You can ask any baseball fan if a hitter is remembered for one at bat, they probably did something big. Walk-off home run in the Postseason, the game-winning double, or maybe the sac bunt to send a team to the World Series.
If you are a pitcher that was defined by one pitch, it is probably not the highlight of your career. Pitchers are typically defined by how many strikeouts in a career, or game, or Games Won, Saves, ERA, or other overall stats. However, when pitchers are remembered for one game or even one pitch, it is more typically a dubious distinction.
As many of you know Ralph Branca, pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, died at the age of 90 this Wednesday. He was solely remembered for what? If you answered, “the shot heard round the world”, then you are correct! Even though he was three-time All-Star, he will always be known as the pitcher that gave up one of the most famous home runs in history. See my article written November 23, 2016, for more details on Branca’s Pitch and Career.
So let’s go back in time to find out which pitchers are most famous for the pitches they wish they could forget.
Al Downing to Hank Aaron
Was Al Downing remembered for his 17 seasons in the Major Leagues, 123 career wins, or his All-Star year in 1967? Let me tell you something, if he was, he wouldn’t be on this list! Henry Aaron was only two home runs shy of breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974.
It wasn’t the question of if he would break the great Babe Ruth’s Record, it was when he would hit the historic shot and which pitcher would serve it up. Those questions were answered on April 8, 1974, when Aaron hit a shot out to left-center field off of Al Downing and the rest, is history!
Donnie Moore to Dave Henderson
One of the most, if not the most, tragic event on this list is what happened to Donnie Moore on October 12, 1986, during Game 5 of the ALCS. The Anaheim Angels were one strike away from going to the World Series for the first time in franchise history. Angels fans were holding their breath, hoping that their time had finally come. And with Dave Henderson up at the plate, and a runner on first, and the Angels winning 5-4, fate would strike not only the Angels, their fans, but Donnie Moore as well.
Little did Pitcher Donnie Moore know that the next pitch he threw would completely ruin his life. Moore threw a pitch low and outside that Dave Henderson hit about eight rows deep in the left-field bleachers giving them the lead in the game. The Angels tied the game after that, but in the 11th inning Donnie Moore gave up a sac fly to none other than Dave Henderson, to give the Red Sox the lead. The Angels couldn’t score in the bottom of the 11th and lost the game.
Even though they had the rest of the game, and would have two more tries at Fenway, the Angel Fans seemed to know it was over. That One Lone Pitch and Donnie Moore with it would never be forgotten. The Angels went on to lose the next two games at Fenway as if the rest of the ALCS games did not matter and the Red Sox advanced to the World Series.
Three years later, Moore after being relentlessly taunted, heckled, and booed by Angels fans who blamed him for the Angels losing the series, became overcome with grief and shot his wife (who survived) and then shot himself in the head, ending his own life at the age of 35.
Mitch Williams to Joe Carter
In 1993, Mitch Williams saved 43 games with 60 strikeouts in 65 games played in the regular season. After the Phillies beat the Braves, Williams velocity was rapidly decreasing due to overuse. After 73 games pitched with the postseason included, the “Wild Thing” was starting to wear down.
In game 6 of the 1993 World Series, in the bottom of the 9th Williams came in to close the game and force a game 7. With runners on first and second, Williams threw a low and inside pitch to Joe Carter, and Carter hit a walk-off home run to win the World Series.
From that moment until the end of time, Mitch Williams will be known for blowing the 1993 World Series.
Ralph Terry to Bill Mazeroski
Most likely, the most dramatic pitch on this list came from Ralph Terry in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. With Bill Mazeroski at the plate and the score tied in the bottom of the 9th, Mazeroski hit a shot towards the left-field bleachers, and all Yogi Berra (who was playing left-field at the time) could do was watch as the ball sailed over the fence. It was the first time in baseball history that the World Series was ended on a walk-off home run, and it is the only time to this day a walk-off homer has taken place in Game 7 of the World Series.
Pitcher Ralph Terry made a comeback winning the 1962 World Series MVP, but he will have to bear the burden of being the pitcher that gave up one of the most famous home runs in history until the day he dies.
Carl Mays to Ray Chapman
Easily the saddest and probably one of the most, or the most horrific moment in baseball history was the result of a pitch thrown by submariner Carl Mays.
There have been more than 30 million pitches thrown in Major League history, but only one pitch ever killed a Player. Carl Mays threw a pitch that hit Indians shortstop Ray Chapman in his head. Unfortunately, batting helmets were not invented yet, and Chapman died 12 hours after being struck. Ray Chapman died that day at the age of 29.
This one pitch not only took Chapman’s life but denied both Chapman and Mays of a chance at the Hall of Fame, as well as ruining Mays’ reputation.
As all of these events are terrible for these pitchers (and one for the batter), I am going to say that Donnie Moore, Ray Chapman, and Carl Mays’ were the worst. As much as I love baseball, no sport is worth ruining or taking someone’s life over!
Whether you agree with me or think I am totally wrong, I would love to hear which pitch you think is the worst and why? Thank you for reading and have a blessed day!