14 Jul

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It happened on July 14, 2002. It had never happened before that in the big leagues and would happen only four times after that. Bill Selby, the pride of Horn Lake and a former Southern Miss star, hit a walk-off grand slam against Mariano Rivera on that date at Cleveland’s Jacobs Field. Rivera, the Hall of Famer and MLB’s all-time saves leader, had not allowed a walk-off bomb in his seven previous seasons as the New York Yankees’ closer. He yielded only four more over the next 11 years. The July 14 homer was the only walk-off Selby hit in five big league seasons. He hit only 11 homers all told. Talk about catching lightning in a bottle. Now a coach at Northwest Mississippi Community College, Selby eloquently and humbly described his star turn in a published interview a few years back: “You put yourself in a position to be successful and if it happens, then be thankful and keep on trucking. Not everyone can do what those guys (MLB stars) do. I certainly use that as motivation and to help people understand that you don’t have to be ‘the guy’ to have a ‘the guy’ moment.” Of all the homers struck by Mississippians (natives or college alums) in big league history, Selby’s improbable game-ender vs. Rivera is arguably the most memorable. Here’s a few more to round out a top 10:
2. Will Clark’s homer against Nolan Ryan in his first career at-bat in 1986.
3. Rafael Palmeiro’s 500th homer on May 11, 2003; he’s the only state product in that club.
4. Dmitri Young’s three home runs on opening day 2005, making him the third player ever to achieve that feat.
5. Marcus Thames’ homer against Randy Johnson on the first pitch he saw in the big leagues in 2002.
6. Brian Dozier’s American League-record 40th homer as a second baseman on Sept. 26, 2016; he hit 42 on the year, most ever by a Mississippi native.
7. Bill Hall’s Mother’s Day walk-off blast, with a pink bat and his mom in the stands, in 2006.
8. Luke Easter’s 477-foot bomb in 1950 at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, the longest ever hit there.
9. Brandon Woodruff’s homer off Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 of the 2018 NLCS.
10 (tie). Anthony Alford’s first career homer, a walk-off in the 15th inning on Sept. 24, 2019, and Jack Reed’s only career homer, a 22nd-inning game-winner on June 24, 1962.
Honorable mentions: Bobby Kielty’s pinch-hit homer in Game 4 of the 2007 World Series in what would be his last major league at-bat. Mitch Moreland’s two-out, three-run pinch homer in Game 4 of the 2018 World Series. Austin Riley’s 448-foot go-ahead homer in Game 1 of the 2020 NLCS. Dave Parker’s big blast in the strike-ending All-Star Game in 1981. Hunter Renfroe’s homer onto the roof of the Western Metal Supply Co. building outside Petco Park in September 2016. Tim Anderson’s brawl-inducing bat-flip homer in April 2019.

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