A couple of weeks ago, you were invited to rank the greatest moments in Arizona Diamondbacks franchise history. The results were quite fascinating. While there was a broad consensus - if not quite total unanimity - on the #1 pick, elsewhere, the results were all over the place. Of the seventeen candidates, ten different moments received votes for second place... And six of those were also ranked by one or more people in last place. Which is perfectly fine: what makes a memorable moment for one person is entirely subjective. Still, by combining the ballots to get an average rank, we’ve been able to establish the closest thing we could get to a consensus.
We’ll be going up the top ten in the coming days, but to start with, here are brief remembrances of the moments which didn’t quite manage to crack the top ten.
11. July 11, 1999. Jay Bell’s grand-slam makes a millionaire of a fan (average rank 9.68)
In the 1999 season, there was a promotion by Shamrock Farms each Sunday home game. One fan would get to pick a D-backs player and inning, and if their chosen man hit a grand-slam, they’d win a million dollars. Obviously the odds are slim of any given player even coming up with the based loaded in a specific inning, never mind then going deep. That season, the entire Arizona roster hit fewer then one grand-slam every twenty games. But Gylene Hoyle beat the odds, Jay Bell coming to the plate in that situation. Bell knew what was on the line, and the normally undemonstrative infielder pumped his first at first-base as he rounded the bags. He called it, “My career highlight”.
12. June 17, 2001. Tony Womack’s grand-slam on Father’s Day (9.93)
This came just a few weeks after Womack’s father had passed away, in an otherwise largely forgettable game against the Tigers. I defer to Bob Baum’s recap: “As he crossed the plate after his first homer of the season, Womack pointed his index fingers to the sky, then hung his head and wiped his eyes as he was congratulated by his teammates. He continued to sob as he sat in the dugout as he faced the first Father’s Day without his dad. “I didn’t even want to go to sleep last night knowing that the next day was Father’s Day,” Womack said. “I wanted to avoid it if at all possible because I wasn’t ready. I’m still not ready… My father was everything. That sums it up. He was everything.””
13. March 31, 1998. Travis Lee hits first franchise homer, in first game (12.11)
As with most expansion teams in any sport, there wasn’t much to love about the franchise’s inaugural season. But the first game won’t be forgotten by anyone who watched it. First-baseman Lee was one of the earliest Diamondbacks, signing with the team on October 15, 1996. And he had already inked him name into the Arizona record books, giving the team their first-ever hit as a major-league club, singling with two outs in the first inning. But he merited a few additional lines in the sixth. For this wasn’t just the first home-run by a D-back, it was also the first RBI and run scored, and broke up Darryl Kile’s bid to shut-out the new franchise on their baptism.
14. August 7, 2010. Gonzo’s #20 becomes the first number retired by the D-backs (12.29)
There have been other numbers retired purely by the D-backs, most obviously Johnson’s #51. But it may be a long time before we see any others, and the first one is always particularly special. Luis Gonzalez has an unmatched place in team folklore, but also in Arizona sports history, and will probably never have to buy another drink in the state. While the Big Unit was likely a better player, Gonzo’s was undeniably more beloved, and almost every long-term Arizona fan will have a positive story of an interaction with him. I’d be hard pushed to think of anyone more deserving of the honor. And that the subsequent game was won on a walk-off homer by Chris Young does no harm at all.
15. October 4, 2007. Ted Lilly spikes his glove (12.93)
They say the Internet never forgets. But it appears Mr. Lilly has done a remarkably good job at getting it to forget this incident, which only appears to exist in the GIF format above. It came in Game 2 of the NLDS between the Cubs and D-backs. In the second inning, Doug Davis had allowed a two-run homer to Geovany Soto, giving Chicago a 2-0 lead. But with two outs in the bottom of the inning and two on, Lilly served up a meatball platter to Chris Young, who did not miss. The pitcher was clearly a grumpy teddy, as Arizona took a lead they’d never relinquish. Indeed, it was the last time the Diamondbacks would trail in the entire series.
16. September 2, 2002. Mark Grace pitches (13.86)
Position players pitching is never a good thing, but at least Grace injected some humor into a terrible drubbing at the hands of the Dodgers. The most glorious and best-remembered moment from his solitary career stint on the mound is his spot-on imitation of journeyman reliever (and current bullpen coach) Mike Fetters, complete with the head-whip. But Grace’s humor was not limited to that; note also the good-natured way in which he waved future Hall of Famer (!) David Ross around the basepaths, after the catcher hit his first career home-run off Grace. According to Ross, what he was yelling was, “C’mon man! You’re stealing my thunder!” Classic Grace.
17. April 26, 2004. Richie Sexson homers off the scoreboard (13.96)
Sexson’s time in the desert was severely curtailed by injury: he played only 23 games for the Diamondbacks. However, those did result in 23 home-runs, including what remains the longest in Chase Field history. Then manager, now color commentator Bob Brenly was amazed: “You see things in this game on occasion that you’ve never seen before. I think Fins (Steve Finley) said it best, he’s never seen a ball get so small so fast. It seemed like it was accelerating when it hit him in the face out there on the JumboTron.” The ball shattered eight cells in the screen, which cost about $360 to fix, though the team left the dark spot there for the rest of the homestand, to mark the shot.