Sammy Sosa’s name is going to appear frequently in this post and the next one, as he had quite a few walkoff home runs for the Cubs.
But so did a few other folks who you might not remember well. Let’s have a look at the 15 walkoff homers in these five seasons — and we have video for eight of them!
June 16, 1995: Tom Candiotti of the Dodgers had held the Cubs to three hits through eight. But the game was scoreless, and so Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda batted for Candiotti in the top of the ninth. L.A. didn’t score, and in came Rudy Seanez for the last of the ninth. Mark Grace singled and was sacrificed to second and Howard Johnson walked it off.
Yes, that Howard Johnson, the guy who had great years for the Mets in the late 1980s and early 1990s. By the time he got to the Cubs he was pretty bad; he hit .195/.330/.355 in 206 plate appearances, with seven home runs. (That is a pretty good OBP for that low a BA, though.)
July 29, 1995: The Cubs had a 5-4 lead going into the top of the ninth, but Randy Myers and Anthony Young coughed up three runs and the Phillies led 7-5. With two out in the bottom of the inning off former Cub Heathcliff Slocumb, Scott Bullett reached on an error and Brian McRae was hit by a pitch. Shawon Dunston smashed a three-run homer for an 8-7 Cubs victory.
September 24, 1995: Brian McRae had scored on the previous Cubs walkoff home run and this was his turn to hit one, a solo shot in the 10th inning to win the game 3-2 over the Pirates. This was the third win of what eventually became an eight-game winning streak that briefly put the Cubs in contention for the N.L. wild card.
April 17, 1996: Mark Grace led off the 10th inning with a walk and Sammy Sosa walked it off with a two-run homer, his second of the game, for an 8-6 win over the Reds. Here’s Sammy’s blast into the mostly-empty bleachers [VIDEO].
May 3, 1996: The Cubs were behind 2-1 entering the bottom of the ninth. Scott Bullett singled to lead off the inning and stole second. The SB turned out to be important, because after a pair of strikeouts, Mark Grace was intentionally walked. Sammy Sosa made the Mets pay for that with a three-run walkoff homer off Paul Wilson for a 4-2 victory. Here’s Sammy’s home run [VIDEO].
May 5, 1996: Sammy does it again, for the second time in three days, again against the Mets. This one, leading off the ninth, was off current Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto. The Cubs won 5-4. Once again, as in the April game, Sammy’s homer was his second of the game and it hit Waveland Avenue [VIDEO].
June 3, 1996: Jose Hernandez, who was fairly underrated during his time with the Cubs, led off the ninth inning with a home run and the Cubs beat the Phillies 4-3. (Later, during his second stint as a Cub, he’d be included in the trade that brought Aramis Ramirez to the North Side.)
And you’re saying, “Who?” Shumpert played most of his career with the Royals and Rockies, and only 27 games in a Cubs uniform. He spent most of 1996 at Triple-A Iowa, and hit only two home runs as a Cub.
August 3, 1997: Sammy time again. Mel Rojas, who had six blown saves as a Cub, blew this game in the top of the 12th inning. In the bottom of the inning after the first two men had been retired, Mark Grace walked and Sosa saved the day with a two-run shot off Todd Worrell and the Cubs defeated the Dodgers 4-3. This was an ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game with Jon Miller on the call [VIDEO].
May 29, 1998: Brant Brown began making a name for himself with this two-run walkoff in the 11th inning (after Rod Beck had blown a save in the ninth). The Cubs beat the Braves 5-3. The photo at the top of this post is from this game.
June 5, 1998: Just one week after walking off the Braves with a home run, Brant Brown does it again, this time against the White Sox in the very first regular-season Cubs/Sox game at Wrigley. Again, it was an extra-inning blast, this one leading off the 12th for a 6-5 win.
In the early years of Cubs/Sox interleague games, generally only one of the teams’ broadcast crews carried the game. Thus the only video we have of this walkoff is from the Sox broadcasters. So the call is from Hawk Harrelson — and you can actually listen, because this is from back in the day when he wasn’t a caricature of himself. Here’s Brown’s home run [VIDEO].
September 12, 1998: This was one of the wildest series in Cubs history, as they took two of three from the Brewers in a set in which both teams scored in double figures in all three games. Here’s a retrospective I wrote about that series on its 20th anniversary in 2018.
In this game, the Cubs trailed 12-5 going into the bottom of the seventh. Two furious rallies (including Sammy Sosa’s 60th home run) brought the Cubs to within 12-10 in the bottom of the ninth and with the bases loaded in that inning, Tyler Houston singled in two runs to tie the game. That brought Orlando Merced to bat with two men on and one out [VIDEO].
Merced has to be about the most random guy in this entire series of articles. He played 1,391 MLB games, mostly with the Pirates and Astros and had been released by the Red Sox September 1. Signed by the Cubs four days later, Merced played in only 12 games as a Cub and had just three hits. That was one of them — and it, and the Cubs’ 15-12 win over the Brewers, will be remembered forever.
September 13, 1998: For the first time in 24 years (since May 3-4, 1974) the Cubs hit walkoff home runs in consecutive games. This was another wild game where the Cubs blew an 8-3 lead after five. They wound up trailing 10-8 before Sammy Sosa’s 62nd home run tied the game in the bottom of the ninth.
The first two hitters in the bottom of the 10th were routine outs. Then Mark Grace stepped to the plate [VIDEO].
The look on Grace’s face as he rounds the bases is priceless. The Cubs won the game 11-10.
May 26, 1999: The Cubs trailed 4-1 going into the bottom of the seventh. They tied it in the eighth and in the ninth, Tyler Houston led off with a walk. Sammy Sosa did it again, a two-run smash to give the Cubs a 6-4 victory over the Marlins.
June 2, 1999: Early in the ‘99 season, before an epically bad second half, the Cubs were actually contending. They trailed the Padres 5-1 going into the bottom of the eighth but a four-run rally tied the game. Rick Aguilera, who had recently been acquired from the Twins, blew the lead and allowed three runs, including two homers, in the top of the ninth.
In the bottom of the ninth, a pair of singles and a walk scored one run and then with two runners on, Sammy Sosa hit a three-run smash off future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman and the Cubs won 9-8.
The Cubs were 28-21 and two games out of first place in the N.L. Central after this win. They went 39-74 after this date, by far the worst record in baseball over that span.