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"The hardest ball I ever hit!"
How Mickey's Monster Home Run's Distance Was Calculated
(Excerpted from the award-winning DVD, Mickey Mantle: The American Dream Comes To Life®- The Lost
Stories
Special Edition
.
Click Here to learn more about it. Click Here to see an outline of the contents of the DVD.)

To watch a video clip of Mickey telling this story Click Here!

 

Diagram of Mickey Mantle's home run hit on May 22, 1963 at Yankee Stadium. Mickey called it, "The hardest ball I ever hit!"


A diagram of Mickey's historic home run on May 22, 1963

 

The Story Behind Mickey's Incredible Blast:

Since we first published our list of Mickey's ten longest home runs we received a great deal of correspondence from our readers commenting on the number one home run on our list: Mickey's home run off Bill Fischer at Yankee Stadium on May 22, 1963. Mickey called this home run, "the hardest ball I ever hit!" and we've found little evidence to contradict his assessment. Mickey was certainly in the best position to judge.

It came in the 11th inning of the Yankees game against the Kansas City Athletics on May 22, 1963 at Yankee Stadium. Leading off in the bottom of the 11th inning, with the score tied 7-7, Mickey had just swung at and missed a slow curve ball from A's pitcher Bill Fischer to bring the count to 2-and-2. Fischer then tried to blow a fastball past Mickey, and Mickey went after it with everything he had. With impeccable timing, Mickey had one of those moments when everything comes together in complete perfection. Swinging as hard as he possibly could, Mickey met Fischer's heater with the sweet spot of his bat, catching it just right. The sound was likened to a cannon shot by those who witnessed it. Players on both benches jumped to their feet, not only because Mickey's monster shot instantly ended the game, but also because the ball rocketing into the night looked like it would become the first ball to go completely out of the park. Yogi Berra shouted, "That's it!" The ball streaked through the air in a laser-like line toward the farthest confines of Yankee Stadium. The question was never whether it was a home run or not. It was whether it would be the first ball to be hit out of Yankee Stadium.

That it had the height and distance was obvious. But would it clear the façade, the decoration on the front side of the roof above the third deck in right-field? "I usually didn't care how far the ball went so long as it was a  home run. But this time I thought, 'This ball could go out of Yankee Stadium!'"

Just as the ball was about to leave the park it struck the façade, mere inches from the top, with such ferocity that it bounced all the way back to the infield. That it won the game became an afterthought. Mickey just missed making history. It was the closest a ball has ever come to going out of Yankee Stadium in a regular season game.**

The question then became "How far would the ball have gone had the façade not prevented it from leaving the park?" Using geometry, it is possible to calculate the distance with some accuracy. The principle variable is how high the ball would have gone. If we assume the ball was at its apex at the point where it struck the façade, using the Pythagorean Theorem ("In a right triangle, the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides") we can determine the distance from home plate to the façade. Using calculus we can then determine that the distance the ball would have been 636 feet. There are a number of unknown variables: the wind velocity and direction from which it was blowing, the ball's spin, the speed of the pitch, etc. These unknowns prevent us from ever determining the exact distance to a certainty. (For a more complete explanation of the calculations and complete description of this and other Mantle homers, see Explosion! by Mark Gallagher. This book is the definitive book on Mantle's homers. Unfortunately, it is out of print. It may be available at your local library.)

How the Distance Was Calculated:

So how do we get 734 feet? In the example above, we assumed that the ball was at its apex when it struck the façade. However, observers were unanimous in their opinion that the ball was still rising when it hit the façade. How do we determine how high the ball would have gone? In fact, we cannot. From this point forward all numbers become estimates, depending upon how high we think the ball might have gone. A conservative estimate would be an additional 20 feet. Those 20 feet make a major difference. They cause our estimation of total distance to go up almost 100 feet, to the 734 foot number listed above. Is 20 feet higher a fair estimate? Those present when the ball was hit feel that it would have gone at least that much higher, and many feel that the 20 foot number is far too low.

To get a precise value we must turn to calculus. There we have a formula to determine distance (or range) more precisely. That formula is range = v2 sin (2y)÷g , where v = velocity (estimated at 230 feet per second), and g = the gravitational constant (32.45 feet per second). Using the 117 foot value (the estimated height of the ball where it hit the façade) in the formula, we get a minimum distance of 740.095 feet, and a maximum of 976.528 feet!

This is a good example of what can happen with estimates, especially computer estimates that determine the length of home runs now. Most of the home run distance numbers used today are the result of computer estimates of how far the ball would have traveled without obstruction. (One of these programs gave the 734 foot number listed.) Whether or not this is a fair number is a matter of opinion. However, if the distance of this home run is disputed, then the distance of many of the home runs hit by today's players must be questioned. While the software used for home run distances has greatly improved, there remain questions as to its accuracy. It is important to note that many of Mickey's home runs were measured to the point they actually landed, leaving no question about the accuracy of the distance reported.

* The façade was the decorative facing along the roof of the old Yankee Stadium. Mickey hit the façade in regular-season games at least three times during his career: May 5, 1956 off Moe Burtschy, May 20, 1956 off Pedro Ramos, and May 22, 1963 off Bill Fischer.

** Legend has it that Mickey hit balls completely out of Yankee Stadium up to three times during batting practices. Supposedly Mickey did it twice left-handed and once right-handed. Witnesses of these incredible feats include fans, stadium vendors, teammates and opposing players.


Copyright 1988-2010 Lewis Early - All Rights Reserved

 

Check out "Mark McGwire vs. The Mick!" See their stats side by side and graphs comparing their ten longest home runs. CLICK HERE!

 

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We highly recommend Mickey's Videography Program:
Mickey Mantle: The American Dream Comes To Life
®
The Lost Stories Deluxe Edition
(2 hours)
Now on DVD with nearly 200 on-screen pages of bonus features!
"The best baseball program ever made!" - USA Today, The Washington Post, The NY Daily News, Newsday, The Los Angeles Times, The TODAY Show, ESPN, Larry King Live...


Click Here for Details!

We also recommend the second Videography Program
in the Comes To Life® Program Series:

John Madden: The American Dream
Comes To Life® (1 hour)
Now on DVD! The original program in its entirety - not one frame has been omitted.
"60 delightful minutes - A must!" - USA Today, The Washington Post, The Oakland Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Sacramento Bee, The TODAY Show, ESPN...


Click Here for Details!

 

© Copyright 1998-2010 - Lewis Early
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