Tape-measure home runs and baseball’s biggest hits

SABR member Jane Leavy appeared on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” on April 3, 2012:


The other day, during a spring training game, Jayson Werth of the Washington Nationals smashed a mammoth homerun that cleared three sets of fences at Space Coast Stadium in Florida and landed in the player’s parking lot. Werth joked that it hit his truck and left a hole where it used to be. But columnist Tom Boswell of The Washington Post, in a story about(ph) the game, decided the anecdote alone just would not do. He took the distance to the fence, walked off measured steps to the parking lot, and found a witness who testified that Werth’s dinger struck the top of a palm tree, hit the asphalt and bounced off the bumper of his truck. A little trigonometry and voila, somewhere between 489 and 499 feet – best guess: 492. Would like to have gotten him 500, Boswell said. I just couldn’t.

So what’s the longest home run you’ve ever seen? And why does a monster shot seem to count for more than one that just barely clears the fence? Call us: 800-989-8255. Email: talk@npr.org. You can join the conversation at our website. That’s at npr.org, click on TALK OF THE NATION. The entire incident brings the original tape measure shot to mind and its historical reconstruction by Jane Leavy in her book “The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood.” She joins us here in Studio 3A. Nice to have you back in the program, Jane.

JANE LEAVY: Play ball, Neal.

CONAN: Now, Mickey Mantle hit a lot of homeruns, but that tape measure came out once.

LEAVY: Well, there was no tape measure, Neal. That’s the whole joke of the thing. There was a term of art that originated that day, April 17, 1953 in Washington, D.C. at Griffith Stadium, which, of course, no longer exists. Boz spent a lot of time there as a kid. He’s a Washington kid. I’m not. But Red Patterson, the Yankees PR guy, who saw an opportunity and knew what to do with it, said oh, that has to be measured as it disappeared over 32 rows of concrete bleachers that had been erected back in the mid-’20s when the, you know, when the Senators were capable of doing things.

Listen to the interview here: http://www.npr.org/2012/04/03/149928193/tape-measure-home-runs-and-baseballs-biggest-hits

Originally published: April 5, 2012. Last Updated: April 5, 2012.