You know you're old when you watch a game and constantly find yourself saying, "Wow, I remember when his pops played." I saw almost every at-bat of Vladimir Guerrero’s, and now his kid is a stud. I saw most of Ken Griffey Sr. and all of Junior, and heck, I even remember Bob Boone, father of Yankees skipper Aaron.
Now, in the age of the bat flip, you won't be surprised to see another star and son of a former player, Fernando Tatis Jr. – fast becoming the best baseball player on the planet even though he's barely old enough to drink a beer - belt a blast in a vital playoff game, and punctuate it with a cinematic bat flip.
So with big shots in big games in mind, here are five of the best bat-flips in MLB history.
1. Jose Bautista
This is the gold standard bat flips. Much like Harry Carson started the Gatorade bath, Bautista put the bat-flip on the map for good. His apotheosis came in the 2015 ALDS against the Texas Rangers. It was Game 5 of Toronto's first playoff series in 21 years, since Joe Carter won the 1993 World Series with a walk-off homer (but no bat-flip). There were two runners on base with the score tied at 3 in the bottom of the seventh, when Bautista smashed a three-run moonshot to left-center field and helped the Blue Jays win the series.
Bautista didn't just flip the bat; he did it with such flair and fury that the bat felt so light in light of the moment, and it was like he was tossing salt over his shoulder. The blast not only won the series, but the theatrics forever changed Bautista’s handle from "Joey Bats" to "Joey Batflips," as though he were admitted into the Canadian chapter of La Cosa Nostra. They can play baseball another century or another millennium, but this will always top the list.
2. Tom Lawless
Who? You'd be right in thinking the only cool part of his game was his last name. But in Game 4 of the 1987 World Series, facing Frank Viola - remember him? - Lawless smoked a pitch deep over the left field wall, where it crashed into a facade before careening back onto the field. What made the long ball so special was not just the fact that it broke a tie game in the Fall Classic, but also because Lawless was an .080 hitter all season and had one - that's ONE - lifetime home run. All of which led to the tone of incredulity in Al Michaels's call.
After he smashed the ball he strolled up the first base line, taking in the moment, and then flipped the bat with his left hand high into orbit flipping end over end, as if he'd done this one-in-a-million thing a hundred times.
3. Fernando Tatis, Jr.
Not only did his homer come late in a one-run game, it came after Tatis was terrible all afternoon, going 1-for-6 while leaving 10 men on base. So, like all supernatural athletes do, he summoned his inner Hulk, crushed a ball to the opposite field, admired the shot, then chucked the bat a country mile toward his team's dugout – leaving at such speed it left the screen in a nanosecond. The bat flip alone needed a launch angle and mph metric. The homer stretched a 7-6 lead into a 9-6 lead, and every run was essential in the Padres' 11-9 win Thursday over the Cardinals.
4. Yoenis Cespedes
We need some local flavor, even if he's fallen out of favor.
Remember when the Mets were good? In 2015, they got the midseason heist for the archives when they grabbed Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers. You know how Cespedes played the rest of the regular season, literally shouldering the Mets into October. Then in Game 3 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Cespedes vaporized a 2-2 pitch from Alex Wood, launching the ball over 430 feet and tossing the bat just about as high as his homer as he put the Mets up 10-3 on their way to a 13-7 win and a 2-1 series lead over Los Angeles. Maybe your children won't believe you, but the Mets actually reached the NLCS and then the World Series just five short years ago. And, ironically, it came from the Asgardian bat that Yoenis Cespedes wielded that summer. The same guy who quit on the Mets five years later, after breaking his ankle while running to or from a wild boar.
5. Manny Ramirez
It stings any Yankees fan (or New Yorker, for that matter) to show any love for Manny Ramirez, who may be from Washington Heights but lost his NYC status when he became a Red Sox - and then Dodgers - superstar. But this one had to make the list.
In Game 2 of the 2007 ALDS against the Angels of wherever, Ramirez hit a ball so hard and so far it flew out of Fenway Park, was noticed by NASA, and is now being buried in Area 51.
What made this blast so damn awesome was the biblical length of it, the importance of it, and off whom he hit it. The shot won the game, sliding the BoSox one game from sweeping the Angels, on their way to their second - cough, cough, spit! - World Series title since they broke the Bambino's hex. His swing was so smooth and powerful, he blasted the ball miles over the Green Monster, then flipped the bat all in one motion, as if it were a wand that just cast a world-changing spell. Plus, he hit this ball toward the cosmos off of closer Francisco Rodriguez, back when he was still K-Rod and nearly impossible to hit. Naturally, Ramirez did all of this then watched from home plate, as if he were gazing into a 200-foot television screen in the outfield.
Honorable Mention: Yasiel Puig
Puig made an art of the flip, but check out his lunar shot against the Red Sox in Game 4 of the 2018 World Series. Ramirez got the nod at No. 5 because his team won the series, but Puig's three-run shot was just as epic; it won the game, and his bat flip was almost identical.
Follow Jason Keidel on Twitter: @JasonKeidel