ESPN.go.com recently ran an blog entitled, “Bartolo Colon and the 10 Unlikeliest Home Runs Ever Hit.” If you haven’t read it, it’s entertaining, but I take exception with Colon’s home run being anointed the most unlikely.
I’ve got to go with the one hit by former Tampa Bay pitcher Esteban Yan, a feat which the writer, David Schoenfield, ranked fourth.
On June 4, 2000, I found myself at Shea Stadium covering a Mets-Devil Rays game–this was before the “Devil” had been exorcised, when Yan stepped into the batter’s box ready for his first-ever professional at-bat. Mets right-hander Bobby Jones delivered a strike on the first pitch, Yan swung and made contact, sending the pitch over the wall in left field, 365 feet away from home plate.
Okay, you’re thinking that’s unlikely, but why is it the most unlikely, right? Well, it’s all about what happened before he hit the home run.
First, a little backstory. Everybody loved Yan, who always wore a smile. He could also sweat like no man I’ve ever seen. Teammates joked he could sweat in Alaska. Most days, Yan one could find Yan inside the clubhouse playing some unknown card game with light-hitting shortstop Felix Martinez. Usually one would be playfully calling the other a liar and flying cards would punctuate the accusation.
Now, consider this, Martinez, who had never homered in a major league game, homered on the pitch before Yan homered.
What are the odds of two light-weight hitters hitting back-to-back homers for their first homers in the major leagues? Particularly when one of the two was a pitcher.
Yan never hit another homer and Martinez hit just two more. What I saw that day was Ripley’s, I’m telling you.