Welcome to the third 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).
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…
30. Cliff Floyd – Roll On Down the Highway (June 19, 1993)
Before Turn Back the Clock Night at Reading’s Municipal Stadium, the Phillies held a pregame home run hitting contest featuring the winner Boog Powell, Willie Montanez, and hometown favorite Rocky Colavito.
Perhaps Reading forgot to replace the home run derby pitcher as the Senators strafed the Phillies 19-4 on 24 hits, including three long balls to maintain the best record in baseball.
Already ahead 10-0 in the fifth inning, Harrisburg’s Cliff Floyd unleashed on Eric Hill’s 2-2 pitch sending the ball deep into the night. The mammoth home run cleared the stadium’s outer brick wall and landed amongst the passing traffic on Route 61.
The solo shot for Floyd, his 21st of the season, tied the modern team record for homers by a Senator with Wes Chamberlain. The USA Today Minor League Player of the Year would add five more on the season for Harrisburg.
“My motto is to go up to the plate and swing as hard as I can,” Floyd told The Patriot-News’ Andy Linker. “Not wild and crazy swings, but nice and hard and aggressive.”
29. Chris Stowers – Put Me in Coach (Sept 6, 1998)
Maybe the Senators don’t win their third straight Eastern League championship if Harrisburg manager Rick Sweet stuck with his original lineup. Tied with the Trenton Thunder in the playoff push with two games to play, Sweet considered resting Chris Stowers after playing in all but seven games during the long season.
Instead, Sweet changed his mind and penciled Stowers into the two-hole of the Harrisburg batting order. The outfielder, fortunately, proved the offensive catalyst for the Senators’ Sunday tilt in Portland.
Stowers started a two-run rally with a double that would increase the Senators’ lead to 4-1 in the third inning. Four frames later, the then 24-year-old led off with a solo home run against Sea Dogs reliever Mick Pageler to push the advantage to four runs.
Harrisburg would go on for the 7-1 victory to clinch at least a tie for the Eastern League’s final Southern Division playoff spot. Hours later, the tie dissolved into an outright stake of second as Trenton lost 14-4 to clinch the Senators’ seventh trip to the postseason in eight seasons as the Montreal Expos’ Class AA affiliate.
28. Tyrone Woods – When Opportunity Knocks (September 10, 1993)
All season long manager Jim Tracy knew the right buttons to push for his 94-win Harrisburg Senators. He wanted his team to take care of business when it had the opportunity up two games to one on the Albany-Colonie Yankees in the Eastern League semifinals.
After waiting out a nearly two-hour rain delay to start Game 4, the Senators didn’t exactly take their manager’s pregame talk to heart. The Yankees jumped on Harrisburg starter Reid Cornelius for a pair of first-inning runs to stake the early 2-0 lead.
But Harrisburg had an answer. Slugger Tyrone Horne led off the top of the second inning with an infield single bringing Tyrone Woods to the plate.
The 24-year-old had struggled to find playing time in the outfield all season, but with promotions to Cliff Floyd, Rondell White, and Curtis Pride, Woods suddenly became a vital cog for Harrisburg in their championship quest. The Florida native began the game leading all hitters in the playoffs with a .583 average.
Woods remained hot, smoking a 1-0 pitch deep over the Heritage Park left-field wall, taking one bounce before hitting the clubhouse roof.
“I know now I’m going to be in the lineup,” Woods told Linker. “When I come through the doors, I’m in the right frame of mind.”
The homer evened the score and settled the Senators who went on to clinch the 8-4 victory sending them to the Eastern League finals for the fourth time in seven seasons.
27. Vladimir Guerrero – A Sign of Things to Come (May 1, 1996)
Vladimir Guerrero hadn’t played in five days due to a minor injury to his finger when the Montreal Expos promoted him from Class A West Palm Beach. The Dominican prospect didn’t need much time to shake off the rust in his first action back on the diamond on City Island.
In the nightcap of a doubleheader on his first day, Guerrero singled in the first then crushed a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning.
“It just goes to show that everything we’ve heard about him is true,” Senators manager Pat Kelly told Linker. “I saw him take one at-bat in spring training. You hear everybody rave about him, how great he is. You just don’t know what’s going to happen the first time a guy steps to the plate in double-A. But, boy, everything he hit was hard…He stands in there, and he looks like a hitter, so it was impressive.”
The Senators promptly reeled off 19 wins in its first 25 games with Guerrero in the starting lineup.
26. Brad Wilkerson – Lucky Number Nine (Sept 8, 1999)
Despite winning three straight Eastern League championships, Harrisburg entered the 1999 playoffs as the prohibitive underdog. The Senators had the worst record of the four teams, and their first-round opponent, the Erie SeaWolves, had been in first place every day since May 28.
Seven innings of Game 1 did little to dispel that myth as the Senators trailed 6-2 with only six outs left. But then Harrisburg mounted the first of two rallies that would change its fortunes.
Andy Tracy led off the frame with a solo homer to center off Scot Shields. The Erie right-hander induced a Brian Schneider groundout, but Jeremy Ware chased Shields with a single up the middle. Cody Salter was summoned from the SeaWolves’ bullpen to face Brad Wilkerson and quickly found himself in an eight-pitch battle with the Senators’ outfielder.
The ninth pitch of the at-bat was the decider as Wilkerson deposited the Salter offering deep over the wall in right to cut Erie’s lead to 6-5.
“That was a great at-bat,” Senators’ manager Doug Sisson told Linker. “That gives you a little lift there.”
As for the rest of the game, well, we’ll get to that later in the countdown.