“The Longest hit ever Secured in a Ball Game”

3 Feb

On June 4, 1913, Joe Jackson hit a home run in the second inning of a game at the Polo Grounds with the New York Highlanders.

The New York Tribune said the blast, off a Russel Ford Spitball that cleared the roof of the rightfield grandstand was:

“(S)et down immediately as the longest hit on record at the grounds.”

Jackson

The ball ended up in Manhattan Field—the previous Polo Grounds which was sold and renamed when the new stadium was opened in 1890

The New York Sun said it was “the longest hit ever made in New York.”

The New York Times was more measured:

“The hit, while perhaps not the longest ever made at the field, has not been approached in this section of the Polo Grounds since the new stands were built.”

The discussion of the longest home runs hit was taken up by infielder turned sportswriter Sam Crane in The New York Journal, who declared Jackson’s:

“(The) longest hit ever secured in a ball game.”

He also reported that the “small boy” who retrieved the ball from Manhattan Field was rewarded with a “$10 bill.”

The Baltimore Sun and a previous generation of fans and players were not going to accept Jackson’s homerun as the longest:

“(T)he present generation, cocksure that everything exceptional happening on the diamond nowadays could not have been eclipsed in the good old days, is wrong again.”

The paper said the longest hit ever made, “happened in 1894” off the bat of Dan Brouthers and lined up five witnesses; Brouthers, his Baltimore Orioles teammates John McGraw and Hughie Jennings, Tom Murphy, the groundskeeper at Oriole Park, and “Abe Marks, scorecard man.”

Brouthers said of his home run:

“I remember distinctly hitting a ball over the right field fence at Baltimore…This hit was a line drive clearing the fence by about 15 feet…I have talked to groundskeeper Murphy regarding this matter, and he says the fence was fully 500 feet from the home plate.”

Brouthers

Brouthers also said he had, “made several other hits that I know equaled the one made by Jackson, particularly one in Boston, one in Columbus, one in Springfield, and one in Raleigh.”

And while Brouthers insisted he did not “wish to detract in any way from the credit due Jackson,” he said he was present at the Polo Grounds when Jackson hit his home run and told an entirely different story about where the ball landed–and who recovered it:

“I saw the hit, and the ball did not go entirely over the grandstand but landed on the top. I had a man go up and get the ball and bring it to Jackson, who gave him 50 cents for it.”

McGraw conceded that he didn’t see Jackson’s hit, but said:

“I have never seen a hit to equal the one made by Brouthers in Baltimore.”

Jennings said, “Jackson’s (hit) isn’t in it at all,” compared to Brouthers.

Jennings also said the Baltimore home run was not Brouthers’ longest; he said the one Brouthers mentioned in Raleigh—also in 1894 on the Orioles “training trip.”

The Sun’s comparison of Brouthers’ homerun versus Jackson’s–also shown is the landing spot of Frank Baker’s homerun in the 1911 World Series

The scorecard vendor, Abe Marks, declared Brouthers’ hit “has never been equaled.” He claimed the ball, after clearing the right field fence, “never stopped until it hit something sticking up in Guilford Avenue.”

All agreed that the ball rolled a long way after it landed and ended up resting from 1300 to 1500 feet from home plate.

While Jackson received his home run ball (or two of them) on the day he hit his long drive, it took Brouthers more than a decade to get his.

When a reunion was held for the 1894 National League Champion Orioles in Baltimore in 1907,

The Sun said the ball had been in the possession of “S.C. Appleby…who is one of the hottest of Oriole fans,” Appleby gave a speech at the reunion held at the Eutaw House, one of Baltimore’s finest hotels, and “toss(ed) it back to Dan Brouthers across the dining table.”

Brouthers said of the presentation:

“This ball went so far that I never expected to see it again. Now that it has been given to me, I shall ever keep it as a memento of my connection with the champion Orioles.”

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