My Favorite 30 Giants Home Runs In 30 Years Of Fandom
(originally written 5/9/20)
Whether or not the 2012 Giants had gone on to World Series triumph–but especially since they did–every one of their fans will remember where they were during the fifth inning of NLDS Game Five against Cincinnati, when the great Buster Posey ripped an extremely grand slam off the facing of Great American Ballpark's upper deck. It was a man's home run; uppercut over 400 feet off a hard, well-located Mat Latos heater. Other than Mike Piazza, I cannot think of another right-handed hitting catcher I've seen who could hit that pitch that far.
Of all the thousands of Giants home runs I've seen, Posey's shot stands as my favorite all-time (yes, even more than Edgar Renteria in 2010, but not by much) and it inspired me to recall and write up all my other faves from what was then 22 years of Giants fandom.
But I never quite finished the piece...until now, my 30th year of Giants fandom.
Even if I wanted to, I couldn't possibly showcase every notable home run hit in the history of the Giants' franchise, which has only existed slightly less longer than Earth itself. But I can look back at my 30 favorite "big flies" I've witnessed during three decades cheering on the Orange and Black. (Listed in chronological order)
Note: Multi-homer moments count as one on the list. I, too, am surprised there aren't more Splash Hits on this list.
⦁ Robby Thompson Vs. The Astros, 6/3/1990.
This one makes the list because it's the first one I ever saw in person. It was my first game ever, at old Candlestick Park; in the 2nd inning Thompson launched a three-run shot off Houston pitcher Mike Scott. San Francisco went home 7-3 winners, and I went home full of way too much tailgated BBQ.
⦁ Brian Johnson Shocks the Dodgers, 9/18/1997.
By going deep 11 times in 179 at-bats, Brian Johnson slugged .525 as a Giant in 1997—second only to Barry Bonds. But Johnson could have struck out in all his other AB and still been a Giants hero that year.
The setup: 12th inning, 5-5 score vs. the Dodgers, with whom the surprising '97 Giants are locked in a tight pennant race. After Giants RP Rod Beck miraculously escaped a loaded bases/no outs jam in the 10th inning, Johnson clubbed Mark Guthrie's first pitch of the 12th high and deep over the LF wall to make 6-5 winners of San Francisco.
⦁ Slammin' Shawn Estes, 5/24/2000.
Shawn Estes hit four career home runs, two of which came as a Giant. The first was a solo shot off Alex Fernandez in a 1997 rain-shortened win at Florida, but the second one likely hasn't been forgotten by anybody who saw it.
The Giants were well on their way to romping the Expos on 5/24/00; they led visiting Montreal 7-0 in the 5th inning and wouldn't necessarily need any more offense. But just to be safe, San Francisco piled on 11 more scores, four coming off one swing of Estes' bat in a seven-run fifth inning.
The 27-year-old became the first Giants pitcher to slam in over 50 years, and had a shot at a second slam later in the game! Estes drove one deep and foul before settling for an RBI single, five total RBI, and a shutout. What a night!
⦁ Ellis Burks: Stand and Deliver, 10/4/2000.
Had he the requisite plate appearances to qualify, Ellis Burks' .344 average in 2000 would have ranked 4th in the N.L.; he was an absolute terror for a Giants team already with two MVP candidates in the lineup.
Burks supplied plenty of clutch hits that year, perhaps none bigger than the home run he launched off the fair pole in Game 2 of the NLDS vs. the Mets. At the time (3rd inning) SF led 2-1; Burks' three-run shot off Mike Hampton wrapped up the scoring for both teams.
This home run makes my list almost solely because of the photo that appeared in the next day's Times-Herald (Vallejo, CA)—Burks standing at home plate, bat discarded, watching the ball in flight and willing it to stay fair. You don't see batters at the plate without a bat; that always stuck with me. But that day, Ellis Burks stood at the plate, and he delivered.
⦁ J.T. Snow NLDS Game-Tying Blast, 10/5/2000.
J.T. Snow is best known for rescuing young batboy Darren Baker (manager Dusty's son) from a trampling in the 2002 World Series. That wasn't the only time Snow came through in October; he was a .327 hitter in 28 postseason games—all with the Giants—and in 2000 cracked a pinch-hit, three-run homer in the bottom of the 9th off future teammate Armando Benitez to tie NLDS Game 2 vs. the Mets at 4-4.
Though San Francisco went on to lose that night, the sheer delirium from SF fans when Snow's ball cleared the Willie Mays wall (including plenty from yours truly) qualified it for this list.
⦁ Andres Galarraga Gets His Weight Behind One, 9/18/2001.
In 428 at-bats over two non-consecutive seasons with SF, the "Big Cat" hit .297 with 19 HR and 77 RBI. And when he hit them, they usually stayed hit, as proven when he teed off on Roy Oswalt at AT&T Park in 2001. I cannot recall a ball hit during a game coming closer to the Coke bottle beyond the LF bleachers—it was awesome then, and is still awesome now.
⦁ Barry Bonds Unleashes in the World Series, 10/20/2002.
In the 2002 postseason, Barry Bonds posted a ridiculous 1.994 OPS. Seeing this unfold, the Anaheim Angels decided very early to pitch around him in the World Series, though they were generous enough to challenge him in the 9th inning of a wild Game 2...only because the Angels led by two with no one on base.
Facing Troy Percival, Bonds proceeded to hit one about 750 feet to right field. It was only cosmetic, but I loved this blast. Think of the one time you relax restrictions and allow the dog on the couch, and he explodes diarrhea all over it, reminding you why he was banned in the first place.
(Though in hindsight, maybe Barry should have made a weak out on purpose in hopes Anaheim would challenge him again later on.)
⦁ Bonds De-Thrones the King, 8/19/2003.
Barry Bonds had just returned to the lineup after taking several games off to bury his father Bobby. As fate would have it, he came up in the 10th with a tie score and nemesis Ray King on the mound—Bonds was something like 0-for-14 lifetime against the big lefty.
What resulted was a dramatic, emotional game-ending blast into McCovey Cove. The blast ended up as the only walk-off homer King allowed in ten years and nearly 600 MLB games.
⦁ Barry Bonds Beats Eric Gagne, 4/16/2004.
This at-bat was too epic to put into words. Gagne was the game's ultimate reliever at the time, owner of a 100-MPH fastball, sick curve and sicker changeup. Bonds was Bonds. Still, as with the Percival home run above, Bonds was only being pitched to because the Dodgers led by three in the 9th.
As if pulling Gagne's 100-MPH fastball foul into McCovey Cove wasn't impressive enough, Bonds turned right around and deposited another fastball into the CF seats. Gagne was mortal after all, if only for two pitches.
True, the Giants didn't win, but what a SHOW. Bonds was the only human being on Earth capable of such an at-bat.
⦁ Brian Dallimore's Grand Slam, 4/30/2004.
This guy had persevered through almost a decade in the minors before getting a call to The Show. Something about him had everyone, including me, rooting for him. Dallimore's second game (first start) was a wild one—the Giants trailed visiting Florida 9-3 in the 2nd inning.
But with the bases loaded Dallimore took star lefty Dontrelle Willis deep, keying a huge Giants rally. They ended up on top 12-9, and Dallimore never homered again in MLB.
⦁ Dustan Mohr Dings The Chevron Cars, 8/4/2004.
Mohr hit one of the earlier inside-the-park homers at what is now Oracle Park. Facing Reds P Jose Acevedo, Mohr drove one to deep left that clanked off the Chevron cars atop the LF wall. It rolled back to at least the bullpen, as I recall, and Mohr touched 'em all. Unfortunately, there were no men on, and the Giants ultimately lost by a run.
⦁ Marquis Grissom Off-The-Wall, 4/8/2005.
This would be the 226th and penultimate home run of Marquis Grissom's long career, and I remember it because A) it was a walk-off, and B) it was a lined shot that somehow hit the very top of the Oracle Park LF wall and caromed over. Brief pause, then jubilation.
Grissom's three-run laser, off Colorado's Scott Dohmann, gave SF a 10-8 victory; all Colorado's runs had been scored in the 7th.
⦁ Barry Bonds #756, 8/7/2007.
I admit—much of the reason this homer makes the list is because it finally ended "The Chase" of Hank Aaron's home run record. When Aaron's own chase (of Babe Ruth's record) finally ended, he famously said "I'm glad it's over." I felt the same way. Remember: Bonds had sat on 703 for almost a full season, so this "Chase" had dragged on considerably longer than anticipated.
The home run itself–inconsequential to the game and against a nobody pitcher on a crap team—didn't light me up the way it should have. Maybe if it had landed in McCovey Cove?
⦁ John Bowker Instant Impact, 4/12-13/2008.
Previously unknown rookie John Bowker looked like a real find in early 2008, the year following the departure of Barry Bonds and his mighty lefty bat.
Bowker did his best Bonds imitation by ripping a three-run home run in his first game—nevermind that SF's bullpen allowed St. Louis seven runs in the final three innings. Then for good measure Bowker smacked a two-run shot the next night, aiding a Giants win. Ultimately, Bowker proved to not be the next Bonds, or even the next J.T. Snow, or even the next Brent Mayne. But for two days Giants fans dared dream.
⦁ Nate Schierholtz's First, 9/6/2008.
Forgive me for telling the story on this site again, but Nate Schierholtz's first career bomb makes the list because to date, it is the closest I've ever come to catching a ball at a major league game. It was headed right toward me initially, before hooking to my left. Check out the clip—I'm to the left of the ball's landing spot, in a headband and Giants jersey.
⦁ Aubrey Huff Inside-the-Parker, 4/14/2010.
Wherever his relationship with the team currently stands, Aubrey Huff led the 2010 Giants in runs, hits, home runs, RBI and several other categories. He also supplied perhaps the regular season's most exciting play—on a long drive that would have been a conventional home run just about everywhere else, Huff took advantage of a home team bounce and circled the bases.
What made this hit truly stand out in my mind: the slide and baseball-card pose at home plate. Rumor has it Huff did eventually catch his breath.
⦁ Ross Is Boss, 10/16/2010.
Cody Ross was never even supposed to be a Giant, but the Marlins—as usual—didn't want to pay him anymore. The Giants, obviously knowing what was good for them, swooped in, and before long Ross had helped SF to the postseason.
There, specifically in the NLCS, the Phillies and super-ace Roy Halladay awaited. Halladay had already no-hit the Reds in the NLDS the week before and seemed at the very height of his Hall-of-Fame powers.
The unfazed journeyman cracked solo home runs in the 3rd and 5th innings off Halladay, and the Giants added two more runs in the 6th to clinch the stunning upset win.
⦁ UUUUUUUU-RIBE, 10/23/2010.
One inning before Brian Wilson's backdoor slider/cutter froze Philly slugger Ryan Howard to clinch the memorable 2010 NLCS for the Giants, San Francisco took the (narrow) Game 6 lead on Juan Uribe's oppo home run off Phils' RP Ryan Madson. It barely got over the wall, but it counted just the same.
Note: Uribe had been just 2-for-25 in October entering Game 6.
⦁ Edgar Renteria Silences the Arlington Crowd, 11/1/2010.
It still gives me chills today, nearly 10 years later. Renteria, maligned throughout his two-year Giants tenure, made up for any prior disappointment with one swing of the bat against allegedly invincible Texas SP Cliff Lee late in Game 6 of the 2010 World Series.
Like Uribe's homer, it was less majestic drive and more wall scraper, but like Uribe's homer, it still counted! For THREE runs this time. Watch the video, skip past the FOX call, and listen to Giants announcer Dave Flemming's KNBR call—it captures the emotion every long-suffering Giants fan felt when the ball left the park.
⦁ Brandon Crawford Instant Impression, 5/27/2011.
Only six other men—including Giants legend Bobby Bonds—ever cracked grand slams in their MLB debut as Brandon Crawford did in 2011 against Shaun Marcum of the Milwaukee Brewers. Summoned from Class A, we knew the guy could field but his bat was a little suspect. After that grand swing, concerns over Crawford's offense were temporarily put to rest (he did eventually need more minor-league seasoning that year before returning to The Show for good).
⦁ Buster Posey's Big Tomato off Latos, 10/11/2012.
We detailed this home run in our opening paragraph, so I'll just stress how much more special it was because of who served it up. (Posey also hit a memorable go-ahead home run during Game Four of the 2012 World Series, but SF soon coughed the lead up.)
⦁ Pablo Sandoval Launches Thrice, 10/24/2012.
Pablo Sandoval is not one to shrivel up in big moments. Throw one of the game's best pitchers at him? No problem. Do so on the biggest stage in baseball? Sure, why not. In the opening game of the 2012 World Series, the lefty-batting Kung-Fu Panda took Detroit's Justin Verlander deep twice—to center and left fields—and for good measure, clubbed a third homer off reliever Al Albuquerque, also to CF.
Most importantly: Sandoval's four RBI powered an 8-3 victory.
⦁ Angel Pagan Walk-off Inside-the-Parker, 5/25/2013.
This is probably the most exciting home run I've ever seen. True, with just one out, maybe 3B coach Tim Flannery shouldn't have sent Pagan home, but he did, and Pagan scored easily. Even if it cost him his hamstring and months of the season. Rockies RP Rafael Betancourt served it up.
⦁ Hunter Pence UNLOADS In Colorado, 8/29/2013.
Pence is a big, strong man, but 449-foot-homer strong? Evidently so, as he proved at the launching pad that is Coors Field in 2013. There have been plenty of Coors homers that went considerably further (including Barry Bonds twice, not included on this list because I have no recollection of them) but Pence's shot off Chad Bettis is one of the longest I've seen by any Giants righty hitter.
⦁ Brandon Crawford's Wild Card Blast, 10/1/2014.
I witnessed the majority of home runs on this list from home or at the ballpark—except this one which I actually watched from the hospital (long story). But what's important is that I watched it; missing out on the Pittsburgh crowd falling silent after Crawford's big fly woulda sucked. I LOVE hearing the home crowd go silent.
About Crawford's shot: it was another grand slam, served up by Pittsburgh's Edinson Volquez, and it powered the Giants to the 2014 NLDS. Which set up...
⦁ Brandon Belt Delivers In The 18th, 10/4/2014.
You might remember the NLDS game where the Giants trailed the Nationals 1-0, and dominant SP Jordan Zimmermann was removed in the 9th inning when he didn't have to be. The Giants tied the game, which dragged on for nine more innings until Belt creamed a fastball from Tanner Roark into the 2nd deck at Nationals Park.
⦁ Morse's Pinch-Hit Heroics, 10/16/2014.
I've shared my first and second-favorite homers on this list. Mike Morse's NLCS shot off the Cardinals' Pat Neshek may well be next in line. Too injured to start, Morse was brought off the bench in a tight game with the hope of one outcome. Neshek's whole job was to prevent that outcome. Morse triumphed, and boy, did he enjoy it.
(Morse was only a Giant for one full season, and part of another, but it sure was fun having that guy around.)
⦁ Travis Ishikawa's NLCS Walk-Off, 10/16/2014.
It is weird, but once Travis Ishikawa dug in against Cards' RP Michael Wacha that night, I had a mild premonition: Ishikawa was indeed going to take Wacha deep to win the game.
NOT SAYING I predicted it or anything because I didn't; what I'm saying is everything was too set up for a magical, storybook ending for one not to happen.
Goodbye, Cardinals, hello World Series.
⦁ Joe Panik Vs. Claw And Jansen, 3/29-30/2018.
We Giants fans waited nearly four years for Joe Panik to re-emerge as the All-Star .312 hitter he'd been in 2015. It never really happened, though he teased us in the first two games of the 2018 season. First, he took Clayton Kershaw (Hall-of-Fame lefty) deep in the 5th to secure a 1-0 Opening Day victory. Then, the next night, he homered off Kenley Jansen (tough All-Star closer) in the 9th to clinch another 1-0 victory.
Of course, Panik only hit two more homers all season and finished with a .332 SLG. That's okay. He beat the Dodgers twice.
⦁ McCutchen Caps 6-Hit Night, 4/7/2018.
This goes down one of the greatest single-game performances in Giants history. New Giant Andrew McCutchen, capping off a six-hit night, ripped a walk-off three-run homer off Dodgers journeyman Wilmer Font in the bottom of the 14th inning...on the 12th pitch of the at-bat.
Were the Giants breaking the Dodgers' hearts early that year or what?
(Yeah, I know who went to the World Series in 2018. Don't care.)
⦁ Alberto Castillo's Grand Slam, 7/20/2003.
Seemingly each year of the 2000's, the Giants would import a random journeyman who'd join the team well into the season, provide a memorable home run, and then fade away. In 2003 it was catcher Alberto Castillo, who smoked a what-the-hell-was-that grand slam in his second game with the team. As a reward, Castillo was demoted back to the minors about a week later. (But SF did recall him in September.)
⦁ Scott McClain...FINALLY, 9/3/2008.
Scott McClain had a solid minor league resume; he was the 2006 Pacific Coast League MVP, batting .252 with 28 home runs and 107 RBI for Triple-A Sacramento. But in three separate major league trials dating back to 1998, he'd yet to go yard until finally connecting off Colorado's Steven Register in a one-sided win over the Rockies in 2008...at age 36, 18 years into his professional career.
McClain would finish up with two major league bombs (and 292 in the minors).
⦁ Brett Pill Gets Our Hopes Up, 9/6-7/2008.
Brett Pill came up in late 2011 and promptly homered in each of his first two MLB games—including his very first at-bat—leaving us fans wondering if we had a new star or an updated version of John Bowker in our midst.
Yeah, he turned out to be Bowker 2.0, but it was fun to dream.
⦁ Nate Schierholtz UNLOADS, 4/18/2011.
This ball went very far. Made even more memorable because in those days Schierholtz was not the likeliest source of any home run, let alone a third-deck moonshot (after leaving the Giants and getting regular run, he started to flash more power). Esmil Rogers served it up at Coors Field.
(Thanks to YouTube and Baseball-Reference.com for helping me fill in many blanks. Photos courtesy of SFGate.com and GettyImages.)