Starting Nine: Historic Lumber

Written by: Craig Muder

The Hall of Fame's Starting Nine includes must-see artifacts from every big league team. Check out the Rays Starting Nine online.

There are home runs that change seasons, careers and even the destiny of franchises.

But few are like Evan Longoria’s home run from Sept. 28, 2011. That 12th-inning, walk-off shot at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., may have actually changed the game.

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On that Wednesday night, MLB’s regular season was set to end – and the Tampa Bay Rays entered the day tied with the Boston Red Sox for the American League Wild Card lead.

From the inception of the Wild Card in the 1995 postseason through 2011, one Wild Card team per league would qualify for the league’s four-team tournament. As fans followed both the Rays vs. Yankees and Red Sox vs. Orioles matchups, the early results looked dismal for the Rays – who trailed New York 7-0 after seven-and-a-half innings. Meanwhile, the Red Sox led the Orioles 3-2 and seemed poised to wrap up the win.

But nearly simultaneously, Tampa rallied for six runs in the bottom of the eighth – with Longoria’s three-run home run the critical blow – while Baltimore scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat Boston.

The Rays then sent their game into extra innings on a two-out home run by pinch hitter Dan Johnson in the ninth inning before Longoria won it in the 12th with his second homer of the game.

The fast-paced, winner-take-all action helped convince MLB to expand its playoff system in 2012 – adding a second Wild Card team. The two Wild Cards would face off in a one-game playoff to determine which team would move on to the Division Series.

Longoria’s bat is on exhibit in the Hall of Fame’s Whole New Ballgame exhibit, a fitting place for a piece of lumber that literally help baseball reinvent itself.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Starting Nine

The Hall of Fame's Starting Nine is a lineup of must-see artifacts from our vast collection containing tens of thousands of pieces that preserve the magical moments and memorable stories of our National Pastime. Our curators have spent countless hours hand-picking special objects from every major league team to create a lineup of pieces you simply won’t believe we have!