It’s difficult to examine Ryan Howard’s body of work and pick his six “best” home runs. Howard’s collection of dingers includes six walk offs, multiple third-deck home runs and three World Series homers.
Howard was one of the greatest power hitters of his era, averaging 49.5 home runs from 2006 to 2009. We may never see another Phillies hitter go on a tear quite like Howard did in our lifetime, so it’s best to celebrate his career as best as we can.
As part of the site’s Ryan Howard Month, here are the top six home runs of The Big Piece’s career.
6. Howard breaks two records with one swing — June 27, 2007 vs. Cincinnati Reds
It’s hard to know exactly what the longest home run in Citizens Bank Park history is. For the sake of simplicity, it’s either Howard’s 2007 home run to Ashburn Alley off the Mets’ Orlando Hernandez or this supposed 505-foot blast off Aaron Harang against the Cincinnati Reds. Sorry, Evan Gattis.
What we do know for sure is that Howard’s 100th home run broke a record. In his 325th game, Howard became the fastest player in MLB history to hit 100 home runs, breaking Ralph Kiner’s 385-game mark.
Even in the era of juiced balls and launch angle, Howard’s record still stands.
5. Howard comes out on top against Lohse — 2011 NLDS Game 1
Let’s ignore the ending of the 2011 NLDS and focus on Howard’s incredible at-bat. Prior to Howard stepping up to the plate, Kyle Lohse embarrassed the opposing lineup, limiting his former Phillies team to just a run on two hits through the first five innings.
Jimmy Rollins and Hunter Pence came through with two singles in the bottom of the sixth. Lohse was fine with giving Howard a free pass, but the Cardinals pitcher badly hung a changeup on the third 3-2 pitch of the at-bat. Howard drove the pitch into the seats in right field and it led to a seven-run offensive outburst and a Game 1 victory for the Phillies.
4. No. 58 — September 22, 2006 vs. Florida Marlins
Fun fact: Marlins manager Joe Girardi intentionally walked Howard four times in the series after the Phillies first baseman hit his 58th home run of 2006 against Ricky Nolasco.
Howard broke the Philadelphia Athletics’ Jimmie Foxx’s record for most home runs in a single season by a professional baseball player in Philadelphia. He also tied Chuck Klein’s single-season record for most home runs by a Phillies player in Philadelphia.
Numbers make this particular home run special, but the moment itself carried weight as far as the playoff race was concerned. As Howard chased greatness, his team was looking to stay ahead in the NL Wild Card standings. The Phillies fell short, but Howard’s dominance along with the atmosphere that came along with a pennant race served as a taste for what the next five years had in store for Phillies fans.
3. 50, 51, 52 — September 9, 2006 (Game 1) vs. Atlanta Braves
“It’s the greatest show on Earth,” said Chris Wheeler as Howard rounded the bases after his third home run of the game. Days after hitting an absolute tank to the upper deck in right center field at RFK Stadium, Howard became the only Phillie to hit 50 home runs.
All three of Howard’s home runs that day came off of Tim Hudson, who just happens to be on the 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot with Howard. Howard was a career .343 hitter against Hudson with seven home runs and 20 RBIs. Fortunately for Hudson, Chris Volstad owns the honor of being the pitcher who surrendered the most home runs against Howard (eight).
I’m cheating by lumping all three home runs together, but I’m sure Howard’s Homers wouldn’t mind.
2. Howard goes opposite field in the Fall Classic — 2008 World Series Game 4 (4th inning)
Howard hit eight postseason home runs in his career. His most memorable stretch in the playoffs came in the 2009 National League Championship Series against the Dodgers, but his home run in the bottom of the fourth inning in Game 4 of the World Series was the most impactful out of all.
It’s a shame that Joe Buck made little attempt to sell the moment in his lackadaisical call. There’s a lot of Buck apologists out there and while he has gotten better at calling baseball, I’ll always hold a grudge for his performance during the 2008 World Series.
Buck’s call on Howard’s second home run later in the game was much better.
1. Howard takes Mussina to the third deck — June 20, 2006 vs. New York Yankees
Howard is for real. And how cool is it that he got to do his best Babe Ruth imitation against the Yankees? — Phil Sheridan
There’s a lot to love about this: Harry Kalas’ call, Joe Torre’s menacing look and Brett Myers and Ryan Madson’s reaction from the dugout are just a few reasons why this is one of the best Phillies home runs to watch on repeat. In front of nearly 45,000 fans at Citizens Bank Park, Howard put on a show. He hit Citizens Bank Park’s first-ever third deck shot (Barry Bonds was close a month earlier) and drove in seven runs thanks to another home run off future Hall of Famer Mike Mussina and a triple, his first of the season.
And the Phillies lost that game. He’s the only player in MLB history to hit a triple, two home runs and drive in seven RBIs in a game in which his team lost.
According to Sheridan’s column in the Philadelphia Inquirer the day after, the ball landed in the hands of a nine-year-old boy who wanted to bring his glove to the game, but his dad told him: “No one’s ever hit one up there.”
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