’80s.
Sosa, the only player to reach 60 dingers in three different seasons, resides in the 600-homer club (609) and was regarded as one of the supreme sluggers in the sport as the 20th Century rolled into the 21st.
Also achieving that fearsome-slugger status in their heydays? Allen, who walloped 351 career homers in 15 seasons; Giambi, who hit 440 in 20 campaigns and whose three walk-off blasts with two outs and two strikes is a record; and Dunn, who went yard an impressive 462 times in only 14 years.
Considered one of baseball’s true professional hitters over the course of his 22-year career, Baines rounds out this list in style, having smacked walk-off homers against nine opponents — meaning he, Giambi, Robinson and Sosa were the ultimate equal-opportunity-walk-off-homer hitters in history.