Monday, May 22, 2006

SI's Memorable Home Runs: A New Yorker's View of the World

Teepee Talk has a post discussing Sports Illustrated's photo essay on the 26 most memorable home runs in baseball history. Teepee Talk points out that they left off what may be the most famous dinger of all--Babe Ruth's called shot.

I have a different problem with the list, namely that it is so New York centric that it brings to mind Saul Steinberg's famous New Yorker cover illustration. Granted, the Yankees are, well, the Yankees, but of the 26 home runs featured in SI's photo essay, 11 involve the Evil Empire.

Some of these selections are indisputable. For example, Maris's 61st home run, Reggie Jackson's three homer performance in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, and Mazeroski's blast to beat the Yanks in the 1960 World Series would make anybody's list. Other Yankee selections are more questionable, and a few are downright bizarre. I mean, was Jeter's non-home run to Jeffrey Maier one of the most memorable dingers ever? Would you put Brett's pine tar home run on the list to the exclusion of some others that actually meant something (like maybe his 1980 pennant winner against the Yankees?)

Reading the SI list, it also seems like the Yankees are the only team that has ever won a pennant with a dinger. Chambliss's 1976 blast and Boone's 2004 home run make the list, but other than fellow New Yorker Bobby Thompson, no other pennant winner does.

The list also seems to have been prepared by guys who think baseball history began around 1960. Only two of the home runs on the list, Ted Williams' walk-off homer in the 1941 All-Star game and Bobby Thompson's 1951 "shot heard 'round the world" predate 1960.

Some earlier and/or non-New York dingers that should be considered for a list like this include: Gabby Hartnett's 1938 "Homer in the Gloamin'"; Frank Robinson's home run on Opening Day 1975 (the day he officially became Major League Baseball's first black manager); Hank Greenberg's 9th inning grand slam to win the 1945 pennant for Detroit; and Willie Stargell's 1979 World Series clinching blast.

Finally, if you're talking about memorable home runs, how about the two that Fernando Tatis hit in a single inning back in 1999? Since nobody's ever done anything like that, I think it merits a mention.

Anyway, those are just some examples. Somebody should really tell SI that baseball wasn't invented by the baby boomers and that interesting things happen outside of area code (212) every now and again.

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