Babe Ruth loved hitting at Navin Field. Sixty of his 714 career home runs were hit at The Corner, the most of any visiting player in history. They included his milestone 700th home run in 1934 and a 1926 blast that carried an incredible 626 feet – or did it?
In the third inning of a game played June 8, 1926, Ruth “crowned” a Lil Stoner pitch far over the 12-foot wall in right-centerfield for a two-run homer. It was his 20th of the season and gave the visiting Yankees a 6-1 lead. The New York Times reported: “The pill landed on top of an automobile, bounced over the lids of several other machines and then rolled down the street, with a mob of youngsters in pursuit.” Manager Ty Cobb got a good view of the disappearing ball from his position in center field.
It was a wallop, all right. But exactly how far was far? Detroit dailies described the ball landing on the other side of Trumbull, bounding over several parked cars and rolling down Cherry Street before finally being chased down on Brooklyn Avenue, two blocks from the park, by a kid on a bike. New York beat writers reported that the ball traveled more than 600 feet from home plate to the point where it landed. Detroit News sportswriter HarrySalsinger calculated the ball came to a halt 885 feet from the plate.
Ruth’s drive has come down in history as the longest of his career, and possibly the longest hit anywhere. It might very well have been,though the distance – typically cited 626 feet – should be viewed with skepticism. The computerized measuring systems inside today’s major league parks suggest that the 500- and 600-foot drives commonly attributed to sluggers like Ruth and Mickey Mantle were probably off by 100 feet or more.
In those days before engineering entered the game, there was no precise method of measuring home run distances. The figures were a blend of rough math and simple guesswork, sprinkled with a dash of hyperbole. There was no regard for the law of physics, which tells us that once a batted ball reaches its highest point, it already has lost much of its velocity and thus falls from the sky in a rapidly declining trajectory.
Even allowing for exaggeration, however, the Babe’s blast clearly was a mighty blow – and possibly the longest home run ever seen at The Corner. As dramatic as it was, it still counted for just two runs. More meaningful was Ruth’s second shot of the day, a two-run homer in the 11th inning that gave the Yankees an 11-9 victory.
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