Welcome to the second in a series of posts ranking the greatest home runs in Harrisburg Senators modern history (otherwise known as when baseball returned to City Island in 1987).
Part 1 covering homers 40 through 36 can be found here.
Just like Casey Kasem, I’ll be counting them down from 40 to 1 as we make our way to the top of the list.
I have tried to be as comprehensive as possible, but the odds are good I’ll be kicking myself later for leaving off a dinger or two. That also goes for ones that you might remember more fondly; after all, sometimes it’s about the memories and what they mean to you.
I am also positive my rankings will upset some and infuriate others. Hopefully, though, this will be a fun little exercise that helps us all re-live the most significant home runs in Senators’ history.
So without further ado…
35. Tony Blanco – Over the Green Monster (August 11, 2007)
Tony Blanco spent four years in the Red Sox system after initially signing with the team in 1998 as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic.
Presumably, he dreamed of one day starring for Boston while bombing baseballs over the famed Green Monster at Fenway Park. But that never happened for Blanco as the organization released him after the 2002 season.
However, five years later, as a Harrisburg Senator, he had the chance to fulfill that dream during the 2007 season.
On August 11, the Senators and Portland Sea Dogs played the second game of a minor league doubleheader dubbed the Futures at Fenway at Boston’s famed ballpark in front of an announced crowd of 34,746.
Fourteen minutes into the game, after walks to Brandon Powell and Josh Whitesell, Blanco launched a three-run home run over the fabled Green Monster in left field to give the visiting Senators the early 3-0 advantage. Yes, four relievers combined to blow three different leads, as the Senators lost 12-11, but Blanco already had his big league moment.
34. Brad Fullmer – In the Driver’s Seat (September 9, 1996)
Up 1-0 in the best-of-five 1996 Eastern League Championship Series, the Harrisburg Senators had a small cushion for error. But don’t tell Brad Fullmer that.
“This was a crucial game,” the left-fielder told The Patriot-News’ Andy Linker. “There’s pressure on both teams, but we needed this game, and we needed to be ahead 2-0 going up to Portland.”
Fullmer let his bat do the talking on the field as he rocketed a two-run homer in the first inning off Sea Dogs’ starter Livan Hernandez to give Harrisburg a 3-0 lead. It was precisely the kind of start the Senators needed since it was also the last hit they managed in the game. Hernandez and reliever Robbie Stanifer retired 23 straight batters after Fullmer’s homer.
But the three runs were enough as Harrisburg hung on for the 3-2 victory to move the Senators within one game of their second playoff title in four seasons and third since baseball returned to City Island in 1987.
33. Ron Johns – Capping Off a Perfect Day (June 17, 1987)
In a game where Harrisburg shellacked the Albany-Colonie Yankees 26-9 on 26 hits, there were bound to be more than a few individual performances that stood out. I doubt anyone would have bet any money on the newest Senator to have a day that has yet to be topped in team history, though.
The Montreal Expos acquired Ron Johns from the St. Louis Cardinals in a late May trade for local Mechanicsburg product Ben Abner. Johns, a former third-round draft pick of the Cardinals, was playing in only his third game on City Island when he left a sensational impression on the Senators’ faithful.
Hitting out of the cleanup spot, the then 24-year-old singled in his first three at-bats in the second, third, and fourth innings. That was already a stellar day at the plate for Johns, but then it became legendary.
His next three at-bats followed with a solo shot, a grand slam, and a two-run homer to become the first Senator to hit three home runs in a game and finish a perfect 6-for-6 with five runs scored and nine RBI.
“I was dreaming tonight,” Johns told The Patriot-News’ Skip Hutter. “I never had a game like this. I hit two home runs a couple of times, but not three, not even close to it.”
“They were all fastballs I hit out. The first two times up, I couldn’t get the bat around. After that, I was having no problem.”
32. Crash Brown – A Historic First (April 11, 1987)
Professional baseball had been absent from Harrisburg for 35 years when the Senators took the field for the first game of the 1987 season in their newly built $1.4 million RiverSide Stadium. A sell-out crowd of 4,083 fans came out in full force for its return to City Island.
They clapped, stomped, and even helped Nancy Wambach finish the National Anthem before the game. The one thing they couldn’t do was will the Senators to an opening day victory as the Vermont Reds won handily 11-5.
But that didn’t mean the spectators had nothing to cheer about on this glorious day.
The Senators struggled against Vermont starting pitcher Glenn Spagnola managing to eek only a few balls out of the infield until the fourth inning. Trailing 9-1, Craig “Crash” Brown turned on a pitch, driving it high and deep over and beyond the left-centerfield fence.
Sure, it didn’t put much of a dent into the Reds’ lead, but Brown’s solo shot was much more than that.
It was the team’s first home run in modern history.
31. Andy Tracy – A Record-Breaker (August 12, 1999)
Andy Tracy’s pursuit of the Senators’ single-season home run record was quick and to the point. Less than a week before, Tracy was sitting four behind Izzy Alcantara at 23 home runs, but then the Bowling Green State University product went on his latest tear.
Three long balls in four games left Tracy on the precipice of team history as Harrisburg traveled to Binghamton for a weekend series.
He wouldn’t need the series to end the drama. He wouldn’t even need a game. Just one at-bat is all it took.
Tracy gave the Senators a 2-0 lead in the first inning with a two-run opposite-field homer off rehabbing MLBer Bobby Jones breaking Alcantara’s two-year-old franchise record.
The home run helped propel the Senators to a 10-4 victory, their 13th win in 16 games to move one game ahead of Bowie for the Southern Division’s second and final playoff spot with 23 games remaining in the regular season.
Tracy would go on to hit to nine more regular-season home runs to finish with 37 on the season. Twenty-one years later, that record still holds.