Indians slugger becomes oldest MLB player to hit walk-off home run
CLEVELAND -- The slider delivered by White Sox reliever Ramon Troncoso never had a chance.
The ill-fated offering came in the ninth inning of a tie game on Monday. It was up in the zone and near the middle of the plate, and Jason Giambi, pinch-hitting and leading off, crushed it to straightaway center, high into the Cleveland night and over the fence at Progressive Field.
Giambi's walk-off blast extended the Indians' win streak to five games with a 3-2 victory in the series opener. It also made Giambi the oldest player in Major League history to hit a walk-off homer, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. At 42 years, 202 days, Giambi is older than Hank Aaron, who previously set the record on July 11, 1976. That home run, the 754th of Aaron's 755 career homers, came with Aaron at 42 years and 157 days old.
"I just wanted to take a good at-bat," Giambi said. "There's nothing more special in this game than to do that, help a ballclub win in your last at-bat after they battled so well tonight.
"I wasn't trying to do too much. I just wanted to see it and kind of hit it. I got a pitch up in the strike zone and ended up catching up to it. I hit it pretty good."
Giambi's homer, the seventh of the season and 436th of his career, traveled an estimated 416 feet before landing in the shrubbery beyond the center-field fence. After his teammates finished mobbing him at home plate, Giambi continued celebrating by joyfully lifting up manager Terry Francona, who knew the ball was gone as soon as "Big G" hit it.
"What he does," Francona said, "before he even steps in the batter's box, you can't put a price on it. And then, when he does what he does there, it makes his value [even higher]. ... You could fill up a book, because I keep trying to say how I feel about him, and I just don't feel like I ever quite get there. That's how valuable I feel like he is to our team."
Giambi now has nine career walk-off home runs. He is one of three players to finish a game with a homer at age 42 or older. In addition to Giambi and Aaron, Tony Perez did so in 1984 (42 years, 110 days).
"It's incredible just to contribute," Giambi said. "I don't think in that situation, I'm thinking about anything. I'm just excited. That's what keeps you coming back every single year, is that moment. Winning a ballgame and celebrating as a ballclub -- there's nothing better."