There have been a lot of home runs in the history of Major League Baseball -- 290,678 since the formation of the National Association in 1871, to be exact.
What if you had to take those 290,678 and whittle them down to just 10? What if you had to choose only the best of the best -- the homers that have transformed the game? That's why we're here: to give you the 10 most iconic home runs in big league history.
10. "We'll see you tomorrow night"
Heading into Game 6 of the 1991 World Series, the Twins were in trouble: Down three games to two, facing elimination after losing all three games in Atlanta and facing NLCS MVP Steve Avery on the mound. Luckily, Kirby Puckett decided to just put the team on his back.
The future Hall of Famer got things started with an RBI triple in the bottom of the first. Then, with the Twins nursing a 2-0 lead with a man on in the top of the third, he scaled the Metrodome plexiglass to rob Ron Gant of a game-tying homer:
Alas, his work wasn't quite done yet -- Atlanta rallied with two runs in the fifth and one in the seventh, sending the game to extras ... where Puckett, leading off the bottom of the 11th, sent everybody home:
9. Bucky Bleeping Dent
Bucky Dent was never much with the bat. He hit just 40 homers in his entire 12-year career, and never more than seven in any single season. He entered the 1978 AL East tiebreaker game between the Yankees and Red Sox hitting ninth in New York's lineup with a .596 OPS. Of course, if you hit one of the most significant dingers in baseball history, no one will much care about the rest.
On July 19, the Yankees trailed Boston by 10 games in the division. A little more than two months (and one four-game sweep at Fenway) later, the two were tied atop the standings, setting up a Game 163 at Fenway Park for a spot in the ALCS.
Thanks to a Carl Yastrzemski home run and a great start from Mike Torrez, the Red Sox took a 2-0 lead into the top of the seventh, just nine outs away from the postseason. After singles from Chris Chambliss and Roy White, manager Don Zimmer decided to stick with Torrez. With two outs in the inning, up walked Bucky Dent as the go-ahead run:
Dent's fly ball just barely dropped onto the net beyond the Green Monster, sparking New York to a 5-2 win. The Yankees went on to win the '78 World Series, while Boston waited another 26 years.
8. Barry Bonds hits No. 756
Before he was baseball's preeminent batting practice champion, Barry Bonds was one of the best hitters the game had ever seen. And, on August 7, 2007, he hit career home run No. 756 to pass Hank Aaron for the top spot on the all-time list:
The ball ended up in the hands of Matt Murphy, a 21-year-old student from Queens, who sold it at auction later that year for over $750,000.
7. "Touch 'em all, Joe"
It wasn't the only home run to end a World Series (we'll get to that), but it was the only home run to end a World Series that came while the player's team was trailing -- and it's one of the most indelible images in the history of the Fall Classic.
Before the 1994 strike, the Blue Jays were a budding dynasty, winning it all in 1992 and looking to repeat in '93. But their World Series opponent, the Phillies, just wouldn't go away: After a heartbreaking 15-14 loss at home in Game 4 put them in a 3-1 hole, Philly won Game 5 and scored five runs in the seventh of Game 6 to take a 6-5 lead into the ninth. Just three outs away from forcing a winner-take-all Game 7, manager Jim Fregosi called on closer Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams and his lights-out fastball/mullet combo -- and then the wheels came off.
Williams walked Rickey Henderson and gave up a single to Paul Molitor (we told you the Jays were a budding dynasty), bringing up Joe Carter with just one out and the game on the line:
By the time Carter finally touched home, Toronto had its second straight World Series title -- and radio broadcaster Tom Cheek had one of the most iconic calls in baseball history.
6. Mark McGwire sets the single-season home run record
For nearly 40 years, Roger Maris' 61 in '61 set the standard for homers in a single season. It only took Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa one summer to rewrite all of that.
For most of 1998, Big Mac and Sosa went back and forth, trading the league lead in homers while keeping Maris in their sights. Thanks to a blistering end of August (14 games, eight homers, 1.509 OPS), McGwire pulled ahead in the season's final month, and he entered play on Sept. 8 tied with Maris at 61. Fittingly enough, the Cubs were in town:
Sosa would reach the mark himself days later, finishing with 66 homers to McGwire's 70 -- and just one season later, both of them topped 61 again.
5. Carlton Fisk waves it fair
Even after just five games, the 1975 World Series was one of the greatest of all-time: After Boston won a pitcher's duel in Game 1, Games 2-4 were all decided by one run and featured two separate ninth-inning rallies, a walk-off and a 163-pitch gem from Luis Tiant and his glorious facial hair. And then, somehow, Game 6 came along and topped it all.
Facing elimination at home, Boston trailed, 6-3, heading into the bottom of the eighth. But a three-run homer by former Reds first-round pick Bernie Carbo tied things up, and from there, each team looked to be on the verge of winning multiple times: Boston squandered a bases-loaded opportunity in the ninth, while Joe Morgan was robbed of a home run in the top of the 11th.
The game entered the bottom of the 12th, with Carlton Fisk facing reliever Pat Darcy. On the second pitch, Fisk lifted a high fly ball deep down the left-field line -- but the camera operator inside the Green Monster was distracted by a nearby rat and, rather than following the ball, ended up sticking with Fisk as he tried to wave the ball fair.
4. Kirk Gibson, on one leg
Gibson won the 1988 NL MVP Award, but when his Dodgers were set to begin Game 1 of the World Series against the A's, he wasn't even in the dugout. He was back in the clubhouse, nursing knee and hamstring injuries that had kept him out of the lineup.
Early on in the broadcast, Vin Scully announced that L.A.'s star wouldn't even be available to pinch-hit that night. But Gibson was determined to prove him wrong: He immediately began icing his legs, hoping to numb them enough to step into the box for an at-bat if his team needed him.
As it turned out, they would: The Dodgers trailed, 4-3, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. But, they had Mike Davis on first and Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley on the mound. With his back to the wall, manager Tommy Lasorda decided to call on his hobbled star -- and then the impossible happened:
As always, Scully said it best: "All year long they looked to him to light the fire, and all year long he answered the demands."
3. "There's a new home run champion of all-time, and it's Henry Aaron"
For decades, Babe Ruth was the undisputed Dinger King of baseball. If there was a home run record to be held, chances are The Babe held it -- he even set the single-season home run record four separate times, from 29 to 54 to 59 to, finally, 60 with the 1927 Yankees. When Ruth finally retired, he sat on 714 career home runs, a record that most thought was untouchable.
Hank Aaron didn't have those eye-popping numbers. He was simply a home run-machine: Hammerin' Hank never hit more than 44 dingers in a single season, but he did swat over 30 an amazing 15 times. And eventually, all that consistency started to add up -- a 40-year-old Aaron entered the 1974 season at 713 for his career, two away from tying Ruth's record. It only took him three games to make history:
2. Bill Mazeroski makes World Series history
It doesn't get any bigger than Game 7 of the World Series, and only one man has ever ended it with a home run -- and it was as improbable as it was historic.
The Yankees had appeared in two of the last four Fall Classics. The Pirates hadn't won one since 1925. But, despite New York scoring twice as many runs, Pittsburgh managed to force a Game 7 at Forbes Field that went back and forth like a tennis match.
First, the Pirates jumped out to a 4-0 lead; then the Yankees stormed back with seven unanswered runs; then the Pirates scored five in the bottom of the eighth; then the Yankees tied it in the top of the ninth. In the bottom half, Pittsburgh led off with second baseman Bill Mazeroski, a slap hitter known more for his great defense, who had hit just 11 homers all year. So, naturally, he hit one of the biggest home runs of all-time:
Strictly by on-field impact, this might be the most significant dinger of all time: Mickey Mantle once said that the '60 World Series was the only loss that moved him to tears, and the dinger went a long way toward getting Mazeroski to the Hall of Fame. The homer that took the top spot, though, reverberated far beyond the diamond.
1. The Shot Heard 'Round the World
"Unless the Dodgers fold completely in their last 50 games," an AP story ran on Aug. 10, 1951, "they're in [the World Series]." Considering that Brooklyn led the crosstown rival Giants by 13 games by the end of play on Aug. 11, this seemed like a pretty safe bet. There was just one problem: Nobody told the Giants.
The Giants won a remarkable 37 of their last 44 games, including their final seven in a row, to catch Brooklyn on the very last day of the season. According to Major League rules, the teams would play a best-of-three series to break the tie, with the winner moving on to the World Series. New York won Game 1 in Brooklyn, but the Dodgers answered with a 10-0 win in Game 2 (with the AL-winning Yankees in attendance) to set up a winner-take-all rubber match with the whole country watching -- literally.
Game 3 was the first baseball game to be televised nationally, even reaching U.S. soldiers stationed in Korea, and despite fog so thick it forced the stadium lights on at 2 p.m., more than 30,000 fans packed the Polo Grounds. After a three-run rally in the eighth, the Dodgers took a 4-1 lead into the ninth with ace Don Newcombe on the mound, and it looked like Brooklyn would stave off a collapse and get another crack and toppling the Yankees.
But, after Newcombe allowed two singles and a double, manager Chuck Dressen pulled his starter in favor of Ralph Branca -- the man who was allegedly throwing hardest out in the bullpen. Branca gave an assurance to Newcombe as he passed him on his way to the mound: "Don't worry big fella, I'll take care of everything." Two pitches later, against Bobby Thomson, everything was taken care of:
Russ Hodges' radio call -- "The Giants win the pennant!" -- became an instant classic, largely by luck: None of the local radio and TV stations were recording the broadcast, and the only reason it survived was because a fan asked his mother to tape the last half-inning for him so he could listen when he got home from work.