And this has nothing to do with his trousers, either. Years before he’d be hitting on Lenny Dykstra’s mom, Pittsburgh’s Ralph Kiner was one of the National League’s most feared sluggers. To hear Tom Hennan tell the tale, Kiner might well be responsible for one of the most impressive home runs in the game’s history. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gene Collier :
It was 58 years ago tomorrow, April 22, 1950, to be precise (and this story is really all about precision and its bumbler of a sibling, imprecision) that Hennen and some buddies watched Ralph Kiner launch one of his 369 career homers out of Forbes Field.
“It was a Saturday, the second game of the first homestand that year, against Cincinnati,” Hennen said yesterday as he adjusted his hearing aid, a common pastime of 89-year-olds. “We always sat in the bleachers but it was so crowded that day we went all the way to the top row.
From the top row of the bleachers that faced the left-field foul line, Hennen had an unobstructed view of Schenley Park, and was in fact closer to Schenley Park than he was to Kiner as the great Pirates slugger stood in against the not terribly crafty lefty Kent Peterson.
The fastball Kiner crushed cleared the left-field scoreboard by 50 feet, according to newspaper accounts of the day, and Hennen followed its entire flight to where it bounced (“10 or 15 feet into the air”) on a sidewalk adjacent to a grove of trees.
“People turned to look at each other; we were astonished,” Hennen said. “We were babbling.”
Hennen’s story is the undisputed truth, of course, but it’s not unlike 100,000 others in the ready memories of baseball fans of his age and intellect. It’s not something you present to the SABR folks (the Society for American Baseball Research) this coming Saturday, unless … Well, let’s just say that Hennen has seen enough baseball and read enough baseball history, from microfilm to blogs, that he’s not at all uncomfortable with the suspicion that the ball Kiner hit that day 58 years ago before his naked eyes is the longest homer ever.
An aerial shot taken from behind the right-field wall shows the sidewalk, the grove, and most of Oakland, providing enough visual relativism for Hennen and colleague Joe Norden to have calculated a flight path of 570 feet.