Heading into play tonight, the Rays have gone 712 days without the (in my opinion) most exciting play to end a game. It initiates a raucous, joyous celebration with players storming the field, surrounding home plate anticipating their teammate so they can serenade him once he's arrived after sending a ball into the outfield seats for a walk-off home run.
The term 'walk-off home run' originated back in the late 80's coined by a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle who had witnessed one too many bad night from Dennis Eckersly. He wrote a column called "What the Eck?" In this column, the writer famously wrote about how Eckersly walked off the field with his head hung low due to surrendering a game winning blast and the term 'walk-off' stuck.
The Rays have done these celebrations numerous times, 47 times to be precise, with 46 of them coming at the Trop while one other came at the most magical place on Earth, Disney...or Disney's Wide World of Sports complex. The most recent came back on May 22nd, 2014 with Sean Rodriguez lowering the boom against Luke Gregerson, a tremendous three run shot that gave the Rays a 5-2 victory in 11 innings against Oakland.
The most famous of these is most certainly Evan Longoria's shot heard 'round the world that propelled the Rays to the 2011 post-season after an incredible comeback that started in early September and a final game that encapsulated the last month of the season perfectly. However, Jose Lobaton's 2013 ALDS shot isn't too far behind.
Another walk-off homer may have been forgotten due to its place in the halls of Rays history, but at the time, it was perhaps one of the biggest blasts to end a game in the history of the franchise. Back on May 11th, 2002, with the Rays looking like they'll extend their franchise record long losing streak to 16 games, Randy Winn sent a ball over the wall in right-center field to give the Rays a 6-4 victory.
Also, for trivia purposes, the Rays first ever walk-off homer came on April 13th, 1998 as Bobby Smith ended a 14 inning affair that had turned into a slugfest. He launched a shot off of Mike Trombley of the Minnesota Twins to give the Rays a victory.
Now, the reason for writing this article, wasn't only to provide a brief history of the Rays and walk-off home run, but to also state the fact that the Rays have just broken their old team record for the most days between these game-ending shots. The old record of 711 days began on May 12th, 1998 and ended after the millennium on April 22nd, 2000.
This walk-off homerless streak is also currently the longest active streak in the majors, with the Diamondbacks just four days behind.
Also, here are a few odds and ends on the Rays history of walk-off homers
- Evan Longoria has the most with five game enders
- The Rays have hit the most walk-off homers, six, against the Boston Red Sox
- Three opposing pitchers have yielded two each to the Rays: Troy Percival, Tommy Hunter, and Mark Lowe
- Clutch comes in threes as the 3-6-9 spots in the order have had the most game ending homers, with seven apiece
- The month of May has seen the most walk-off homers than any other month with 14
- There have been five pinch-hit walk-off homers, hit by Bubba Trammell, Eduardo Perez, Melvin Upton Jr, Brandon Allen, and James Loney.
- The most pitches seen by a slugger who eventually hit a walk-off homer was 12, and that was John Flaherty in 2000.