Let's remember some homers: Making the case for MLB's most unforgettable moonshots

Yahoo Sports Staff

If anything in the world were normal, the Home Run Derby would have been Monday night. MLB’s season is, of course, delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The All-Star Game and all its surrounding events, set for Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, were canceled.

What would have been the follow-up to an electrifying 2019 event that amplified the star power of eventual National League Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso and Blue Jays wunderkind Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will have to wait until 2021.

Appreciating the grandeur of the home run, though, does not have to wait. We here at Yahoo Sports selected some of the most impressive and memorable home runs from game action — taking those words very subjectively — for your viewing pleasure.

A Big Cat grand slam lands in the upper, upper deck

What we're basically asking here is: Does the perfect home run exist? 

In my humble opinion, it does. It came off the bat of Colorado Rockies first baseman Andrés Galarraga back on Aug. 31, 1997. 

The scene was not Coors Field. It was in Miami at the current Hard Rock Stadium — then known as Pro Player Stadium — and it came against All-Star pitcher Kevin Brown. One year earlier, Brown finished as runner-up in the NL Cy Young voting. One month earlier, he pitched a no-hitter in San Francisco. He was definitely in his prime here.

This afternoon, he wasn't as sharp. In the fourth inning, he made a mistake that the "Big Cat" launched more than halfway up the tarped-off upper deck for a grand slam. 

Since then, there's been much debate about how far the home run traveled. Initially, it was estimated at 579 feet. Later, it was reduced to 529 feet. Galarraga later wondered if that was done to preserve Mickey Mantle's reported 565-foot home run at Washington’s Griffith Park in 1953 as the longest home run on record. We may never know that answer.  

What I do know is this home run is beautiful to watch. The swing. The opponent. The bat flip. Oh, and it’s a grand slam. What more could you ask for? - Mark Townsend

Jose Bautista and the first great homer of the meme era

The greatest home run of all time? All I need to do is say two words and you can see it in your head: José Bautista.

Bautista's home run in the Game 5 of the Toronto Blue Jays' 2015 ALDS win against the Texas Rangers was more missile launch than dinger. It was perhaps the first great home run of the meme era. The perfect baseball moment to be watched on loop, over and over again. It was so good, it started one fight minutes later, sent his team to the next round of the postseason and got him punched in the face the following year. And it endures as the greatest bat flip of all time.

Take away everything that happened after, and it's still just as great. Remember what led up to it: The Blue Jays, who were the better team, lost the first two games of the series. They handily won Games 3 and 4 to force the decisive Game 5, but fell behind 2-0 early. The Jays tied the game in the sixth, but the seventh inning is what we'll be talking about for years.

The Rangers took the lead on a controversial call. Catcher Russell Martin was throwing the ball back to the pitcher, when it hit off Shin-Soo Choo's bat. The ball rolled toward third base and Rougned Odor rushed home for the go-ahead run. The Blue Jays argued it was interference. Angry Toronto fans threw beer cans onto the field. The game was stopped while everyone calmed down. The Blue Jays were furious. Little did they know what was coming next.

The Rangers then committed three errors in their half of the inning, letting the Jays tie the game. When Bautista came up with two outs and two runners on, it felt the game was going to be decided in that moment. And boy was it. You know what happened. We all do. Bautista hit the ball to the moon with the might of all the anger in the Blue Jays dugout, glaring at it as it flew over the fence. The stadium went so wild that the TV cameras were shaking as Bautista rounded the bases.

It was internet history. The type of moment we'll be talking about for generations. - Mike Oz

The Moneyball moment

In a vacuum, a career .280 hitter taking a career 4.77 ERA reliever yard in an early September game probably shouldn’t be on this list. But it’s the context that makes it. 

The matchup in question is Scott Hatteberg vs. Jason Grimsley on a chilly night at what was then called Network Associates Coliseum. The home team had won 19 straight games, the past two via walk-off, but having blown an 11-0 lead on this night, it appeared the magic had run out. Enter Hatteberg. Prophetically, legendary broadcaster Bill King utters, seconds before Grimsley’s 1-0 offering: “He’s homered 12 times this year.” Hatteberg pounces, sending a hanging slider deep over the jagged edge right-center field wall and the Coliseum into rapturous joy.

You may have seen this scene re-enacted in a major motion picture starring Brad Pitt, but on this occasion Hollywood couldn’t top the real thing. Type “Scott Hatteberg” into a search engine and the first images surfaced are of him rounding first base, fist in the air after hitting that epic homer.

Sure, the Moneyball A’s had their troubles in the Divisional series, but in that era there was no more entertaining team during the dog days of summer and Hatteberg’s homer on Sept. 4, 2002 was that era’s watershed moment for a historic winning streak, and for a franchise. - John Parker 

Charlie Culberson sends Vin Scully out in style

“Would you believe a home run?”

It’s a simple question, but a loaded question. One that legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully felt compelled to ask us while he described an unbelievable moment that put the cherry on top of his unbelievable career.

Journeyman infielder Charlie Culberson’s walk-off homer to clinch the NL West on Sept. 25, 2016, wasn’t just unbelievable because it signified his first of the season (and first in two years).

It was unbelievable because Scully, a man who had witnessed both the improbable and the impossible during his 67 years in the booth, could simply not have scripted a better way to drop the mic one last time at Dodger Stadium.

Culberson? The opposite of a star. The home run itself? Not particularly far.

But the way in which the magnificent moment materialized? That’s what raised the bar.

No, Vinny, we still don’t believe it. - Nick Ostiller

Rick Ankiel swats first career homer — as a pitcher

Just a few starts into what appeared, at the time, to be a promising big league career as a starting pitcher, Rick Ankiel started hitting homers as a batter. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images)
Just a few starts into what appeared, at the time, to be a promising big league career as a starting pitcher, Rick Ankiel started hitting homers as a batter. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images)

On a cool and wet evening in April 2000, I was in St. Louis to track down Jim Edmonds, who’d been traded there by the Anaheim Angels and, on this day, turned out to be rather icy himself. So I’d have to hang around, then hope he’d soon trade a piece of one of his days for the reward of me leaving town.

The Cardinals played the San Diego Padres. The wind blew in damp gusts that’d get up under your collar and make you shiver and dead-eye the guy in center field. A crummy night for baseball.

The pitcher for the Cardinals was a 20-year-old left-hander, Rick Ankiel. Everyone knew about Ankiel, with the big fastball and chippy curveball, the next Carlton or Koufax or your favorite Hall of Fame lefty.

Turned out he was one of those players you could hardly take your eyes off. He was so sure of himself. Even as he walked half the house that night, he clearly believed every pitch would be a bolt of hellfire and then everything would be fine.

Middle of the game, the sound of a detonation from near the batter’s box brought my eyes from the computer screen. Into the heavy air, a left-handed hitter had launched a baseball to the opposite field. As that ball fought its way into the bullpen, I thought, “Man, on a night like tonight, who does that?”

Turned out Rick Ankiel does. - Tim Brown

The Bartolo homer

If we are going by unlikeliness / weirdness / or the truest individual form of degree of difficulty, there can be only one choice. It’s Bartolo Colon, whose home run would have been just as shocking in a juiced ball season or the dead-ball era.

McGwire takes The Big Unit to the moon

The other way to define degree of difficulty? How about taking Randy Johnson not just over the fence, but deep into the upper deck.

This Mark McGwire shot from his Oakland days is a visually impressive home run even if you don’t notice who threw the pitch. With that knowledge in hand, it’s a tall tale that just happens to have video proof. - Zach Crizer

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