"Almost Opening Day" #7 Best Home Run you've Ever Seen Live
June 7th, 1998. The Indians were playing in Cincinnati and Ohio native Dave Burba, of all people, hit a two-run homer for the first score of the game. One of the few home runs I can still distinctly remember to this day.
I’ve witnessed many great home runs over the years. I once saw Dave Winfield hit a line-drive shot to center that my 7-year-old self swears never got more than 30 feet off the ground. (And don’t try arguing with 7-year-old Dave, you will lose every time.) I’ve seen Jim Thome hit game-winners.
I even witnessed more than one Gwynn bomb (for the record, he hit 135 regular season homers in his twenty-year career). But for me, Naquin’s walk-off is my favorite. To my recollection, I’d never before witnessed an inside-the-park HR in a MLB game, and definitely had never seen one on any level that was a walk-off.
(And I don’t count the Little League version that typically includes a fielding error, a minimum of 3 throwing errors, and a middle-aged out-of-shape home plate umpire who misses the tag at the plate, no offense to near-sighted middle-aged, out-of-shape umpires the world over.)
Runner up is the grand slam that Mark McGwire hit at then Jacobs’ Field in July 2001 (the Indians would rally to win 7 – 6). I was sitting in the bleachers, and his blast landed in the section next to mine, about halfway up the bleachers. This is the only McGwire home run I saw live.
Thome's 511 foot blast vs. KC, the longest hit at Jacobs/Progressive Field.
I’m hard-pressed not to go with Ryan Garko’s first career dinger, but I’ll go with the grand slam that Francisco Lindor hit in the 2017 ALDS against the Yankees.
George Hendrick hit a AAA Iowa Oaks HR that was still climbing as it went out over the light. Mammoth!
George Brett in the Pine Tar Game
Rajai Davis, right? Another easy one. I was in the midst of writing a eulogy for the 2016 team in the auxiliary press box when Davis struck that offering from an exhausted Aroldis Chapman over the left-field wall.
The sound of my jaw hitting my laptop on the table in front of me was drowned out by one of the loudest walls of sound that has ever pierced my ears. It took about 20 minutes just to fully process what we'd all just witnessed. But as a special bonus, I think Tyler Naquin's inside-the-parker to walkoff the Blue Jays earlier that season left me is disbelief for several days.
Travis Hafner’s walk-off grand slam
The year was 1995, and it seemed like there were walk-off wins night after night. The one that I'll never forget took place on July 18 1995 when Albert Belle, who seemed to come through on a nightly basis, crushed a pitch off Angels reliever Lee Smith to straightaway center with two outs in the 9th to erase a 5-3 deficit for an Indians 7-5 win.
Belle was just clutch it seemed every single night, and this night was no exception.