I could hit for average, but that’s not my job. I’m here to drive home runs.Cecil Fielder
In 1921 there was no SportsCenter, no 24-hour highlight machine called the Internet. If you wanted to see a home run, you had to waddle your butt down to a baseball diamond somewhere and hope a skinny batter wearing a wool uniform would swat the ball over the fence. It was a rarity.
In 1921, major league teams averaged 59 home runs. That’s 59 home runs for each team for the entire season. Only six batters hit as many as 20 homers that year. So, you didn’t have much of a chance to see a four-bagger back in those days.
That’s one of the reasons fans in Detroit were dumbfounded on July 18, when “The Big Fella,” a muscular slugger for the Yankees named Babe Ruth, did something no one had ever done before. That afternoon, facing Ty Cobb and the Tigers, Ruth smacked a pitch so high, so far, that the baseball must have looked like a distant star to the sparse crowd of about 3,000 who were in Navin Field, which is what the ballpark later known as Tiger Stadium was known as then.
Back in ’21, Navin Field did not yet have the upper deck in center field that would later be a haven for diehard fans. The baseball traveled past the flag pole located in deep center field, over the head of Charles “Chick” Shorten, over the lower deck, which undoubtedly had only a smattering of fans, and out onto the street. Reportedly, the baseball landed across the intersection of Cherry and Trumbull. It’s estimated that the Babe’s blast traveled at least 575 feet in the air. Probably well over 600 feet in total.
“There was never anyone like the Babe,” said teammate Herb Pennock, “and to have seen him was to see a legend.”
Ruth’s mammoth homer is the only ball to be confirmed to have left Navin Field/Briggs Stadium/Tiger Stadium in center field.
Gibby’s Blast at The Corner
In the years he played for his hometown team, Kirk Gibson frequently displayed his power. A former football player, Gibby was sort of like a tight end without the shoulder pads in the outfield for Detroit. A few times, he was able to send the baseball up and out of Tiger Stadium with his left-handed swing.
On June 14, 1983, Gibson belted a blast over the right field roof against the Red Sox. It was later measured to be a 523-foot homer, with the ball landing on the lumber yard across the street from the stadium.
Big Daddy sends it over the left field roof
Not since Hank Greenberg in the 1940s, had Tiger fans seen a power hitter like Cecil Fielder. The big guy came to Detroit in 1990 as a free agent after a season in Japan. In his first season wearing the Old English D, “Big Daddy” hit 51 homers. This one went over the left field roof, off Oakland’s Dave Stewart.
Only four players have been confirmed to hit a ball over the left field roof at Tiger Stadium in Detroit: Cecil Fielder, Mark McGwire, Harmon Killebrew, and Frank Howard.
Others to clear the roof at Tiger Stadium
- Mickey Mantle: On September 10, 1960, the Yankee slugger hit a home run out of Tiger Stadium against Frank Lary. Later measurement revealed the ball traveled close to 600 feet. Some call this the longest home run ever hit.
- Reggie Jackson: Reggie’s blast in the 1971 All-Star Game was headed out of Tiger Stadium, but it hit a transformer on the right field roof.
- Norm Cash: the Detroit first baseman hit four balls out of Tiger Stadium, which is probably the record. One of his homers in 1961 is reported to have traveled over the center field scoreboard and exited the ballpark. But there are conflicting reports on whether the baseball cleared and left the stadium.
What are your home run memories of Tiger Stadium? Tell us in the comments.