On Monday, MLB.com unvieled the top fifty bat flips in MLB history. The list was comprehensive - basically all of your favorite bat flips were there. As with any list, number one will always be a bit of a controversy, but it is of this biased writer’s opinion that it earned its spot.
Why is this the best bat flip of all time? Let us dissect.
1. The Situation
It was Game 4 of the 1987 World Series. The Cardinals were down two games to one. The game was tied at one a piece going into the bottom of the fourth. With two men on, Tom Lawless hit a three-run homer to give the Birdos a 4-1 lead they would not surrender. The Cardinals went on to win the game seven runs to two (and lose the series in seven games).
2. The Player
The man was Tom Lawless. Even ignoring the fact that “Lawless” is a [redacted] awesome name, the fact that it was Tom Lawless made the bat flip all the more epic. First of all, the fact the Lawless was even in the game to begin with is a bit of a miracle. To this point he had played in five major league seasons and gotten into 215 games with 419 plate appearances. He had a .220 average in those seasons, accumulated -0.5 fWAR, and had hit exactly one home run back in 1984. In 1987 he had received twenty-nine plate appearances all season in nineteen games. His wRC+ for that season was -16. He went on to hit one more home run in 1988 and was out of baseball after the 1990 season. No one, not even Lawless himself, expected him to hit a homer, but man, did he make the most of it.
Also, I know I said we were going to ignore this part, but his last name is “Lawless”. That is just cool.
3. The Strut
My absolute favorite part of this bat flip has to be the slow walk before the flip. It is the walk of someone that just hit a ball harder than he ever had before. It is the walk of the cowboy going through the saloon doors for a drink after a shootout and the whole bar falls silent. It is the walk of a boxer going into the ring knowing he is about knock out his opponent. It is the walk of someone that just did a hell of a job at something. Lawless would later say he was not sure if he had hit a home run or not, but I think he knew - at least his body did. Maybe his mind was not sure - heck, he had only hit one before so it was not like he had strong memories about it - but his body knew, and it reacted.
4. The Innovation
I will not be so bold to say this was the first bat flip ever. Please feel free to provide earlier bat flips than this because that would awesome! This is the oldest bat flip that I am aware of, though*. It was probably the first one done in a World Series. It is the standard of bat flips that all other bat flips aspire to.
*There is a an older bat flip in MLB.com’s list, but it is a back-swing bat flip, not the deliberate, calculated flip that happens long after the bat makes contact with the ball. They are different.
This bat flip is the legacy of Tom Lawless. Without it, the home run would just be a footnote in what was otherwise a forgettable career. But now, everyone knows Tom Lawless. This bat flip is the first thing that comes to mind when he mentioned. His name is practically synonymous with the act. That is how we know it is great.
It is the best bat flip of all time and I cannot see another one besting it.
Other Notable Flips from the List:
No. 40 - Albert Pujols on September 5, 2009
No. 26 - Albert Pujols on August 29, 2009
No. 22 - Matt Adams on July 22, 2016
No. 13 - Matt Adams during Game 2 of the 2014 NLCS
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