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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Rybarczyk: Can Mantle’s 565-foot homer be matched?

Up Chuck Stobbs? Rumination syndrome at play here.

va

Wednesday marks the 60th anniversary of one of the most famous home runs in major-league history—one hit by Mickey Mantle off Chuck Stobbs at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. Yankees publicist Red Patterson claimed the home run went 565 feet.

Is a 565-foot home run feasible in today’s game? Let’s look at that from two angles.

...Let’s run through five ballparks just to show you how difficult a feat this would now be.

At Yankee Stadium, a 565-foot home run to straightaway center field would hit the lower quarter of the video board above the Batter’s Eye restaurant. If the ball were hit to left field, it would land at the extreme back of the third deck.

At Nationals Park, a 565-foot homer would hit two-thirds of the way up the video board mounted high above the right-center field stands. To left-center field, a 565-foot homer would land on the roof of the Red Loft Bar.

At Fenway Park, a 565-foot homer to left field would land on the eastbound lanes of the Massachusetts Turnpike. To right field, it would land near the top of the right field grandstand, well above the red seat commemorating the landing point of Ted Williams’ famous 1946 homer.

At Wrigley Field, a 565-foot homer to straightaway center field would pass just to the left of the scoreboard in center field, passing it about three-fourths of the way up, and land on the northwest corner of the intersection of Waveland and Sheffield avenues.

At PNC Park, a 565-foot homer to right-center would land well into the Allegheny River (50-100 feet into the water), well beyond where any ball has landed there in the past six years.

In other words, hitting one that far will be a near-impossible achievement even for today’s most prodigious power hitters.

Repoz Posted: April 18, 2013 at 05:42 AM | 84 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, sabermetrics

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   1. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: April 18, 2013 at 06:10 AM (#4417671)
Didn't Stephen Jay Gould have a theory about the evolution of athletic prowess among humans as being akin to the way horse-racing speeds have evolved over time? In general, the floor of both horse-racing and human competitions is raising, so that the last few horses' times are getting faster in a predictable and linear way. But the very top of the curve, the best speeds ever are where outliers and evolutionary freaks come into play, so Secretariat is to racing what Mantle is to hitting a baseball very far.
   2. bjhanke Posted: April 18, 2013 at 06:38 AM (#4417675)
All I know is that, if you want to feel like a power god, take a golf ball, toss it in the air, and swing at it with your bat. Those things can TRAVEL. As a kid, I played in a little pocket park whose home run line was hitting the ball into the creek that was the border of the park. I could never do that. But I hit a golf ball not only into the creek, but across the creek and across the street next to the creek, halfway up somebody's lawn, on the fly. Makes you feel like Albert Pujols. - Brock Hanke
   3. AndrewJ Posted: April 18, 2013 at 06:44 AM (#4417678)
Yankees publicist Red Patterson claimed the home run went 565 feet.

The operative word being "claimed." Jane Leavy's Mantle bio makes a much stronger case for a distance of a mere 500 feet or so.
   4. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: April 18, 2013 at 06:56 AM (#4417681)
What I hated about that Mantle home run is that I was born a year too late to see it in person. It was Safety Patrol Day at Griffith Stadium, but I was a year too young to be eligible. When I finally made it the next year, the highlight was seeing Roy Sievers lose a ball in the sun in a game against the hapless Detroit Tigers.

Yankees publicist Red Patterson claimed the home run went 565 feet.


The operative word being "claimed." Jane Leavy's Mantle bio makes a much stronger case for a distance of 500 feet or so.

535' to 542', to be exact, though of course that's an unprovable estimate, as everyone admits. But still, the fact remains that in the 51 years of Griffith Stadium, no one else ever hit a ball over the top of those bleachers.
   5. AndrewJ Posted: April 18, 2013 at 07:21 AM (#4417685)
And how much of that distance was just the ball rolling is unknown.
   6. Blastin Posted: April 18, 2013 at 07:34 AM (#4417687)
I feel like Stanton, in a couple years, if slightly bigger, could do it off of a hard-but-hung slider from a lefty.
   7. AROM Posted: April 18, 2013 at 07:41 AM (#4417688)
Andy, didn't Josh Gibson do that too?

I think Robert Adair addressed this homer in his Physics of Baseball book, but I can't remember the conclusion. In the years hit tracker has been around, Adam Dunn is the only player to have hit one over 500 feet, and it was just barely over that.
   8. depletion Posted: April 18, 2013 at 07:47 AM (#4417689)
There was an article posted here in the last couple years with a detailed look at the extra long home runs. I recall Babe Ruth in Navin(Tiger) Stadium was longest.
   9. depletion Posted: April 18, 2013 at 07:48 AM (#4417690)
AROM, I just read (in searching for my reference) that Mantle was the only one, MLB of Negro leagues.
   10. JE (Jason Epstein) Posted: April 18, 2013 at 07:53 AM (#4417693)
As if hitting a 565-foot home run wasn't enough, after the game Mantle lugged 50 pounds of ice up five, six flights of stairs.
   11. Jason Michael(s) Bourn Identity Crisis Posted: April 18, 2013 at 08:02 AM (#4417695)
As if hitting a 565-foot home run wasn't enough, after the game Mantle lugged 50 pounds of ice up five, six flights of stairs.

He had to keep his beer cold.
   12. bjhanke Posted: April 18, 2013 at 08:30 AM (#4417706)
AROM - I've seen at least one reference to Gibson hitting one over the CF wall in Griffith, which is one long way from home plate. Exact distance, I don't know. Claims of 500+ foot homers were probably at an all-time high in the 1950s - I'd hear about 2 or 3 a year when I was a kid, none of them from Cardinal players. However, whether this was overheated and competitive reporting or reality, I don't know, either. It would have been hard at the time to measure a homer, because the longest ones either hit in the stands, where you have to do advanced math to figure out where they would have hit on level ground, or hit outside of the stadium, where the only witnesses you'd get were people not actually attending the game, plus maybe some fans in the upper row of seats, which were not generally filled because games didn't generally sell out. I'm not at all sure that any of those claims can be truly verified, unless there is film and a good mathematician involved. You need a good mathematician because you have to calculate the trajectory of the ball coming down when it finally hits something. If it's coming down vertically - a huge can of corn - it's not going to measure as far as it will if the trajectory still involves a serious horizontal vector. - Brock Hanke
   13. AROM Posted: April 18, 2013 at 09:04 AM (#4417722)
I feel like Stanton, in a couple years, if slightly bigger, could do it off of a hard-but-hung slider from a lefty.


Ideally, he'd get the perfect swing against Aroldis Chapman. That sort of perfect storm - biggest, strongest hitter against opposite handed hardest throwing pitcher - has happened. Mark McGwire vs. Randy Johnson.

I found this article that refutes the reported 538 foot number for that homer (more like the 470 range). Also states that Adair's conclusion of Mantle's homer was about 506.
   14. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: April 18, 2013 at 09:06 AM (#4417725)
Andy, didn't Josh Gibson do that too?

I've heard people claim that Gibson hit one over the left field bleachers in the old Yankee Stadium, just past the point where the upper deck ended. But I've never heard any such claims for Griffith Stadium.

-----------------------------------------------

AROM - I've seen at least one reference to Gibson hitting one over the CF wall in Griffith, which is one long way from home plate.

That could well be true, but then again, Mantle did that twice in one game. I was there to witness it, along with 27,836 other fans on that 1956 opening day. In 51 years of Major League Baseball at Griffith Stadium, the only other known balls hit over that part of the wall were by Babe Ruth, Larry Doby and Ted Williams, who also did it on opening day in his last year. As a sidenote, 3 of those 5 shots were surrendered by Camilo Pascual.
   15. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: April 18, 2013 at 09:14 AM (#4417733)
There was an article posted here in the last couple years with a detailed look at the extra long home runs. I recall Babe Ruth in Navin(Tiger) Stadium was longest.

That one may have also been The Mother of All Exaggerations. Street & Smith used to run feature articles in their baseball annuals about tape measure home runs in each park, and as late as their 1973 edition they were claiming that that Ruth home run in Navin Field went 620' over the LCF bleachers.
   16. villageidiom Posted: April 18, 2013 at 09:21 AM (#4417739)
Yankees publicist Red Patterson claimed the home run went 565 feet.

The operative word being "claimed." Jane Leavy's Mantle bio makes a much stronger case for a distance of 500 feet or so.

535' to 542', to be exact, though of course that's an unprovable estimate, as everyone admits.

This study puts it at 538' minimum, but likely not much more than that.

It also suggests that, unaided by wind and unimpeded by signs/seats/structures, the ball would have traveled around 464'. We've seen longer HRs than that indoors - Canseco's ALCS shot at SkyDome was something like 480', impeded - but such HRs are very rare.

So, yeah, Mantle's HR was likely not 565', more like 540', which is still huge. And it was likely the combination of ideal conditions (wind, pitch), the ideal hitter (Mantle), and a park that, while not ideal for HRs to LF, was ideal relative to most modern parks where there's likely something in the way to stop the ball's progress.
   17. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: April 18, 2013 at 09:24 AM (#4417743)
where there's likely something in the way to stop the ball's progress.

Isn't this the key, though? Canseco, McGwire, Kingman...these guys hit some mammoth shots that ended up in the seats. That HR Canseco hit at Skydome, how far would that have gone if the upperdeck hadn't got in the way?
   18. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: April 18, 2013 at 09:38 AM (#4417759)
This is an obvious note but: watching, in person, a moon shot like that is an amazing thing.
   19. AROM Posted: April 18, 2013 at 09:46 AM (#4417767)
In the years hit tracker has been around, Adam Dunn is the only player to have hit one over 500 feet, and it was just barely over that.


I posted this before RTFA, and even registering who the author is. It's mentioned in the article, and I have a feeling the author is somewhat familiar with hittracker. :-)
   20. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: April 18, 2013 at 09:53 AM (#4417773)
So, yeah, Mantle's HR was likely not 565', more like 540', which is still huge. And it was likely the combination of ideal conditions (wind, pitch), the ideal hitter (Mantle), and a park that, while not ideal for HRs to LF, was ideal relative to most modern parks where there's likely something in the way to stop the ball's progress.

Clark Griffith was asked about the wind factor, and replied rather sarcastically that the same wind had been blowing out towards LF since the stadium opened in 1911, and nobody else had ever taken advantage of it before Mantle.

That aside, there's no question that the wind goosed the distance of that Griffith Stadium shot. But when you're talking about barriers, Mantle himself always said that the hardest ball he ever hit, and the would-have-been longest home run, was the 11th inning walkoff he hit off Bill Fischer of the Kansas City A's in this game in 1963. It was the second ball he'd hit off the RF facade above the third deck in Yankee Stadium**, and by all contemporary accounts the ball was still rising at the point it hit the barrier. Dale Long said Mantle told him that this was the only time he'd ever actually felt the bat bend during his swing, and Long claimed the ball would've gone 700 ft. if the facade hadn't been there.

I want teammates like Dale Long when I go to meet my Maker. Wouldn't you?

Of course Hit Tracker put the kibosh on that one as well, and estimated that it likely would have traveled unimpeded to about 504 ft. And in particular, it squashed the idea that the ball could possibly have still been rising at the point of impact. How utterly unromantic.

**The first was off Pedro Ramos in 1956
   21. Ok, Griffey's Dunn (Nothing Iffey About Griffey) Posted: April 18, 2013 at 09:53 AM (#4417774)
I've been fortunate enough to see the longest homeruns hit at Riverfront (McGwire) and Great American (Dunn, the one where the ball was found down by the river). It was awesome, and it's hard to believe that anyone could hit a ball any farther or harder than those were hit. McGwire's at Riverfront is only listed at 470 or so, but, it was just starting to come down when it landed in the red seats above the 375' sign (the Red seats must be 75-100 feet above the field). I was actually sitting in the outfield red seats down the left field foul line, we're so far away from home plate that the players look like little kids, and here comes this ball out towards us, going up, up, up until it was higher above the field than we were. It just starts to descend and lands in the stands.

edit: http://www.ballparksofbaseball.com/past/pictures/cin712.jpg

that's a good photo of Riverfront from behind home plate. McGwire's shot landed in the red seats, over or just to the right of the budweiser sign that is posted on the outfield fence. for height comparisons, the outfield wall was 8 feet tall at Riverfront.
   22. Dan The Mediocre Posted: April 18, 2013 at 09:54 AM (#4417776)
Glenallen Hill had some monster shots in his time with the Cubs. But buildings cross the street would prevent an attempt to best Mantle's mark.
   23. gehrig97 Posted: April 18, 2013 at 09:54 AM (#4417777)
Longest home run ever witnessed in person?

For me, it was Jay Buhner's famous "ambulance shot" at Yankee Stadium. I guess it was the early 90s. I don't know the year--but I DO know that I was there to experience two unique moments at once. The first was seeing that ball in flight from the vantage point of the LF seats. I can still remember the vicious backspin as the ball got close. The second thing that made the moment unique: What seemed like an entire section gasp, in unison, "Holy ####!" Just stunning.
   24. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: April 18, 2013 at 10:00 AM (#4417781)
   25. villageidiom Posted: April 18, 2013 at 10:01 AM (#4417782)
And in particular, it squashed the idea that the ball could possibly have still been rising at the point of impact. How utterly unromantic.
The laws of physics are indeed utterly unromantic.
   26. Morty Causa Posted: April 18, 2013 at 10:04 AM (#4417787)
As a sidenote, 3 of those 5 shots were surrendered by Camilo Pascual.

He was just priming them so as to sell them a hot Buick afterwards.
   27. AndrewJ Posted: April 18, 2013 at 10:12 AM (#4417797)
Mantle himself always said that the hardest ball he ever hit, and the would-have-been longest home run, was the 11th inning walkoff he hit off Bill Fischer of the Kansas City A's in this game in 1963. It was the second ball he'd hit off the RF facade above the third deck in Yankee Stadium**, and by all contemporary accounts the ball was still rising at the point it hit the barrier (...) The first was off Pedro Ramos in 1956.

I've been reading Babe's Place, an exhaustive book about the 1974-75 renovation of Yankee Stadium... When they tore down the copper facade, one of the construction workers "remembered seeing two indentations on the downed frieze, caused by Mickey Mantle’s two left-handed mammoth home runs."
   28. gator92 Posted: April 18, 2013 at 10:33 AM (#4417815)
Mantle himself always said that the hardest ball he ever hit, and the would-have-been longest home run, was the 11th inning walkoff he hit off Bill Fischer of the Kansas City A's in this game in 1963. It was the second ball he'd hit off the RF facade above the third deck in Yankee Stadium**, and by all contemporary accounts the ball was still rising at the point it hit the barrier (...)


I did some work with Rick Kaplan to animate this homer, based on a best-guess of its trajectory. Go to this link, then select the video marked "mantle_hr_63".

http://www.digitalcentrality.com/Yankee_Stadium/video.html
   29. TribeGuy Posted: April 18, 2013 at 10:55 AM (#4417837)
In the spring of 1999, after the 70 HR season, McGwire and the Cardinals played an exhibition game against the Montreal Expos in Washington, DC at RFK stadium. (I think Bud Selig was trying to gauge the level of support for baseball in DC.)

During batting practice I saw McGwire hit two balls that almost left the stadium, both bouncing off the facade of the roof overhanging the upper deck. I have no idea how far that was, but I have never seen a baseball hit that far before.

The first picture here show a good view of LF stands and how high up the roof was: http://www.ballparktour.com/RFK_Stadium.html


   30. deputydrew Posted: April 18, 2013 at 11:42 AM (#4417882)
I've been reading Babe's Place, an exhaustive book about the 1974-75 renovation of Yankee Stadium...


As a former ticket-holder at OYS (well, the 2006-2008 version) and did a bit of searching for good pictures showing how the stadium and, primarily, playing field changed. You could see the outline of the old outfield wall well beyond the LF wall, but I really wanted to know how it changed. The old LF wall seemed soooo far beyond the current LF wall as to be nearly unreachable. But, perhaps home plate was in a different location before the renovation. I'm sure there must be a good but bite-sized summary and description online somewhere...right? I'm not sure I need to read a full book, but I'd like to know the basics. (But, if it was 2007 I would have loved to read the book because I could have compared it directly to what I was seeing from my seats in the upper deck...)

(edited to fix tags)
   31. McCoy Posted: April 18, 2013 at 11:44 AM (#4417886)
   32. deputydrew Posted: April 18, 2013 at 12:00 PM (#4417902)
Thanks, McCoy!
   33. Steve Treder Posted: April 18, 2013 at 12:29 PM (#4417940)
The most impressive home run I ever saw in person was hit by Jack Clark, in an exhibition game against Stanford at Sunken Diamond. The ball left the ball park, literally, sailing over the top of a row of trees well behind the left field fence, and it had not yet begun to descend. It was thrilling to see, yet at the same time almost scary, like witnessing a piece of artillery being fired.
   34. dlf Posted: April 18, 2013 at 12:42 PM (#4417958)
I saw Frank Thomas play college ball at Auburn before they deadened the aluminum bats. I will never see a homer hit farther.
   35. SouthSideRyan Posted: April 18, 2013 at 12:44 PM (#4417960)
I can't imagine a ball going farther than the one Sosa hit over the trees on Kenmore.
   36. AROM Posted: April 18, 2013 at 12:48 PM (#4417969)
The most impressive home run I ever saw in person was hit by Jack Clark


Me too. He was playing for the Cards against the Phillies, I was in left field of Veteran's stadium, in the lower seats. He hit one right on line to us, but way over our heads into the upper deck. Impossible to see where it landed, but just seeing how quickly that ball took off was impressive.
   37. dr. scott Posted: April 18, 2013 at 12:50 PM (#4417972)
Doubt ive ever seen one of the longest HR in history, but Im pretty sure I saw the most litgious. Last day of the season 2001, Bonds #73. I thought about going to the Arcade that inning as I knew bonds would be up and the pitcher was throwing meatballs (knuckle did not have a lot of movement). I wisely decided that even if a HR was hit, given the large crowd already there, the most likely outcome was me breaking my glasses. Ball was hit right to the arcade, and after over 100k in legal fees, and selling the ball for slightly less, the guys who claimed number 73 for a short year ended up worse off than I would have had I treked over to the arcade and broke my glasses in the scrum.
   38. gator92 Posted: April 18, 2013 at 12:54 PM (#4417979)
The most impressive home run I ever saw in person was hit by Jack Clark, in an exhibition game against Stanford at Sunken Diamond. The ball left the ball park, literally, sailing over the top of a row of trees well behind the left field fence, and it had not yet begun to descend. It was thrilling to see, yet at the same time almost scary, like witnessing a piece of artillery being fired.


Check this Chris Snyder homer from 2010 for a quick ballpark exit:

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=7818693
   39. McCoy Posted: April 18, 2013 at 01:05 PM (#4417999)
I know you've talked about Jenkinson's work on other sites but what do you think of his book Baseball's Ultimate Power? I've checked about 20 of the homers he has listed for players that hit them from 2006 to 2009 and while some of them line up with your numbers a lot of them are off by a good deal, both long and short. Have you found his work credible? Do you agree with his views and conclusions about the great long distance homer hitters playing 70 or more years ago?
   40. villageidiom Posted: April 18, 2013 at 01:10 PM (#4418010)
The most impressive home run I ever saw in person was Manny Ramirez, hitting the lights over the LF wall at Fenway.

Yes, the lights.

So, maybe 320 feet away from the plate horizontally; it was the leftmost stanchion above the monster. The wall is 37 feet high, and the light towers extend above the wall about twice the height of the wall, so the lights are maybe 100 feet high.

I recall the "official" measurement at the time was 501.5 feet, but that was obviously selected to preserve Ted Williams' 502-foot HR as the longest official HR at Fenway. (Manny's HR actually traveled no more than 350 feet before it was impeded by the lights, so they didn't really have to be protective of Williams' 502-before-impeded-by-the-seats homer.) OTOH, looking at the physics of it, had the ball not been impeded somewhere slightly above 500 feet looks to be pretty accurate.
   41. Moeball Posted: April 18, 2013 at 01:11 PM (#4418012)
Longest HRs I've seen in person - 9/07/68 (I was 9 yrs old at the time!) - Angels hosting the Red Sox - this was in the days of the old configuration when the "Big A" was out beyond the center field fence (no stands behind the CF fence in those days) - in the 6th inning, Yaz hit one over the CF wall, as best as I could tell. The announcer said it actually went out through the Big A and estimated the blast as 518 ft. Doubtful, but it still was a pretty impressive shot.

9/25/90 - one of the last games played at old Comiskey - saw Gary Gaetti hit one up to the roof in LF, monster moon shot. Very high and very deep.

Other famous HRs I've seen went deep, but not historically deep - Reggie's 500th (9/17/84 in Anaheim) and the one Bo hit in the '89 AS Game deep to dead CF (also in Anaheim). Bonds' #755 in San Diego wasn't very deep at all.

Question for Andy, Brock and others who may have seen such things - in the days of old configurations (old Yankee Stadium, Polo Grounds, etc.) - wasn't it like 460 ft. to the left-center alley in old YS and almost 500 ft. to dead CF in the Polo Grounds? What were the longest balls hit - that didn't even leave the yard? I would guess Vic Wertz in the '54 WS would be one as I think Mays was about 460-480 ft away from home plate when he ran that fly down, wasn't he? Did DiMaggio or Mantle ever hit a 458 foot flyout to the warning track in OYS?
   42. gator92 Posted: April 18, 2013 at 01:24 PM (#4418042)
Jenkinson, whom I have met and talked with frequently, is an excellent and reliable investigator, and a very honest person. When he's gone back to historical home runs, he's done his best, in my opinion, to use all available sources to get to the bottom of things.

However, I am sure he would grant that those sources may be reliable or unreliable, and even a "reliable" source may be right about something or wrong about it, and their memory may fade or evolve... And even when you have a lot of sources for something (e.g. the army of reporters who followed Babe Ruth around), that doesn't mean that what they say can be implicitly trusted - or do we think that the phenomenon of reporters sensationalizing stories about celebrities to stand out among the gaggle of similar accounts is a new thing?

For my part, I am much more comfortable with home runs that were seen to land by multiple people (e.g. Mantle's facade HR's, or the Griffith Stadium one that clipped the Ballantine Beer sign), and less comfortable with the HR's that landed out of sight of most (or all) people, like for example the many Navin/Briggs/Tiger Stadium HR's that cleared the RF roof there. But it's easy to say that, and harder to dig into the tough ones and try to figure them out, so I respect Jenkinson for his hard work.

Not sure about the 2006-09 data, I haven't actually looked closely at what he came up with for the more recent ones...

   43. AROM Posted: April 18, 2013 at 02:11 PM (#4418123)
Do you agree with his views and conclusions about the great long distance homer hitters playing 70 or more years ago?


It's beyond dispute that players back then were smaller and not as strong as modern hitters, though Babe Ruth was a freak and an outlier and certainly could have been able to swing with the modern sluggers. I suspect his unmatched homerun distances could be the result of using a much larger bat than anything used today. I'm no physics expert, so I don't know what the tradeoffs would be for batspeed lost vs. bat mass gained.

Maybe using the big bat was ideal for distance hitting against the pitching in his time, but wouldn't work against today's much harder throwers.
   44. McCoy Posted: April 18, 2013 at 02:18 PM (#4418133)
Adair has a chapter on bats and home run distances and while I am no physics major it seemed to me that a player loses a significant amount of distance when going from bats the size that Ruth used to modern day bats.

Maybe using the big bat was ideal for distance hitting against the pitching in his time, but wouldn't work against today's much harder throwers.

Adait also stated that the ideal bat weight for a 180 lb athlete against a 92 mph fastball is 52 ounces. For breaking pitches I believe it was 42 ounces.
   45. gator92 Posted: April 18, 2013 at 02:29 PM (#4418150)
Another thing to consider is the wind. Sluggers from long ago were much more likely to get the sort of help from wind that turns a long homer into a historically long one. The ballparks back then had shorter profiles, and on a windy day, that wind was more likely to be felt over more of the ball's flight than is the case today with the huge, skyscraping parks of the 2000's.

There were also a larger percentage of day games back then, which means more games played during the warm afternoons when winds are strong, and fewer played during the colder night when winds tend to die down a bit (on the whole)...
   46. Lassus Posted: April 18, 2013 at 02:37 PM (#4418163)
The only "famous" HR I ever saw in person was Piazza's in the 8th that put us ahead in the first game back after 9/11. That was pretty incredible.
   47. PreservedFish Posted: April 18, 2013 at 02:49 PM (#4418186)
McGwire in 98 punching out lightbulbs on the Shea scoreboard. Opposite field.
   48. gehrig97 Posted: April 18, 2013 at 03:05 PM (#4418214)
McGwire in 98 punching out lightbulbs on the Shea scoreboard. Opposite field.


I have a memory of this one was well.

Two of the most memorable shots I've ever seen aren't notable for their distance, but both were incredible and both came off the bat of Darryl Strawberry. The first would have been 1991: Darryl's first game back at Shea after ditching the Mets for the Dodgers. I think Frank Viola was pitching (I know it was a lefty). The crowd had been tearing into Darryl without mercy (the "Daaaarryl" chants were the least of it). You have to realize, Darryl's departure was a PR nightmare, both for the Mets and for Darryl (Dodgers/Mets was probably the top NL rivalry at the time). Darryl doesn't do anything his first couple of ABs, and the abuse piles on... but then later in the game, he launches a moonshot halfway up the scoreboard, and rounds the bases with a grin. The crowd erupted into cheers (before returning to the Darryl chants). The man could rise to the occasion.

The second HR is probably the shortest to make this thread. I doubt it cleared 330 feet in the air... probably 1998 or so. A little old pop-up into the upper deck of Yankees Stadium.

Literally a pop up. As in, Darryl barely broke out of the box, the right fielder took a couple of steps in before camping on the warning track, the ball had that "pop up" sound... and yet it made the first or second row of the upper deck.
   49. Flynn Posted: April 18, 2013 at 03:12 PM (#4418228)
I would guess Vic Wertz in the '54 WS would be one as I think Mays was about 460-480 ft away from home plate when he ran that fly down, wasn't he? Did DiMaggio or Mantle ever hit a 458 foot flyout to the warning track in OYS?


Nah, Mays was only about 425-430 feet away when he caught the ball. What made it such a great catch was that Wertz didn't hit a lofting moon shot, it was more like a high line drive than anything else.
   50. Steve Treder Posted: April 18, 2013 at 03:19 PM (#4418238)
Nah, Mays was only about 425-430 feet away when he caught the ball.

I don't know about that. Jack Brickhouse made the radio call, and immediately following the play, on-air he asked his partner Russ Hodges, "Russ, you know this ballpark about as well as anybody. That one had to go about 460, didn't it?"

Hodges' reply: "It certainly did, and I don't know how Willie did it, but he's been doing it all year."
   51. Flynn Posted: April 18, 2013 at 03:24 PM (#4418242)
A contemporary diagram describes the dimensions where the notch kicks in as being 425 feet from the plate. Andrew Clem's extremely detailed diagram of the Polo Grounds has the bullpens at 447/449 feet away and it's hard to see the left and right field bleachers being farther away than that.
   52. GuyM Posted: April 18, 2013 at 03:27 PM (#4418247)
I suspect his unmatched homerun distances could be the result of using a much larger bat than anything used today. Maybe using the big bat was ideal for distance hitting against the pitching in his time, but wouldn't work against today's much harder throwers.

Interesting theory. If true, that would mean today's hitters taking batting practice could hit the ball much further if they used heavier bats. I wonder if that's true? Maybe Alan Nathan could tell us whether the reduced bat speed would be more than offset by greater mass of the bat.

You also have to wonder if the 1920s ball was juiced compared to today's ball.
   53. Steve Treder Posted: April 18, 2013 at 03:29 PM (#4418250)
A contemporary diagram describes the dimensions where the notch kicks in as being 425 feet from the plate.

Well, that's bogus, unless that actual distance to the far end of the notch was less than the 483 feet that was painted on the wall. No way that notch was 60 feet deep.
   54. Basil Ganglia Posted: April 18, 2013 at 03:32 PM (#4418251)
In the old Metropolitan Stadium in Minnesota, a seat was marked in the third deck in the left field that was the landing spot for a Killebrew home run. That seat was situated 520 feet from home plate. If the flight of the ball had not been interrupted by the deck, it's not far fetched to think the ball might have traveled 565 feet before it hit the ground.
   55. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: April 18, 2013 at 03:48 PM (#4418275)
I'm not sure if Mantle's will be beat, but I bet it's a Cubs pitcher who gives it up.
   56. pobguy Posted: April 18, 2013 at 03:51 PM (#4418279)
Alan Nathan here, under the guise of pobguy. Someone upthread posted a link to my own research on the Mantle HR: http://baseball.physics.illinois.edu/mantle565.htm. I gave various talks on this work in the past several years, one of which is accessible here: http://baseball.physics.illinois.edu/Krannert-v3.pdf. It was I who did the analysis that Jane Leavy included in her book, The Last Boy (see Chapter 6). I have discussed my analysis at great length with both Bob Adair and Bill Jenkinson. It is really not possible to comment on Jenkinson's claim that the HR could not have traveled farther than 515 ft. He says he talked with various physicists. I was not among those whom he consulted. As far as I can tell, no one took into account the claim that the ball was retrieved behind the row houses that were standing on 5th St. NW, just across the street from the stadium wall. Taking that information into account allows me to place a quite accurate lower limit on how far the ball would have traveled inimpeded: 538 ft. I also did the type of analysis that Adair discusses in his book and find a range of possible landing points 535-540 ft. Finally, I know exactly where Adair when wrong in his analysis. He grossly underestimates the effect of spin on the flight of a baseball, a point he now concedes in our private discussion. In his defense, he did not have the advantage of recent experiments on this point, some of which I did myself.

I won't describe all the details of my analysis here, but for those who are interested, I encourage you to read both my article and my presentation.
   57. GuyM Posted: April 18, 2013 at 03:58 PM (#4418285)
Alan: Do you have a view on why today's hitters rarely if ever break 500 feet? Is bat weight the main factor? (Or do you not agree with that hit tracker data?)

   58. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: April 18, 2013 at 04:09 PM (#4418302)
At the very end of this (about 1:25) you see a Kingman HR to Left Center that clears the Bullpen- he hit several longer ones though in Shea, at least 2 of which cleared not just the BP but reached the parking lot beyond on the fly.
   59. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: April 18, 2013 at 04:27 PM (#4418318)
I saw mid-80's Dave Parker (then with the Reds) pull one into the upper deck at Candlestick... no idea how far that would've gone, but it sure looked impressive.
   60. pobguy Posted: April 18, 2013 at 04:32 PM (#4418323)
GuyM (#57): I think hitting over 500 ft is rare in any era. I am not sure is any more rare now than it ever was. What we have now but didn't have in earlier eras was an accurate way to measure HR distance, thanks to hittracker. So while there might be a *perception* of longer home runs in earlier eras, I am personally skeptical of those claims. And to answer your last question, I have the utmost confidence in the HR distances reported by hittracker.
   61. depletion Posted: April 18, 2013 at 04:34 PM (#4418325)
Kingman's first tour of duty with the Mets included a game at Wrigley field. The home run he hit was shown on replay to disappear over the wall, then reappear screaming upward destroying a window and entering an apartment in a building on the opposite side of the street. Must have made for an interesting dinner for someone. The Cubs traded for Kingman.
   62. Tom Nawrocki Posted: April 18, 2013 at 04:35 PM (#4418329)
I saw Tony Armas put one into the centerfield hitter's background at old Comiskey Park. That was a good 500 feet, and has supposedly been done just seven times.

EDIT: Now that I look it up, I see that Armas hit it off Tom Seaver, which I had totally forgotten.
   63. GuyM Posted: April 18, 2013 at 05:05 PM (#4418370)
Alan #60: Thanks. That seems right.

Do you have any view regarding whether the use of heavier bats, e.g. by Ruth, could/would have produced more very long HRs? (assuming that slower pitching made this possible)
   64. pobguy Posted: April 18, 2013 at 05:19 PM (#4418383)
GuyM (#63): I have always thought that, taking all things into account, a batter can hit a ball harder (and therefore farther) with a heavier bat, at least up to a point. What one loses in bat speed is more than made up in a higher efficiency for transferring energy to the ball (at least, up to a point). Note that this is the "anti-corking" argument. When a bat is corked, the opposite is done, namely, the bat is made lighter. This will generally not allow one to hit the ball harder. What one loses in efficiency is not made up with the higher bat speed.

Having said all that, one might also talk about "bat quickness", as distinct from "bat speed". The latter has to do with how fast the bat is moving at the moment of contact, which is what matters for hitting the ball hard. The former has to do with how rapidly the bat is moved from its starting location into the hitting zone, and is more properly called the acceleration. While a heavier bat will allow you to hit the ball harder, it is done at the cost of bat quickness, which probably reduces your ability to make "good contact" (i.e., to get the bat in the right place at the right time and "squared up"). As a result, batters these days seem willing to sacrifice maximum batted ball speed in favor of better bat quickness, so they tend to use lighter bats. It *might* be true that this results in fewer tape measure home runs than in earlier eras. Too bad we don't have good data from past eras that allows us to study that.
   65. Srul Itza Posted: April 18, 2013 at 05:59 PM (#4418444)
Thank you for joining the conversation, Mr. Nathan.

You must have hit us on a good day, since nobody said anything idiotically insulting to you.

   66. SandyRiver Posted: April 18, 2013 at 06:13 PM (#4418464)
An old listing of Polo grounds distances showed 425' to the front corners of the notch and 475' to the back by the clubhouse. Pics clearly show Mays well short (25-30'?) of the clubhouse wall as he caught Wertz' drive.

In either 1962 or 63 I saw Orlando Cepeda hit the facing at the base of the upper deck perhaps 75' left of the left notch corner, a spot perhaps 435-440' from the plate if the corner was 425' (and deducting the 5' overhang of the upper deck.) We were seated behind home plate, about halfway up the upper deck, and the ball's flight peaked at or slightly below our eye level, meaning that it was only 25-30' below apogee when it hit the facing. (Mets lost 17-5, naturally.)
   67. pobguy Posted: April 18, 2013 at 06:27 PM (#4418482)
Srul (#65): Bring it on!
   68. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: April 18, 2013 at 06:36 PM (#4418491)
In either 1962 or 63 I saw Orlando Cepeda hit the facing at the base of the upper deck perhaps 75' left of the left notch corner, a spot perhaps 435-440' from the plate if the corner was 425' (and deducting the 5' overhang of the upper deck.) We were seated behind home plate, about halfway up the upper deck, and the ball's flight peaked at or slightly below our eye level, meaning that it was only 25-30' below apogee when it hit the facing. (Mets lost 17-5, naturally.)

May 4, 1963.
   69. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: April 18, 2013 at 06:39 PM (#4418496)
I was at the game when McGwire homered off Johnson. As I've said here before, it looked like the ball was going to punch a hole in the back wall of the Kingdome.

I've also recently mentioned another tremendous shot, this one from the minor leagues. I watched A.J. Zapp hit a ball straight out to center at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, well over the 25-foot-wall that stood 425 feet from home plate. No one had ever done that before, and the stadium was almost fifty years old at that point. Given how high the ball was when it went out, it must have been close to a 500-foot shot.
   70. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: April 18, 2013 at 07:34 PM (#4418556)
I was at the game when McGwire homered off Johnson. As I've said here before, it looked like the ball was going to punch a hole in the back wall of the Kingdome.

That's the hardest hit ball I've ever seen.

There have only been a handful of home runs hit completely out of Dodger stadium. I moved to LA in June 1997 and was in attendance for:

Dodger catcher Mike Piazza hit a 470-foot home run off Frank Castillo of the Colorado Rockies on September 21, 1997 that landed on the left field pavilion roof and skipped under the left field video board and into the parking lot.

My other meaningful home run memory was sitting in the left field pavilion at Dodger stadium for a game against the Mets and Gary Sheffield hitting a home run right at me. It wasn't a fly ball home run, it was a Gary Sheffield laser beam special. Having played a lot of ball, it wasn't soon after it left bat that I realized I had a problem, in that this rocket was headed right at me. And - in a move enshrined in the p-ssy hall of fame - I stood up, took a step to my left, and watched as the ball hit the bench where I had been sitting moments earlier. Made no attempt to catch it at all. How pathetic.
   71. Pirate Joe Posted: April 18, 2013 at 07:36 PM (#4418559)
I saw mid-80's Dave Parker (then with the Reds) pull one into the upper deck at Candlestick... no idea how far that would've gone, but it sure looked impressive.



We were sitting in the upper deck down the right field line at Three Rivers one Saturday night and Parker hit a ball that ended up foul by about half a section that landed about 2/3 of the way up the upper deck. I don't know how far that would be, but it was certainly at least comparable to the upper deck bomb Junior Griffey hit at Three Rivers in the home run hitting contest at the All Star game in 1994.


   72. Bowling Baseball Fan Posted: April 18, 2013 at 07:42 PM (#4418566)
Thats not a ##### move. Thats survival of the fittest. A puss move would be ducking behind your girlfriend so she gets hit.
   73. Accent Shallow Posted: April 18, 2013 at 08:00 PM (#4418573)

Thats not a ##### move. Thats survival of the fittest. A puss move would be ducking behind your girlfriend so she gets hit.


We get one of those every year. Last year was at Minute Maid, this year's was at Miller Park, I think?
   74. Bowling Baseball Fan Posted: April 18, 2013 at 08:07 PM (#4418576)
I remember the guy getting interviewed at Minute Maid. I think she broke up with him soo nafter and it made the news. That was awesome. :)
   75. cardsfanboy Posted: April 18, 2013 at 08:16 PM (#4418580)
The most impressive home run I ever saw in person was hit by Jack Clark, in an exhibition game against Stanford at Sunken Diamond. The ball left the ball park, literally, sailing over the top of a row of trees well behind the left field fence, and it had not yet begun to descend. It was thrilling to see, yet at the same time almost scary, like witnessing a piece of artillery being fired.


I still swear to this day, that I have never seen a batter hit the ball harder than Jack Clark, and yes that includes Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds. The ball off his bat was just line drive shots.
   76. cardsfanboy Posted: April 18, 2013 at 08:24 PM (#4418588)
GuyM (#63): I have always thought that, taking all things into account, a batter can hit a ball harder (and therefore farther) with a heavier bat, at least up to a point. What one loses in bat speed is more than made up in a higher efficiency for transferring energy to the ball (at least, up to a point). Note that this is the "anti-corking" argument. When a bat is corked, the opposite is done, namely, the bat is made lighter. This will generally not allow one to hit the ball harder. What one loses in efficiency is not made up with the higher bat speed.


I've argued in the past that corking doesn't add distance, but the slightly lighter weight makes it easier for a hitter to adjust the trajectory of his bat in flight, ensuring more consistent hits on the sweet spot, giving the illusion of hitting the ball harder, when it's just hitting the ball "square" more frequently.

I think that is also the advantage that batters today are trading off with the whip thin lighter bats, is their ability to more consistently make solid contact.

   77. Sleepy supports unauthorized rambling Posted: April 18, 2013 at 10:57 PM (#4418757)
I still swear to this day, that I have never seen a batter hit the ball harder than Jack Clark, and yes that includes Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds. The ball off his bat was just line drive shots.


How does Matt Holliday fit into your experience? I only have vague memories of Jack Clark, since I was highly dependent on the radio when he was a Cardinal, but he actually scares me sometimes. I saw a lot of the two guys you mentioned, and neither seemed to hit as many screaming line drives as MH.

Saying this as a huge Jack Buck fan, and as a Cards fan whose most powerful childhood baseball memory is the call of a Clark HR against Dwight Gooden, everyone on those teams hit the ball harder, threw better change-ups/curves/fastballs, played better defense, and ran faster than anyone who could possibly play today. When I watch games from the 80's Cardinals on mlb channel, I'm always surprised that they aren't 7 feet tall.

It would be fascinating to see how many HR's a modern guy like Holliday would hit, in a ballpark with a 281 ft corner OF fence.
   78. pobguy Posted: April 18, 2013 at 11:02 PM (#4418764)
I've argued in the past that corking doesn't add distance, but the slightly lighter weight makes it easier for a hitter to adjust the trajectory of his bat in flight, ensuring more consistent hits on the sweet spot, giving the illusion of hitting the ball harder, when it's just hitting the ball "square" more frequently.


I completely agree with what you are saying. It fact, it is what I was trying to say (you phrased it better) in the 2nd paragraph of my post (#64). I wrote a paper about corking bats (among other things) a couple of years ago in which I say essentially what you said:
http://baseball.physics.illinois.edu/AJP-June2011.pdf.
   79. cardsfanboy Posted: April 18, 2013 at 11:07 PM (#4418776)
How does Matt Holliday fit into your experience?


He doesn't. He hits the ball hard but I just don't get the impression of raw explosion off of his bat that I got watching Clark. They used to make fun of the third base coaches when Jack came up to bat, as they would move way down the line if there was nobody on base. I don't think Jim Rice in his teh fear days was as feared as Jack Clark was in 1987. (regardless of the ibb...)

Jack Clark as a Cardinal just peppered line drives, he was as locked in as a hitter as McGwire was in his peak, but his homeruns were more line drives than towering fly ball. Clark would hit a homerun and it moved faster than the cameraman could keep up and was in the stands before he was able to take 3 steps out of the box... If McGwire ran out of the box, he could be halfway between first and second by the time it landed.

Although that one McGwire hit against Randy Johnson was probably the single hardest hit I can remember seeing.(It was referenced in previous posts)
   80. cardsfanboy Posted: April 18, 2013 at 11:11 PM (#4418782)
I completely agree with what you are saying. It fact, it is what I was trying to say (you phrased it better) in the 2nd paragraph of my post (#64). I wrote a paper about corking bats (among other things) a couple of years ago in which I say essentially what you said:


Glad to see I'm agreeing with someone that knows what they are talking about. :)

I've been saying that for years, every time someone tries to come up with the argument against corking saying "it doesn't really do anything".
   81. bjhanke Posted: April 19, 2013 at 06:01 AM (#4419002)
By the standards of the guys we've been talking about, Matt Holliday isn't a home run hitter. Jack Clark, Mark Mc Gwire and doubtless others hit the ball MUCH further, in their better shots (meaning several times), than Matt can even try to do. Since Cardinals are getting mentioned, I should add that the longest homer I ever saw was by Dick Allen during his one year in STL. It hit the scoreboard just to the LF side of center. In that stadium, which was big enough as it was, that was a monster hit. No one I saw ever hit one really close to that far. Not Mac, not Jack, not nobody.

And yes, there were a lot of really weird ballparks in the 1950s, before whoever actually runs baseball put limits in on the distance to the fences (which did contain grandfather clauses - see Charlie Finley in Kansas city for one of the oddest responses to this). I wasn't familiar with Yankee, because I was in an NL town, so even the TV shows didn't show that stadium a lot, but the Polo Grounds was very weird. Short down the LF line and even shorter down the RF, but rapidly slanting to a HUGE distance to dead center. The single oddest MLB ballpark I remember was Old Crosley in Cincy. The left field area actually had a ridge on it right before the LF fence. That is, if you were going back for a long fly in LF there, you had to climb a hill, which meant that you had to try to keep aware of where that hill started while also trying to track the fly ball. This led to some really hilarious failures by almost everyone's left fielder, sooner or later. I also think some LFs got hurt tripping when they hit the upslope. I don't know when, or why, that ridge went away, but if I had been owning the Reds, I'd have flattened it immediately. I mean, it's my LF who's going to be risking the injuries, much more than anyone else's. - Brock
   82. Sunday silence Posted: April 19, 2013 at 08:47 AM (#4419065)
In the Cepeda game mentioned in post 68; Gaylord Perry came in with a 10 run lead and got a save! I guess he pitched very effectively...
   83. Tom Nawrocki Posted: April 19, 2013 at 10:01 AM (#4419155)
Matt Holliday hits the ball extremely hard, but it's more screaming line drives than booming homers. He's a lot closer to Al Oliver than to Mark McGwire.
   84. Ok, Griffey's Dunn (Nothing Iffey About Griffey) Posted: April 19, 2013 at 10:30 AM (#4419201)
This led to some really hilarious failures by almost everyone's left fielder, sooner or later. I also think some LFs got hurt tripping when they hit the upslope. I don't know when, or why, that ridge went away, but if I had been owning the Reds, I'd have flattened it immediately.


Brock, I don't think they ever flattened the hill at Crosley (at least not until the park was demolished). A replica of Crosley Field was built in Blue Ash, Ohio for softball/baseball. It has the same dimensions in the outfield, the big scoreboard and Longines clock... and the hill in the outfield.

https://foursquare.com/v/crosley-field-replica/4e62c4ca45ddda3529bb61cc

edit: from Blue Ash's website:

CROSLEY FIELD
Reconstructed for advanced level baseball, the Crosley Field restoration project was formally dedicated to the "Youth of Baseball" in July of 1988.

Crosley Field was reconstructed by using the blueprints from the original stadium, including the same field dimensions, grass infield, the infamous outfield terrace, and the same dimensions, height, and angles of the outfield wall. To add to the authenticity of the reconstruction project, the 400+ seat stands on the 3rd baseline comprise of the original stadium seating from Crosley Field.

The scoreboard was reconstructed to simulate the original scoreboard from Crosley when the "last pitch" was thrown on June 24, 1970. No detail was left out in the reconstruction process, including the original sponsors of the Reds and the scores from around the league at that time (see left).

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