These HRs left crowds in stunned silence

Sometimes silence is the sweetest sound

April 27th, 2020

When you were out in the backyard as a kid, living out your wildest big-league fantasies, you probably pictured yourself hitting a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth, imaginary home crowd going wild around you. That was the dream: What could be better than becoming a hero in front of tens of thousands of adoring fans?

But then you grew up, and you realized the answer: absolute silence -- the kind of hear-a-pin-drop, did-someone-accidentally-mute-the-television quiet that can only be the result of dashing your rival's hopes and dreams right in front of their eyes. Opportunities to celebrate with your fellow fans come around pretty often; the chance to bask in a sea of surrender cobras? That's priceless.

And so, without further ado, here are the very best crowd-silencing homers in baseball history, presented in chronological order.

George Brett, Game 3, 1980 ALCS

It's one of the great forgotten rivalries in baseball history: Every year from 1976 to 1978, the Yankees and Royals met in the ALCS, and every year, New York came out on top in hotly contested (and instantly iconic) fashion.

In 1980, though, Brett finally decided that he'd had enough. K.C. took the first two games of the best-of-five series, and headed to Yankee Stadium -- its own personal house of horrors -- looking for an oh-so-satisfying sweep. It looked like the Royals' celebration would have to wait at least one more day, as they trailed by a run entering the top of the seventh ... until their Hall of Fame third baseman took Goose Gossage all the way out:

Dave Henderson, Game 5, 1986 ALCS

Already up on the Red Sox three games to one, the Angels took a commanding 5-2 lead to the top of the ninth of Game 5. It seemed all over but the crying; despite Boston's best team in over a decade, the Curse of the Bambino would haunt New England for at least one more year.

And then Dave Henderson, down to his final strike in front of a sold-out Anaheim Stadium, came up big:

(OK, so '86 still didn't have a happy ending, but for a brief moment after Henderson's homer it seemed like anything might be possible.)

Jose Canseco, Game 4, 1989 ALCS

Some home runs defy the odds, snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, accomplish the miraculous. Others, like Canseco's moonshot against the Blue Jays -- one of only a handful of homers to ever reach the fifth deck at Rogers Centre -- simply deliver a message: This is what happens when you mess with the Bash Brothers.

The moan that color man Tony Kubek lets out when the ball leaves Canseco's bat is still one of the greatest moments in the history of sports broadcasting.

Mark McGwire, June 24, 1997

Speaking of the Bash Brothers: McGwire would get shipped to St. Louis about a month after this game, but he made sure to give his longtime division nemesis in Seattle something to remember him by.

Sure, there were no postseason stakes. But there was still the game's most feared power hitter squaring off against its hardest thrower, future Hall of Famer (and McGwire's former college teammate at USC) Randy Johnson, as the Kingdome crowd hung on every pitch -- desperate for their hero to put the hated Big Mac in his place. That, uh, didn't happen:

Barry Bonds, Game 2, 2002 World Series

Yes, the Giants still trailed after this homer. Yes, they wound up losing the game one batter later. No, I do not care about any of that. If anything, the circumstances make this even more impressive: There the Angels were, one out away from their first World Series victory in franchise history, and all anybody could think about is what Bonds managed to do to that poor baseball.

In the words of Tim Salmon: That's the farthest ball I've ever seen hit.

Manny Ramirez, Game 5, 2003 ALDS

As if "go-ahead three-run homer off the reigning AL Cy Young winner in the sixth inning of a do-or-die Game 5 with your franchise's 85-year title drought hanging in the balance" isn't self-explanatory enough, Manny decided to take his time and made sure everybody in Oakland knew what just happened:

Johnny Damon, Game 7, 2004 ALCS

Despite The Steal, despite the walk-offs, dropping three games in a row, the Yankees and their fans still entered Game 7 of the '04 ALCS supremely confident. They were the Yankees after all, and the Red Sox were the Red Sox -- no matter how close Boston came, no matter how promising things looked, the Curse always managed to win out. (Plus, hadn't we just gone through this last year?)

It wasn't until Damon lifted a grand slam to right that reality set in: Oh no, this is really going to happen.

Albert Pujols, Game 5, 2005 NLCS

It says a lot that, even after the Astros went on to clinch the series two nights later, this is still probably the most notorious life-force-sucking homer in baseball history. It somehow became bigger than the game itself -- a testament to Pujols in all his Machine-like greatness, every closer's worst nightmare, a blow so mighty it took Brad Lidge literally years to recover from it. "Crowd-silencing" doesn't even do it justice, because everybody in Houston that night couldn't help but groan in admiration.

Matt Stairs, Game 4, 2008 NLCS

After 20 years without winning a postseason series, the Dodgers were finally back. They had it all: the history, the glitz, the historic ballpark, Mannywood. The stage was set for one of American sports' iconic franchises to retake its place in the cultural firmament.

Ah, but they didn't have a 40-year-old man who referred to himself as the Wonder Hamster, and that was their downfall.

Miguel Cabrera, Aug. 9, 2013

A clash of the titans, the likes of which only comes around every so often: two surefire Hall of Famers, Cabrera and Mariano Rivera, facing off for what might be the final time, with the tying run at the plate and two outs in the ninth. Rivera looked like he was about to slam the door as he had so many times before, just one strike away. But then he left a cutter a little too far out over the plate:

Rafael Devers, Aug. 14, 2017

In the top of the ninth inning of yet another clash with the Red Sox, Yankees fans were feeling pretty good. Aroldis Chapman had easily retired the first batter of the inning, and with two strikes on Rafael Devers, New York was seemingly moments away from a 2-1 win and a series victory over their AL East rivals.

One Yankees fan in particular was feeling very good. So good, in fact, that he decided to start recording from his seat in the right-field bleachers at Yankee Stadium -- all the better to capture the celebration when his team nailed down the win. Except, well:

In his defense, if you saw a 20-year-old rookie deposit a 102.8-mph fastball the other way for a game-tying home run, you'd react that way too.

Bryce Harper, Apr. 2, 2019

This has yet to be scientifically proven, but I'd be willing to bet my life's savings that Harper's OPS is at least 50 points higher when he's being actively heckled. He has a whole miniature highlight reel of these bad boys, but coming back to D.C. and immediately launching one (plus his bat) into the right-field seats he used to call his own has to take the top spot:

Howie Kendrick, Game 7, 2019 World Series

Perhaps the apex crowd-silencer: trailing by a run late in Game 7 of the World Series, playing in one of the loudest atmospheres in baseball, and making it so quiet that all anyone can hear is the "clang" off the foul pole reverberating into the night.