Hitting a home run off a Major League pitcher is one of the hardest things an athlete can do. It takes superior timing, preparation and, of course, plenty of strength.
But hitting a homer while your bat shatters in half? That's a whole new definition of strength. While a broken-bat dinger might not be quite as singular as, say, a called shot by Babe Ruth in the 1932 World Series, it's rare enough to marvel at each time it takes place on a big league diamond. So, that's just what we'll do here … grab a seat and enjoy some of the most memorable splintered-stick homers in recent history.
Joey Gallo (Rangers) vs. Angels, Aug. 16, 2018
Gallo showed his strength when he connected on a second-inning homer to right field off of Angels right-hander Taylor Cole, which resulted in his bat splintering at the handle. The solo shot was the slugger's 32nd dinger of the year, but he wasn't done with the damage to his bats or the Angels' pitching staff. He broke a second bat in the eighth inning on an RBI double, which he muscled into the right-field gap off reliever Justin Anderson.
Bryce Harper (Nationals) vs. Mets, April 16, 2018
Harper entered this rivalry game already leading the Majors with seven home runs. No. 8 was one of the slugger's most memorable to date, as he attacked a first-pitch fastball from Mets ace Jacob deGrom and trotted down the first-base line with only the handle of his bat remaining in his hand.
"That was pretty shocking," said deGrom. "I heard the bat break and then I looked and I saw [Mets right fielder Brandon] Nimmo just keep going. I just said, 'Oh. I guess that's out of here.'"
Indeed, Harper was somehow able to muscle his shattered-bat blast a projected 406 feet, according to Statcast™, which topped the MLB home run average distance at that point of the season by a full eight feet. Needless to say, Harper's bicep flex to end his trip around the bases was fully warranted.
Nelson Cruz (Mariners) vs. Yankees, Aug. 22, 2016
Cruz's power reputation was already well established by the time he stepped in against Yankees reliever Kirby Yates with the Mariners holding a tenuous 6-5 lead in the eighth. Seattle's slugger took in Yates' offspeed pitch and calmly blistered it over the left-field wall at Safeco Field. Cruz's Marucci bat splintered straight across the handle, further cementing the legacy of the "Boomstick" in the Northwest.
Mike Napoli (Red Sox) vs. Twins, 2015 Spring Training
The ball off Napoli's bat rocketed toward the Green Monster replica at Jet Blue Park, while the majority of Napoli's bat rocketed toward the third-base dugout. It was the first time Napoli could ever recall hitting a broken-bat homer, and he was at a loss trying to explain to reporters afterward just how he did it.
"I think I broke it on my at-bat before when I hit the ball to right [field]," said Napoli. "I wasn't sure, but I thought I hit it on the barrel. It was just a weird feeling. The bat exploded and I was just kind of sitting there.
"I was just kind of running around the bases like, 'What just happened?'"
Napoli's homer was just a drop in the bucket of a rather meaningless 14-2 Grapefruit League victory for the Red Sox, but those in the stands in Fort Myers, Fla., probably still remember that mighty blast.
Miguel Cabrera (Tigers) vs. Giants, 2012 World Series Game 4
The enduring image of the 2012 World Series is when Giants reliever Sergio Romo froze the mighty Cabrera with a Series-ending strikeout at the end of this contest. But much less remembered is the two-run, broken-bat homer Miggy hit to give the Tigers an early two-run lead in Game 4. Cabrera made contact just below the sweet spot, but it was enough to bend his bat and break it on follow-through. That wasn't enough to curtail possibly the best right-handed hitter of his generation, and this impressive dinger should really be more than a mere footnote in Fall Classic history.
Chris Davis (Orioles) vs. Pirates, June 13, 2012
Pirates reliever Tony Watson did his job when he was able to saw off Davis' bat with a seventh-inning pitch in on the hands. Unfortunately for Watson, Davis was just too strong to be denied.
"It's one of those crazy things," Davis later told reporters. "There's always crazy things going on in this game."
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle had his own befuddled take on Davis' blast.
"I've never seen a guy walk out of the batter's box with four inches of wood in his hand and he hit a home run," Hurdle told the Baltimore Sun. "That was a new one for me."
Justin Upton (D-backs) vs. Pirates, Sept. 19, 2011
Though Hurdle said he didn't recall ever seeing a broken-bat homer before Davis' home run against his club in 2012, he witnessed Upton do the very same thing a season prior for the D-backs.
Upton smashed a Jeff Karstens offering to break a scoreless tie with the Bucs in the sixth inning at Chase Field. But the ball, which landed over the left-field wall, wasn't the only thing smashed. So was the bat, the barrel of which landed by third base.
The ball landed just over the wall in left, and Hurdle challenged the home run on grounds of fan interference as left fielder Alex Presley leaped in an attempt to rob Upton. Upon review, the home run call stood, and Arizona took a 1-0 lead on Upton's 31st of the season.
The D-backs commemorated the unusual homer with a Justin Upton Broken-Bat Home Run bobblehead the following season. The first 20,000 fans prior to a regular season game in 2012 received the momento. "It's not my best look out there," Upton said of the bobblehead, "but it's cool."
Mark Teixeira (Yankees) vs. Phillies, May 24, 2009
When the Yankees took on the Phillies on May 24, 2009, every game at Yankee Stadium during the 2009 season had featured a home run. Teixeira wasn't about to let that streak end, even if it meant breaking his bat to make that happen. Indeed, that's what he did against the 2008 National League Championship Series and World Series Most Valuable Player, Cole Hamels.
Teixeira shattered his bat on a solo home run off Hamels that landed well over the left-field wall in the sixth inning. Phillies left fielder Jayson Werth initially broke in on the ball -- surely figuring the ball wouldn't be very deep considering the fate of the bat. But instead of a routine fly ball, it ended up becoming Teixeira's 13th homer of the year.
Barry Bonds (Giants) vs. Marlins, Aug. 17, 2002
Eight days after hitting career home run No. 600, Bonds followed with one of the more unusual homers of his 762 long balls for No. 601. In the top of the first inning against Marlins rookie right-hander Josh Beckett, Bonds deposited a pitch over the wall in right field at Pro Player Stadium. Just another Bonds dinger? Nope, this one resulted in the all-time home run leader's bat in two pieces, one of which he passed on his way around first base.
Damian Jackson (Padres) vs. Astros, July 15, 2001
Count Jackson's manager, Bruce Bochy, among those amazed at Jackson's splintered feat, as the second baseman spurred a Padres come-from-behind 8-6 victory with a broken-bat grand slam. It was just the 18th dinger of Jackson's career.
"I was shocked," said Bochy. "I didn't know he had that kind of power, but he hit it in the right spot down the line."
Jackson, for his part, didn't notice anything different in his hands. He thought he had just knocked a solid base hit, adding that his bat may have cracked first during his previous trip to the plate.
"I hit that one right on the barrel," said Jackson. "I knew I hit it good but I never dreamed it would go out. It didn't vibrate or anything. It felt good."
Glenallen Hill (Yankees) vs. Rangers, Aug. 21, 2000
Hill demonstrated his home run power throughout his 13-year Major League career, even hitting a ball onto a rooftop outside Wrigley Field while playing for the Cubs on May 11, 2000. It was later that same season, after a trade to the Yankees, that he hit another memorable homer, this time breaking his bat taking Texas reliever Francisco Cordero deep.
The ball landed well over the left-field wall at Yankee Stadium, and after he returned to the dugout, Hill showed incredulous teammates the crack in his lumber down near the handle.
Bill Haselman (Red Sox) vs. Blue Jays, June 27, 1995
This one had a little bit of everything. It was Haselman's first homer of the season. It was the only hit Blue Jays reliever Woody Williams allowed in 4 1/3 innings out of the bullpen. And it came in a pinch-hit appearance for Haselman with the game tied at five in the bottom of the 11th. Haselman's broken-bat, walk-off homer certainly didn't lack any flair for the dramatic.
"I've never seen that before," marveled teammate Troy O'Leary, who homered as well in Boston's 6-5 victory that day. "But Haselman's strong. He could hit one out with a toothpick."
Judging by this incredible shot, O'Leary wasn't that far off.
Jack Howell (Angels) vs. Yankees, Sept. 5, 1987
Howell not only achieved the impressive feat of homering while breaking his bat, in the process he accomplished something perhaps equally impressive: doing something the legendary Vin Scully had never seen before. Scully was on the call for a late-season Angels-Yankees game at Yankee Stadium when Howell belted a solo homer over the right-field wall off right-hander Tim Stoddard. It was one of a career-high 23 homers for Howell, who finished with 108 in his 11-year Major League career.
"That's the first broken-bat home run I've ever seen," said Scully, calling the game for NBC Sports. Scully also noted that the broken part of the bat flew all the way past first base.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.