Tales of the Tape

Last Updated 26 January 2002

Here are some stories about the long ball. Below, you'll find the longest ball hit at each Pittsburgh ballpark and some information about three Pirates sluggers. The source for this page is the Official 1995 Magazine and Scorecard:

Index: | Exposition Park | Forbes Field | Three Rivers Stadium | PNC Park | Ralph Kiner | Roberto Clemente | Willie Stargell |

Exposition Park:

Honus Wagner's name rarely comes up in conversations about baseball's great long ball hitters... but it should. Sure, Wagner only managed to hit 101 career homers in 2785 games, but numbers can be deceptive. Especially when you consider that he played in the days when there were no short fences or stands, when the ball was dead and when pitchers threw spitballs and had trick deliveries.

On June 20, 1907, The Flying Dutchman hit the longest ball at Exposition Park.... and it wasn't even a home run. In the third inning, Wagner drove one far over the head of Philadelphia's Roy Thomas into the deepest corner of centerfield. While running the bases, Wagner suffered a controversial charley horse that the Pittsburgh Dispatch described as "an ailment that was greatly aggravated by (Philly firstbaseman Kid) Gleason... when he deliberately bumped Wagner as the latter was turning first base." Wagner painfully limped around to third on what should have been an easy four bagger.

Forbes Field:

The second home of the Pirates wasn't much friendlier than the first when it came to the long ball. Forbes Field was 365 feet to left field where the 25 foot high scoreboard stood, 442 feet to left-center and a whopping 457 feet to the deepest part of the park . It was so deep that the batting cage was stored there during the games.

Ruth, Mantle, Kiner, Aaron, and Mays all brought their mighty bats to Forbes, but only one player ever cleared the deepest part of the ballpark....Dick Stuart. Against Chicago on June 5, 1959, Stuart pounded a Glen Hobbie offering well over the batting cage for an estimated 500-foot home run. Hobbie watched it sail and shook his head in disbelief, later calling the pitch "a sinker that didn't sink" and thanking Stuart for not hitting it lower because, "I might not have been here to talk about it." Both Danny Murtaugh and Pie Traynor called it the longest ball ever hit at Forbes. Pirate shortstop Dick Groat said the players on the bench were "numb" and "bewildered" watching it. And Stuart's reaction? "It was one of my best shots, but I can't really say if it was my very best." Score one for modesty.

Here's a list of long balls that cleared the Right Field Roof at Forbes.

Three Rivers Stadium:

When Pirate starter Don Robinson took the mound on April 18, 1979, he was a 21 year old major league sophomore who was still learning how to pitch to baseball's established hitters. When Philadelphia's Greg "The Bull" Luzinski stepped into the batter's box that same night, the eight year veteran had already feasted on big league pitching to the tune of 187 home runs. If you were a Pirate fan, the combination of the two wasn't pretty.

Robinson hung a curveball and Luzinski promptly deposited it 483 feet away in the first row of the yellow 600 level seats in left field. It was the first Three Rivers upper deck shot by an opposing player and only the second to left field (Bob Robertson reached it in 1971). As Robinson watched the ball sail, he said he wasn't even sure the stadium would hold it and opposing pitcher Randy Lerch labelled the drive "awesome - there is no other word." Back then, home run hitters rarely paused to admire their blasts like today's power brokers commonly do. Maybe the trend was officially started by "The Bull" on that April night in Pittsburgh. Luzinski described it as "The first one I ever watched. I just flipped my bat. I didn't even know where first base was."

***During the 1994 All-Star Game's Home Run Hitting Contest, Chicago's Frank Thomas smashed a ball 519 feet into the upper deck at Three Rivers. The Pirates have placed a star on the upper deck facade in left-center field to represent where the ball hit.
Here is a list of all the upper deck home runs at Three Rivers.

PNC Park:

I'll list the splashes in the Allegheny River as they occur.

Ralph Kiner:

Ralph Kiner's career home runs per number at bats is second only to Babe Ruth. Kiner was one of the greatest sluggers of all time. The fans in Pittsburgh would stay in their seats to watch the struggling Pirate team even after the game had been decided; the fans always stayed for Kiner's final at bat to see if he could launch a ball out of the park.

Kiner is credited with the longest drives ever hit at Braves Field in Boston and New York's famed Polo Grounds. At home, his most extraordinary blast may have occurred on April 22, 1950. In a game against Cincinnati, Kiner connected off Kent Peterson and sent one sailing over the 25 foot tall scoreboard in left field, clearing it by a good 50 feet and still rising as it left the park. The ball carried well into Schenley Park and finally came to rest after caroming off the "Pipes of Pan" statue. Pirate beat writer Les Biederman described it as "the longest and hardest ball that ever flew off his mighty bat... the crowd gasped as the ball started for home run territory and so did Peterson." Ralph Kiner had a habit of making fans and opposing pitchers "gasp" at his power. It was magnificent.

Roberto Clemente:

Although not generally considered a long-ball hitter, Roberto Clemente thrilled Pirate fans with several tape measure blasts.

Willie Stargell:

Willie Stargell has hit more home runs than anyone else in the team's 109 year history. Stargell hit 30 or more home runs six times and had 3 home runs in a game four times. Several of those were tape measure shots:
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