History of the “Splash Hits” in San Francisco

History of the "Splash Hits" in San Francisco

The San Francisco Giants have a pretty wild history. Some of the more interesting things about the Giants franchise are the fact that they were not always in the Bay Area and the history behind the Splash Hits. A Splash Hit in the Bay is a Home Run by a Giants player who lands in McCovey Cove on the fly, splashing into the water—or, as we saw recently, into a kayak that a fan is sitting in anticipating a homerun.

So, let’s start with the history of the franchise real quick. Have you ever heard the term “New York Football Giants?” That’s because the San Francisco Giants, whom we know so well today, were originally in New York. In fact, the New York (baseball) Giants and the New York (football) Giants played on the same field, the Polo Grounds, for some time. The Giants baseball team moved to the San Francisco area in 1958, while another team in New York, the Brooklyn Dodgers, moved to Los Angeles at the same time. For a few seasons, the Giants played their home games in Seals Stadium, home to the Boston Red Sox, then the AAA team, and the PCL San Francisco Seals. Then, in 1960, the team moved to its long-time home, Candlestick Park, also known as “The Stick.” Candlestick Park was the home field for not only the Giants but also the NFL team, the San Francisco 49ers, for decades until the Giants got their own stadium in the bay that we now call Oracle Park.

Oracle Park is a great ballpark. I can only speak for myself, having visited the park for a game in 2022. I was even fortunate enough to witness a Splash Hit myself, hit by then Giants outfielder Joc Pederson. With the new ballpark being built just about as close to the actual water as possible, this is a truly unique feature that not many ballparks have had over the years. Constructed to be ready for Opening Day of the 2000 season, it came just in time for some pretty incredible baseball history. Now, don’t get me wrong, the list of players that have Splash hits is extensive. We have seen 103 Splash Hits in the 23+ years at the ballpark. But no one had more than the Homerun King himself, Barry Bonds. Of course, only Giants players qualify for this stat. So, the list of players could be much longer. But it makes it easier for me to write this article knowing I only have to count Giants players. With that being said, let’s dig into the list…

The first Splash Hit we ever saw was by the King himself, Barry Bonds, and he wasted no time at all as he hit it on May 1st, 2000, off of Rich Rodriguez of the New York Mets. Not only did Bond hit the first Splash Hit in Oracle Park history, he was responsible for the first NINE Splash Hits. Bonds has more Splash Hits than any other Giant, and it isn’t remotely close. Bonds has 35 in his eight seasons in the ballpark, and the next closest is another familiar Giants southpaw, Brandon Belt. Coming in 3rd on the list is 2012 World Series Champion and MVP Pablo Sandoval, who has 8 to his credit. Other notable players with a Splash Hit in their careers are Ryan Klesko, Aubrey Huff, Denard Span, Brandon Crawford, and Mike Yastrzemski. The most recent one was just last weekend from Catcher Patrick Bailey.

We have seen only three walk-off Splash Hits over the years, although several others in the 9th inning or later that weren’t game-winning home runs. The latest walk-off Splash Hit we have seen was by Mike Yastrzemski on June 19th, 2023, against the division rival Padres. The win was the Giants’ 8th in a row, and the hit was the 9th walk-off hit on the year for the team. Now, since the Splash Hits only count for SF batters, we don’t have any true “leadoff” ones to speak of, but there have been several first-inning Splash Hits in the history of Oracle Park. In fact, 13 were hit in the first inning. Another interesting fact is that almost every batter who hit a Splash Hit is a left-handed batter, which makes total sense. The Cove is behind the right field wall, making it an easier target for left-handed batters. Some of the batters to hit the water have been switch hitters, but all were hit from the left side of the plate. No surprise there.

On another note, the list of pitchers that have allowed a Splash Hit is long. It’s longer than the list of players to hit one, thanks, in part, to Barry Bonds and his 35 Splash Hits. Few pitchers have allowed multiple Splash Hits over the last 2+ decades, but I find quite a few names on the overall list interesting. The list includes “King Felix” Hernandez, Dan Haren (twice), Chan Ho Park, Brad Penny, Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster, John Lackey, R.A. Dickey, David Price, Bartolo Colon, Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke, Aaron Nola, and most recently Zac Gallen.

The fewest Splash Hits we saw in a single season was in 2006 when Barry Bonds was responsible for the single one on the season. That’s less than the pandemic-shortened 2020 season (2), which only had 31 games played at Oracle Park that year. By far the most in a single season was 2001 (of course) when Barry Bonds hit 9 of his MLB Record 73 home runs into McCovey Cove, and the team had a total of 11, with the other two coming off the bat of Felipe Crespo. Bonds has the record for most Splash Hits than any other Giant in history and the record for being the oldest player to hit one. In the final season of Bond’s career, at the young age of 43 years and 15 days old, he hit his final Splash Hit

So, now that you know a little bit about the history of not just the San Francisco Giants but also the Splash Hits, keep watching those games, keep cheering on the team, and watch every lefty batter that comes to the plate. You never know when you’ll witness the rare sight of a Splash Hit into the San Francisco Bay. Who will hit Splash Hit #104?

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