By Steve Perrault – Follow on Twitter @Steve_Perrault
Game 5 of the American League Division Series between the Blue Jays and Rangers will go down as one of the most dramatic games in playoff history. But it’s the bat flip that followed Jose Bautista’s go ahead 3-run homer in the 7th inning that has everyone buzzing.
While everyone and their mother seems to have a strong opinion of whether or not the act of flipping your bat after a home run is acceptable, it’s clear that this display of excitement has been a part of baseball for several years and most likely isn’t going anywhere. While I’m not the #1 bat flip supporter, I don’t have a huge issue with this flip considering the situation. It’s clear the moment got the best of Bautista, as the whole country of Canada ERUPTED with that smash.
This got me thinking, “Where does that bat flip rank among the all-time greats in the postseason?” Well, let’s take a look at ten of the best bat-chucks in the history of October baseball from oldest to most recent.
1987 World Series, Game 4 – Tom Lawless go-ahead 3-run homer vs. the Twins (flip at 1:04 mark):
This has to go down as not just one of the best bat flips in postseason history, but one of the greatest of ALL TIME. Look at the swagger in that walk after he hits the jack. Tom walks that thing as slowly as possible halfway down the damn baseline before launching his bat to the moon. That bat flip set the bar at a level baseball had never seen before, and maybe hasn’t seen since. The Cardinals would win Game 4 by a final of 7-2, yet lost the World Series in 7 to the Minnesota Twins.
1988 World Series, Game 3 – Mark McGwire hits a walk-off homer vs. the Dodgers (flip at 0:55 mark):
This was the A’s lone shining moment in a World Series that is famously known for Kirk Gibson’s walk-off home run on one leg in Game 1. Mark McGwire sending a walk-off of his own into the Oakland night and tossing the bat in the direction of the pitcher, as he jogs to first with his hands held high. The sneaky best part of this clip is that three second period after he puts his arms in the air when it hits him that there’s a chance that ball isn’t a home run. You can almost see that “Oh no, I totally misread this entire situation” look on his face before he realizes it’s actually gone. Do you, Big Mac. Do you.
1995 ALDS, Game 1 – Ken Griffey Jr. hits two homers vs. the Yankees (bat drop at 1:09 mark):
First and foremost I understand there is a difference between a bat flip after a home run and an aggressive bat drop and slow walk after a home run. Let’s get that out of the way. But having said that, it just wouldn’t feel right to leave Junior’s signature bat drop and slow walk off this list. Look at how smooth Griffey’s swing was. Junior knew that if you threw anything in his wheel house – which might as well have been anywhere near the plate – he was going to put a good swing on it and have a great shot at sending it several feet past the fence. The greatest player of his generation, but more importantly the sweetest swing I have ever seen. Despite Junior’s two-home run game, the Mariners lost Game 1 of the ’95 ALDS to the Yankees, 9-6. However, Seattle would go on to win the series in walk-off fashion in a winner-take-all Game 5. As Griffey scored all the way from first base on an Edgar Martinez double down the line to send the Mariners into the ALCS.
1995 ALDS, Game 1 – Tony Pena hits a walk-off homer in the 13th inning vs. the Red Sox:
This was one of the last games I remember crying after it was all said and done. I was 5 at the time and my beloved Red Sox were in the playoffs for the first time in my life. Looking back on it, I’m still shocked my parents let me stay up that late on a school night, but my Dad and I were equally invested in the outcome of the series, so I’m sure that helped my cause. Anyway, what an aggressive bat flip from Pena here, right? Whoever was on deck definitely had to duck for cover because that thing was coming in HOT. The Indians would go on to sweep the Red Sox and face the Mariners in the ALCS.
1995 ALCS, Game 5 – Jim Thome go-ahed 2-run homer vs. the Mariners (flip at 0:37 mark):
Speaking of that ALCS matchup…here is another Indians pimp-job, as future Hall-of-Famer Jim Thome throws his hat in the ring for best bat flip in postseason history. This bat flip brings a new element to the table: The Side Flip. This one wasn’t sent high in the sky, or thrown down on the ground. No, this was a whole new dimension of the bat-flip game as Thome flung that thing like a frisbee toward the Mariners dugout. It was a revolutionary bat flip that gave Cleveland a lead in Game 5 that they wouldn’t give up. The Indians went on to beat the Mariners in 6, as they made their first World Series appearance, at the time, in 41 years.
2002 NLCS, Game 3 – Barry Bonds hits one into McCovery Cove vs. the Cardinals (best flip shot at 0:48 mark):
Say what you want about Barry Bonds – and make sure it’s majority negative – but this man hit some of the most towering shots in the history of baseball. Whatever helped him hit those blasts is a discussion for another day, as this homer and bat flip combo is one of the best we’ve seen to date. Bonds would hit 8 home runs total in the 2002 postseason, one that ended in the Giants losing to the Angels in a decisive Game 7 of the World series.
2003 ALDS Game 5 – Manny Ramirez with a HUGE showboat-job after a go-ahead homer vs. the Athletics:
You can’t talk about postseason bat flips and hot dogging it after home runs without talking about Manny Ramirez. So, this is the first of a Manny-trio of playoff shenanigans after dingers. This bat drop might just be the cockiest of them all. Manny’s still walking out of the box when the ball is soaring over the fence. Then the long point to the dugout to cap it off and you have (arguably) Manny’s best showboat job of all time. Side note: This is also, without a doubt, one the biggest home runs of Manny’s life. The Sox trailed this series 2-0 and had to scrap all the way back to force a Game 5 in Oakland and Manny put the hammer down on then-ace Barry Zito to eventually send Boston to the ALCS. And let’s not talk about what happened in that ALCS..
2007 ALDS Game 2 – Manny Ramirez walk-off home run vs. the Angels:
Another classic Manny bat drop here. This one may even be cockier than the first on the list, as Manny stays in the batters box all the way until that homer landed (most likely being on the Mass Pike). I was at this game and have never heard Fenway erupt quite like that – next to Ortiz’s grand slam in Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS. The whole crowd almost knew that Manny was about to send one of the park. It was more just a matter of time until he did it. Manny being Manny, indeed.
2007 ALDS Game 3 – Manny Ramirez again with a mammoth home run and AGAIN with the showboat of the century vs. the Angels:
In the final installment of the Manny bat drop and showboat series we have another massive home run, and yet another perfect reaction. Have you ever seen anyone hit a blast and just leave their arms out in front of them like that? I can’t say I’ve ever seen anyone else do that. It seems like such an irregular post-homer move, but for some reason Manny doing it made it look normal. The Red Sox would win Game 3 to complete the sweep of the Angels, as they went on to sweep the Rockies in the World Series that year as well.
2015 NLDS, Game 3 – Yoenis Cespedes hits 431 foot blast vs. the Dodgers (best flip shot at 0:34 mark)
It’s crazy to think two of the biggest bat flips in the history of the MLB playoffs happened just two days apart, but that’s exactly what we have here. The Bautista bat flip was one for the ages, but check out the elevation on the Cespedes flip. I have to think Yoenis got more height on the bat launch making it a toss-up (see what I did there) between him and Bautista for the best flip of the 2015 MLB postseason. Either way, we can put both of these on the all time list and just hope that we have more insane bat flips right around the corner.