Baseball's century of postseason history has seen its share of dramatic game-ending home runs and amazing comebacks that would boggle the mind of even the most cynical observer. But Chris Chambliss and Bill Mazeroski and Joe Carter, despite producing some of the most famous walkoff homers in North American sports history, take a back seat to Andruw Jones in one aspect. You see, Andruw Jones was the proud recipient of baseball's only ever postseason walkoff walk.
In the 1999 NLCS, Jones' Braves faced the Mets in what turned out to be one of the best contested postseason series in history, with every game decided by one or two runs and the teams separated by just three total runs across the six games. Game Five was ended by the famous walkoff 'grand slam single' by Robin Ventura; despite hitting the ball over the fence with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 15th, Ventura was mobbed on the basepaths and never quite made it home.
But it was the deciding Game Six that proved to be the most memorable. The Mets climbed back from deficits of 5-0 and 7-3, and held the lead 9-8 in the eighth inning. After John Franco allowed the tying run in the eighth, the teams went to extra innings for the second game in a row. The teams traded runs in the tenth inning and Braves reliever Russ Springer held the Mets scoreless in the top half of the eleventh.
In the fateful bottom of the 11th, Mets manager Bobby Valentine went deep into his bullpen to use veteran starter Kenny Rogers, who gave up a leadoff double to Gerald Williams. After Bret Boone sacrificed Williams to third, Valentine ordered intentional walks to the next two big hitters, Chipper Jones and Brian Jordan, to set up a force at home and/or an inning ending double play.
That would never come. Andruw Jones stepped to the plate, worked the count full, and then showed what would be the most patience of his career in drawing the walkoff walk, only swinging once in the at-bat:
To hear Mets catcher Todd Pratt describe the fateful at-bat, as related by New York Times writer Murray Chass, is to realize the bad side effects that are a result of trying too hard to get a single result from a hitter:
Todd Pratt, who was catching, said the first pitch from Rogers to Jones was a curveball that was a ball ''all the way out of his hand.'' After that, he said: ''It was just sinker, sinker, sinker. We wanted to get him to hit a ball into the ground so we could get a double play.''
With a 2-0 count, Jones fouled off a pitch, then took the third ball and the second strike.
''He just missed a couple,'' Pratt said. Then the left-handed Rogers went into his motion for his sixth pitch.
''The 3-2 pitch just sailed away from him,'' the catcher said. ''It was supposed to be his sinker. It sailed.''
There would be no mentions of the "walkoff walk" in the New York Times nor would anyone have the foresight enough to post a YouTube video of a prawn on a treadmill. (nor would YouTube be invented for another five years) With that courageous at-bat, Jones sent the Braves to the World Series where they would get humiliated by the Yankees.
So at the heart of Walkoff Walk, we'll always have Andruw Jones and Kenny Rogers as our patron saints for their involvement in producing one of the most unique moments in the long, storied history of our national pastime.