Jason Giambi, 42 years young, hammered the pitch, flipped his bat and raised his arms.
His pinch-hit walk off on September 24 kept his Cleveland Indians in the Wild Card hunt and was one of the team's most meaningful wins of the season. The moment also served as a reminder of Giambi's baseball legacy. Giambi represents the muscle, shame and redemption of post-1990 baseball better than any other player.
He merits Cooperstown consideration because of his leadership qualities, his unique blend of power and average and his ability to bounce back.
The So-Cal native made his Major League debut in 1995, serving as a protege to then-Oakland first baseman Mark McGwire. By 2000, Giambi was a superstar, earning MVP honors with 43 home runs and a .333 batting average. His brashness made him stand out. He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in a cutoff shirt, his muscles bulging, strands of hair hanging down his face.
"The new face of baseball," the cover proclaimed. The New York Yankees scooped up Giambi following the 2001 season, and he remained a premier talent for those first two seasons, with 41 home runs in 2002 and 2003.
Then things changed.
His name surfaced in the BALCO scandal. He slumped. He battled a benign tumor. He held a press conference to apologize…thoughhe didn't specifically identify what he was apologizing for. Amid the boos and pressure and frustrations and fear, Giambi kept swinging. And in 2005, his power returned. His 32 home runs earned him the American League's Comeback Player of the Year award.
Giambi eventually moved on to the Athletics (again) and the Colorado Rockies. And after he missed out on Colorado's manager job during the offseason, he signed with the Indians, again bringing leadership to a young club, "The Great Giambino" still swinging away.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dan Good is a New York-based journalist. He serves as a web producer/reporter with the New York Post and a contributing editor for Beckett Media, writing about the sports collectibles industry. Dan can be found on Twitter at @Dgood73.