What’s the most exciting play in baseball? The answer to that question will vary depending on the person getting asked. Watching a player leg out a triple is a common answer. But honestly, is there anything more exciting than watching an inside the park home run?
Better yet…is there anything more exciting than watching someone you’d never, ever expect to record an inside the park home run actually get it done? Yea, I can agree with that, too. That’s why I thought it’d be fun to have a bunch of those unlikely scenarios compiled into one article.
The inside-the-parkers highlighted below are by no means an exhaustive list of unlikely hitters to accomplish the feat. It’s just a handful that I uncovered and couldn’t help but chuckle here and there while watching it happen. One player I’d like to see make his way onto this list before his playing days are done? Probably Kyle Schwarber, but his specialty seems to be leadoff home runs.
Unlikely Inside The Park Home Run Moments
Sammy Sosa, Chicago Cubs: October 6, 2001
Now, I don’t want this to be a knock on Sammy Sosa‘s speed. The Chicago Cubs‘ all-time home run leader actually swiped 234 bases throughout his career and had at least 10 steals in nine consecutive years from 1990 to 1998. This stretch also included three different campaigns with 30-plus stolen bases. So, the outfielder clearly had some speed, but once he stole 18 bags in 1998, his stolen-base production went down the tubes. From 1999 through the end of his career in 2007, Sosa stole just 17 bags, including none at all in 2001, 2003, and 2004.
His 2001 campaign is one of the most powerful single-season performances ever, and it was his third campaign of 60-plus home runs in four years. As you could hear on the broadcast, this inside the park home run was his 63rd dinger, which was his second-to-last one of the year. After slugging so many taters during a short period, the last thing many expected was to watch him motor around the bases in this fashion for a homer. It didn’t look like it’d even be a base hit off the bat, but thanks to Rob Mackowiak losing Sosa’s fly ball in the sun, it happened.
We didn’t get to see how Sosa ran down the first-base line, but one can imagine it wasn’t very hard. Mostly because it looked like he was going full tilt the rest of the way and it was still a close play at the plate. He didn’t get to do his patented hop out of the batter’s box to celebrate, but at least he did his usual salute in the dugout afterward…with a curtain call for Cubs fans to boot.
Marlon Anderson, New York Mets: June 11, 2005
Marlon Anderson walked up to the plate for the Mets as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning at Shea Stadium. Not only did he tie the game with this inside the park home run, but he was the first Met to do this at home since Darryl Strawberry (the club’s all-time home run leader) accomplished it in 1989. What made this even cooler was that it was Anderson’s first home run as a member of the Mets. How do you come back after a performance like this?
The moment Steve Finley kicked the ball into right-center field, you knew Anderson would be off to the races…kind of. There were some parts where it looked like he was running in slow motion (like around third base). He also gets some extra style points for blowing a bubble while rounding second base, as well. Anderson finished the year with a .264/.316/.391 line, which was accompanied by seven home runs and 19 RBI in 260 total plate appearances.
If you want to take a stroll down memory lane for memorable Mets inside-the-parkers, check out this great post from Rising Apple.
Vladimir Guerrero Sr., Los Angeles Angels: May 25, 2006
The 2006 campaign was Vladimir Guerrero Sr.’s third with the Angels, and it was his third consecutive season of at least 30 homers and 100 RBI. It also ended up being his final performance of this type (although he’d get close a couple more times along the way before hanging up his spikes).
Whenever I think of Vlad Sr., the two things that immediately come to mind are his incredible arm and his uncanny ability to hit nearly every kind of pitch thrown his way. Speed is an aspect of his game that was way down on my list. However, 2006 was his seventh and final season with double-digit stolen bases with 15. He actually had consecutive years of 30-plus steals for the Montreal Expos from 2001-02, but his best speed days were behind him at this point.
Obviously, the placement of Guerrero’s hit made this possible. But honestly, just the sight of Vlad lumbering down the third-base line and then looking completely gassed after sliding into home plate is worth the entertainment.
Adrián Beltré, Seattle Mariners: July 23, 2006
I’m not going to lie — watching Adrián Beltré do anything on the baseball field sparks joy for me. He was a national treasure during his 21-year MLB career, and this inside the park home run is no different.
Off the bat, it looked like one of Beltré’s typical dingers — he was on his way to hitting 20-plus homers in a season for the Mariners. It looked like many thought it was a traditional homer, including Manny Ramírez, but no signal was made, so the third baseman had to do it the hard way. The call from legendary Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus also makes this clip worth watching.
In his second year with Seattle, Beltré finished with a .268/.328/.465 line, accompanied by 25 homers and 89 RBI. He hit plenty of other conventional homers for the Mariners during his time with the club, enough to fall within the top-20 all-time on Seattle’s home run leaderboard.
Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers: September 4, 2006
Nelson Cruz collected an inside-the-parker before he became the elite slugger we all know and love in today’s game. The 2006 season was his second year in the big leagues, and it wasn’t a full year for him yet — Cruz spent just 41 games in the majors with the Rangers, slashing .223/.261/.385 with six home runs and 22 RBI.
I love the small smirk on Cruz’s face after he got himself up off the dirt, and then how that smile stuck around while he was catching his breath in the dugout. He broke his bat in the process, but this feels like a decent swap to me.
This moment was even more special because it was part of the first two-homer game of his career. Cruz added a single and five RBI to this performance, watching his season-long OPS jump more than 100 points from .509 to .698. Soon enough, he’d hit balls over the fence with much greater consistency, and his 2011 playoff performance is among the most home runs in a postseason.
Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers: June 17, 2007
Prince Fielder experienced a true power breakout in 2007. A year after hitting 28 homers in his first full season in the big leagues, he followed that up with a league-leading 50 dingers, which is also the Brewers‘ single-season home run record. The slugging first baseman paired that with 35 doubles, 119 RBI, 109 runs scored, and a .288/.395/.618 line. He did plenty of the traditional mashing, as he’s currently third on the Brewers’ all-time home run list.
Do you know what’s great about his 2007 performance, though? In addition to this inside-the-parker, Fielder also collected two triples. Actually, he recorded 10 career triples, and eight of them came between 2006 and 2009 (with seven of them coming from 2007-09).
Once Fielder made contact, it looked like a typical fly ball, but I also love the unintentional foreshadowing from the booth. His excitement for accomplishing things many wouldn’t expect from him is just excellent. And it wasn’t just an inside the park home run — there was no throw home and he didn’t have to slide!
Prince Fielder…again: June 19, 2008
Probably one of my favorite home run stats is that Prince Fielder actually has two inside-the-parkers on his career resume, and they came in consecutive years. Similar to the one he recorded at the Metrodome, it was aided greatly by a lack of defense, as this one was punctuated by Alex Rios deciding to try and make it a ground-rule double despite picking it up easily (eventually). Also similar to his first inside-the-parker, Fielder didn’t have to slide into home and there was no actual play at the plate.
Teammate Bill Hall loved it both times, clearly.
Fielder had himself another great year, as he slashed .276/.372/.507 with 32 dingers and 102 RBI. He recorded another 30 doubles and two triples, as well. His impact in Milwaukee was felt far beyond these two dingers, as Brew Crew Ball notes here.
Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays: July 7, 2010
When you think of Jose Bautista and home runs, what are the first things that come to mind? Surely, one is his memorable postseason home run in 2015 for the Blue Jays, but another is probably his breakout 2010 performance when he led baseball with 54 home runs. Like many hitters on this list, his huge year didn’t get accompanied by many stolen bases. He stole nine in 11 attempts while slashing .260/.378/.617 with all those dingers, 124 RBI, and 109 runs scored.
This line drive looked like an easy double for Joey Bats, until it split the outfielders and went to the wall. I can’t get enough of the smiles from everyone after he crossed home plate — genuine appreciation for what just transpired. The above dinger was actually part of a huge month for Bautista. He slashed .347/.418/.765 with 11 homers and 29 RBI in 110 plate appearances. It was his second month with 10-plus homers at that point, but also his first of three straight double-digit homer months to finish the year as he became Toronto’s single-season home run king.
As we all know, Bautista wasn’t just a one-year wonder for the Blue Jays. Him being on Toronto’s career home run leaderboard is proof of that.
Carlos Santana, Cleveland Guardians: August 31, 2013
Carlos Santana has mostly made his living in the big leagues by slugging dingers and getting on base at a high clip. He’s shown off an elite ability to draw walks, but once he’s on base, he usually doesn’t move until the ball is hit. The switch-hitter has stolen 48 bases during his career, and outside of swiping 11 in 2015, he’s never accumulated more than five in a single season.
You have to feel bad for Austin Jackson here, who banged up his wrist while trying to snag the 420-foot fly ball that Santana launched. Jackson not being able to go after the ball was the only reason the Cleveland Guardians‘ slugger could motor around the bases and touch home without any trouble.
This homer obviously put an exclamation point on Santana’s August. It was his fifth and final homer of the month, which was the second time he hit that number in a month during the 2013 season (it also happened in April).
Edwin Encarnación, Cleveland Guardians: April 2, 2018
Look at the Guardians, getting a couple of these unlikely dudes to record an inside the park home run. Edwin Encarnación spent two years with the organization, and he was actually quite consistent. He recorded two straight seasons of 30 homers and 100 RBI with an OPS above .800.
How great was this home run with the commentary coming from the booth? It sounded like something out of the Kentucky Derby instead of a baseball game, and I’m totally here for it all.
There’s also no way Encarnación could physically place a ball in that spot of the field ever again, no matter how much effort he put into it. You can’t help but laugh at the “He’s now being administered oxygen in the first-base dugout” too. Justin Upton clearly thought it was your typical home run, and that little bit of hesitation allowed Edwin to make his way around the bases safely.
This was just one of those rare occurrences, though — Encarnación usually preferred hitting balls over the fence and taking his time.