Chris Chambliss knew this home-run trot would be unique.
We’ll let Howard Cosell’s call of the iconic 1976 blast stand: “Chris Chambliss has won the American League pennant for the New York Yankees!”
If you can make it there, well, you know the rest.
But Chambliss didn’t make it to third base. And he reached home much later, surrounded by security.
“When we got back out to the plate it was dug out and gone,” Chambliss said. “So I went and placed my foot where I thought it should be.”
Chambliss lands at another appropriate spot on Monday night: San Diego’s Breitbard Hall of Fame.
The former Oceanside High and MiraCosta College star joins LaDainian Tomlinson and Tony Clark in being inducted at the Salute to Champions banquet.
“I’m very honored,” Chambliss, 66, said. “I think it’s wonderful to be recognized, especially in the area that I grew up in.”
With his father serving as a Navy chaplain and based at Camp Pendleton, Chambliss arrived in Oceanside as a 10-year-old. O’side has been by his side since.
“That is where I got a great foundation,” said Chambliss, who’s retired and living in Atlanta. “And I really attribute it to all the different sports that I played.”
These days, many children specialize in one athletic endeavor.
In Chambliss’ days, that was unheard of.
In each of his four years at Oceanside, he played football, basketball and baseball; in football and baseball, he was coached by the legendary Herb Meyer.
At MiraCosta, he was a baseball and football standout.
He focused on baseball at UCLA, which led to him being the 1970 draft’s first pick, selected by the Cleveland Indians.
Chambliss was the 1971 American League Rookie of the Year with Cleveland in a career which lasted 17 seasons.
But he’s best known for wearing the pinstripes, winning two titles as a player and four more as a batting coach.
Nothing trumps Chambliss smacking an elevated Mark Littell offering over the right-center field fence in the 1976 ALCS, a walk-off that has had a long run.
Thousands of fans cascaded onto the field as soon as Chambliss left the batter’s box.
Chaos soon followed.
“Some people joke about that, that I never ran the bases,” he said. “But after I reached second base and tripped, someone tried to grab my helmet. I looked at third base and there was a ton of people there. So I decided to head straight to the clubhouse.”
It was a route in which he used those football skills taught by Meyer: Chambliss, a running back his senior year, lowered his shoulder and left a trail of flattened bodies.
But teammate Graig Nettles, another Breitbard Hall of Fame member, told Chambliss to go touch home.
Chambliss did — kind of — and it’s a moment in Yankees lore which never fades.
“It really is a great city with very good fans,” Chambliss said. “They know the game and are enthusiastic. They still remember a lot of the old players.”
Just like Chambliss recalls good ol’ Oceanside with a wide smile.
“I want to thank those people who had a tremendous influence on me,” Chambliss said. “It was on those playgrounds and ball fields that I played on, from Little League to Babe Ruth League to high school to junior college, where I got a great foundation for sports.”
+ Contact Jay Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org