This was a home run
Luckily, Baseball-Reference’s blog was all over it.
As the B-R blog covers exquisitely well, Steve Balboni was not a very good baseball player. However, he was an extremely entertaining baseball player. For one, he looked pretty funny. For two, and most importantly, the dude could hit some home runs.
The reason that I care about Steve Balboni goes back to a game in which I attended in the womb: this June 4th, 1989 game between the New York Yankees and the Milwaukee Brewers at County Stadium in Milwaukee. My mom shares some of my love of baseball, and she shared her love of Steve Balboni with me, which, if I recall correctly, was born from this game.
This game featured a few collectibles, including a home run from Yankee Deion Sanders (off of the stalwart Bryan Clutterbuck) and a two-homer game from Jesse Barfield. However, it was Steve Balboni’s sole at-bat (replacing Don Mattingly in the field) which makes this game live on for my family. Balboni saw 12 pitches in that at-bat, and nine strikes. That means that Balboni fouled off at least 6 balls in a row (my mom described it as 17, which unfortunately can be struck as exaggeration from the B-R box score) before blasting a home run into the seats.
Sometimes, it takes a player’s skill or one magical postseason moment for him to live on in a fan’s mind. In this case, it was simply one heroic at-bat in a game between two bad teams in a Milwaukee summer. For that, Steve Balboni, we (specifically, my mom) thank you. And happy (belated) birthday, Steve.
Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.