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 |
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.
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
Here's a list of long balls that cleared the Right Field Roof at
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
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'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.
Although not generally considered a long-ball hitter, Roberto
Clemente thrilled Pirate fans with several tape measure
- In Chicago's Wrigley Field, no batter has ever hit a ball off the centerfield
scoreboard. Over the park's 81 years, no batter has reached the
scoreboard that sits above the bleachers some 500 feet away from home plate - but Clemente came
very close. On May 17, 1959, Clemente came as close as you can get - the baseball
barely missed the scoreboard on the left field side as it sailed out of Wrigley Field and
landed on Waveland Avenue. Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby described it as the longest ball
he had seen during his 45 years in baseball.
- On May 6, 1960 at San Francisco's Candlestick Park, Clemente launched a shot off
Sam Jones into a strong Bay-area wind. Despite the wind, the
ball carried into the remote bleacher area well beyond the left field fence. Clemente and
Ernie Banks are the only two opposing players to reach that remote area of the park (along
with two Giant players).
- On May 31, 1964 at Forbes Field, Clemente crushed a Sandy Koufax offering 30
feet high off the light tower in centerfield. Koufax said he
couldn't recall anyone hitting one longer off of him.
- On June 5, 1966 also at home, Clemente took Houston's Turk Farrell deep to right
center (the opposite field); the ball left the park between the 435 foot sign and the Barney
Dreyfuss Memorial. It stopped in the backstop of a Little League diamond outside the park.
Four days later, Roberto pounded one off the Cardinal's Al Jackson to almost the exact same
spot. Cardinal's outfielder Curt Flood was awestruck and remarked, "I just didn't think anyone
could hit a ball that far."
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:
- He slammed seven (of the 18) home runs over the 90 foot high right field roof at
Forbes Field, including one off Hall of Famer Tom Seaver in 1969
that Willie called, "The best one I ever hit."
- He was the first player ever to hit a baseball out of Dodger Stadium - and he did it
twice. In 1969 and 1973, Stargell cleared the 50 foot high
right field pavalion. Note: During the 1997 season, the Dodger's
Mike Piazza hit a ball out of Dodger Stadium, and Mark McGwire of St Louis duplicated the feat
in 1999. Stargell remains the
only player ever to hit a ball over the right-field pavilion at Dodger Stadium, with
his 506-foot, 6 1/2-inch blast off Alan Foster in 1969 still the longest home run ever
hit at the stadium. He cleared the pavilion again in 1973 with a 470-foot shot off Andy
- He's responsible for the longest home run at Montreal's Olympic Stadium, where a
gold seat in the second deck of right field still commemorates his blast.
- At old Jarry Park in Montreal, Stargell hit a legendary
shot that ended up in a swimming pool beyond the right field fence.
- At Three Rivers Stadium, Willie hit four of the
dozen-or-so upper deck home
runs. Only one other player (Jeff Bagwell) hit two upper deck shots at Three Rivers.
- In the 1965 All-Star Game, Stargell launched a home run against Mudcat Grant that
landed in the right center field bullpen. A band was located there and the ball landed inside
a tuba. (Source: Twin Killings, The Bill Mazeroski Story, by John T. Bird)
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