Home-run “Darby”

What will they think of next?

What will they think of next?

Although we at the Right Off the Bat Project are hardly enamored of the mere distance baseballs are hit, like anyone else we do sometimes feel that size—as measured by trajectory—matters. April 17 was the sixtieth anniversary ushering in an era: that of the so-called tape-measure home run, by a raw Mickey Mantle, which was crushed for a possible distance of 565 feet in Washington’s old Griffith Stadium. (It is since claimed that the ball continued to roll, and thus did not travel in the air all that way when it was retrieved.) May 22 will be the fiftieth anniversary of the ball Mantle nearly launched out of the original Yankee Stadium, a feat accomplished by no player during a regular-season or postseason game.

Many, many major-league home runs were hit between 1876 and 1996, and they are all covered in this book from SABR (Society for American Baseball Research). Some of the great mashers, not just by the numbers but in terms of power as measured by flight, include the aforementioned Mantle, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Dick (Richie) Allen, Reggie Jackson, Frank Howard, Frank Robinson, Dave Kingman, George Foster, Mark McGwire (who hit the longest home run I [Evander] ever witnessed at a ballpark, on opening day 1997, off Mariano Rivera no less), Darryl Stawberry (who finished his career with 1,000 RBI), and Josh Hamilton. Needless to say, Babe Ruth remains the Sultan of Swat and a special case: to other ballplayers as Shakespeare is to all writers. Regarding Mantle, a switch-hitter, it is surmised that he hit homers from both sides of the plate, at a distance of at least 450 feet, in every American League Stadium during his career (1951-68).

From the same year the SABR Home Run Encyclopedia was published comes this fascinating, highly recommended if quirky article. Note: the Bill Dickey epigraph is almost certainly about tyro Mantle, ca. 1951. Below, watch the smart-alecky, insouciant Reggie crank one of the most memorable long-distance dingers ever.


About rightoffthebatbook

Co-author of the book, "Right Off the Bat: Baseball, Cricket, Literature, and Life"
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