by user DNL
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One of the more glamorous events in a MLB game is the walk-off home run. The batter comes to the plate with the game tied or his team trailing, and a home run would end the game in favor of the batter's team. Sometimes, a home run itself is unnecessary; for example, when Robin Ventura hit the ball over the right-field fence to end game 5 of the 1999 NLCS, the bases were loaded and the game was tied. A sac fly would have done the job.
In cases like Ventura's at bat, most often, the batter is given credit for a home run. (Ventura was not for other reasons). However, that was not always the case. Before 1920, a batter only received credit for the number of bases required for the winning run to score. In Ventura's situation, he'd get a single, as that would force the runner from third home. Something similar would have been true for a batter who, with the game tied and a runner on first, hit a home run. The runner needed three bases; therefore, the batter would be credited with a triple.
On July 8, 1918, this exact event happened. With a runner on first, Babe Ruth hit a home run that wasn't. The runner scored, ending the game, and by rule, the Babe was credited with a mere triple.
For fifty years, it stayed that way. But in 1968, a special committee entrusted with managing baseball's historical statistics decreed that these home runs, as they'd be called today, should be viewed as the home runs they were.
This was short lived, perhaps because of the fact that Ruth's total was being revised. (As one SABR member stated, the press went bezerk, claiming that one cannot simply re-write history.) The rules at the time of the event would control, and on May 5, 1969, Babe's home run total was again placed at 714.
Retrosheet has put together a full list of these non-home runs, available at http://www.retrosheet.org/ending.htm.
Addendum: Over at Baseball Musings, David Pinto notes that there was a "rule at the time that credited balls that bounced into the stands as home runs." The SABR list dutifully addressed this as well -- none of Ruth's 714 (+1?) are of the ground-rule double variety.
Tue 05/16/06, 8:20 am EST