For Keith Jones
They were discussing the Phillies on WIP’s Morning Show on Tuesday and the conversation got around to home runs. That’s when Keith Jones wondered aloud if it were true that some home runs in the old days actually traveled 500 feet.
Hope this answers your question, Jonesy.
Everyone Reads the Bulletin
The date was April 17, 1953. I was in the fourth grade and Mickey’s blast was big news. Photos and diagrams were all over the sports pages of the Bulletin.
Those were the days when “In Philadelphia, nearly everyone reads the Bulletin.”
Griffith Stadium was the home of the original Washington Senators – the Washington Senators that relocated to Minnesota in 1960 to become the Twins – and also the expansion Washington Senators that relocated to Texas in 1972 to become the Rangers.
Every U.S. President from William Howard Taft in 1911 to John F. Kennedy in 1963 threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Griffith Stadium on Opening Day each season.
Griffith Stadium was a weird ballpark. Situated in a predominantly-black neighborhood – Duke Ellington vended hot dogs there as a youngster – the stadium was laid out at an angle on the block where it was situated. And its dimensions were huge.
The original distance down the left-field line was 405 feet – later shortened to 388 feet. It was 421 feet to dead center, 457 to right-center, and a normal 320 feet down the right-field line. So just to hit a home run from the left-field line to right-center required a prodigious shot.
Tape-Measure Home Runs
But sluggers such as Babe Ruth, Josh Gibson, Mickey Mantle, Harmon Killebrew, and Larry Doby could not only hit home runs at Griffith Stadium, but – thanks to the low-profile outfield grandstands – they could launch balls completely out of the park.
- Mantle – once – and Gibson – twice – were the only sluggers to clear the leftfield bleachers.
- Babe Ruth hit balls out of the park on consecutive days in May 1921. One cleared the park in center and the other cleared the park in right-center – and both traveled nearly 500 feet.
- Larry Doby hit the longest home run to ever leave Griffith Stadium in May 1949. The ball cleared the stadium in right-center and landed on a roof-top well over 500 feet from home plate.
- Mickey Mantle – batting right-handed against lefty Chuck Stobbs – crushed a ball that bounced off the top of the back wall of the leftfield bleachers and landed in the neighborhood beyond.
A curious fan wanted to know how far the ball traveled. When he pulled a tape measure out of his toolbox, the term “tape-measure home run” was born.
He measured the ball’s resting place to be 562 feet from home plate, but the bounce off the top of the wall and subsequent roll added some distance to the pure flight of the ball. So the exact distance of the flight is unknown, but it was well over 500 feet.
My Aunt Agnes
By the way, I witnessed Mickey Mantle hit a home run out of Briggs Stadium in Detroit on June 18, 1956. That was quite a blast because it had to clear the double-deck stands and tall roof in right field.
You can read all about it at “Aunt Agnes and Mickey Mantle.”
Barry Bowe is the author of: