On “Walk-Off” Home Runs

Lesley Visser hates them:

It’s a joyful moment burdened by a terrible name. It’s a cascade of emotions for the winning players and their fans, yet it’s described in the most negative way. Johnny Damon, after a home run giving the Yankees their third straight come-from-behind win over the Twins, gets a pie in the face and here’s how it’s portrayed.

A “walk-off home run.”

Is there any more of a buzz kill? Should a face full of whipped cream and gleeful celebration be defined in terms of the losers? . . . Imagine if the glorious moments in baseball had been treated this way. “Branca throws,” Russ Hodges said of Bobby Thomson’s at-bat on Oct. 3, 1951, when the Giants met the Dodgers in the NL playoff. Imagine if Hodges had added, “There’s long drive — it’s gonna be, I believe — a walk-off home run!” Instead, we remember his exuberant description, “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!”

Imagine if Jack Buck, on Kirk Gibson’s home run against Eckersley and the A’s in the 1988 World Series (off Eckersley, by the way) had said, “Gibson swings … This is gonna be a walk-off home run. I don’t believe what I just saw!”

Except I can’t ever remember an announcer using the phrase “walk-off” contemporaneously with the home run in question. Announcers either have their own home run calls or else they say “it’s outta here” or “its gone” or what have you. The phrase “walk-off ___” is almost always a post-game wrapup show or a wire report game story phenomenon, and as far as those things go, cliches are the order of the day. And as Steve Hirdt of the Elias Sports Bureau notes in the article itself, at least the term is concise and descriptive.

And besides, even if some play-by-play men did use it the moment a home run was hit , there’s no chance that Jack Buck would have. He was too damn good.

(link via BTF)

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Comments

  1. matt said...

    Funny, on my list of irksome broadcasting gimmicks the term “walk-off home run” has always ranked way behind sideline reporters who add nothing to the broadcast.

  2. Grant said...

    Like I said at Walkoff Walk, she uses cliches like “shot heard ‘round the world” and “boys of summer” in the article. In conclusion, Leslie Visser is dumb.

  3. Michael said...

    “Walk-off” was used by the Yankee announcer when Damon hit the home run described in the quoted article. It sounded as bad as the author suggested.

    I fault ESPN for their memo several years ago that pushed the term “walk-off” in fans’ faces. Baseball already had a great term for a game-winning homer: “sayonara.” But ESPN had to do its job as arbiter of sports culture, and there you go.

  4. Kelly F. said...

    I hate the term, also. I you think about it, what does it really mean? It means, Player X got Hit Y and we won the game, so our prize for winning is . . . we get to walk off the field. Yay?

    Sometimes a player will ground into a double play to end an inning, and guess what? He and whichever runners that were on base, get to walk off the field too. Walking off the field is not always a good thing. The walk-off term is just so poor.

    Game-winning hit, homerun, etc. is a much better term. It describes perfectly what happened. It may be cliched, but sometimes cliches become cliches for a good reason.

  5. Ryan said...

    I don’t know… some people might call a go-ahead HR that happens earlier in a game a game-winning home run.  A walk-off home run describes a very specific event:  a home run hit by the home team in the 9th inning or extras that wins the game.

    I agree that it’s a pretty dull way for announcers to describe the moment but it’s the phrase I’d use if I were having a conversation with a friend about last night’s game.

  6. Mike said...

    Didn’t Eck himself coin the term, or at least popularize it? I remember hearing him describe the Gibson homer as a “walk-off piece” before I had ever heard the phrase.

  7. Daniel said...

    Let me break this down into a three part argument:
    1. Who cares what it’s called?
    2. I don’t.
    3. Why does anyone else?

    It’s all just semantics!  The moment itself is exciting, and we need a name for it, so someone came up with one!  What should we call it?  A Splendiferous Smash?  A Game-Ending Bomb? An Epic Home Run?

    This is silly.  Walk-off homerun is just a label.  The home run itself is what’s interesting.

  8. ditmars1929 said...

    I absolutely hate the walk off term.  It’s just so stupid.  And of course, the first time I heard it was from Tim McCarver, so that pretty much says it all.

  9. Michael said...

    Coming back to this days later (heh) I know what REALLY bugs me about the phrase, and why any of Daniel’s other options are light-years better:

    The LOSING TEAM walks off immediately after a bottom-9th-inning game-winner.

    The WINNING team jumps around like monkeys, slaps the poor guy on the helmet and generally hangs out congratulating each other. They eventually leave too, but often they’re more dancing than walking.

    So the term is not only boring, it’s WRONG.

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