by Harold Friend
April 17, 1953 was a windy day in Washington. The Senators were hosting the defending World Champion Yankees, who were shooting for an unprecedented fifth consecutive title. The game has become one of the most memorable in baseball history, because in the fifth inning, Mickey Mantle hit one of the longest home runs ever recorded.
Chuck Stobbs Faces Mickey Mantle
With two outs and the bases empty in the Yankees' half of fifth inning at Griffith Stadium, New York was leading Washington, 2-1, when Senators' left hander Chuck Stobbs walked Yogi Berra, bringing up Mickey Mantle. Yogi cautiously took a short lead off first as the Senators' big left hander toed the rubber, peered in to get the signal from rookie catcher Les Peden, nodded assent and delivered the pitch. Mickey took it for ball one. Peden fired the ball back to Stobbs, who turned his back to home plate, removed the glove from his right hand, rubbed up the ball, and returned to the pitching rubber.
Stobbs again stared in to get the sign. Peden called for a fast ball, which was a mistake. Stobbs nodded and delivered one of the most significant pitches in baseball history. The 21-year-old Mantle connected as only Babe Ruth had ever connected. The ball exploded off the bat and landed more than 560 feet from its point of origin.
Louis Effrat's Description
"Batting right handed, Mickey blasted the ball toward left center where the base of the front bleachers is 391 feet from home plate. The distance to the back of the wall is sixty-nine feet more and then the back wall is fifty feet high. The football scoreboard on top of the back wall of the bleachers made the height from the ground to the top of the scoreboard approximately 70 feet. Mantle's drive hit.... about five feet above the end of the wall, caromed off the right and flew out of sight."
Donald Dunaway Retrieived the Baseball
Arthur "Red" Patterson of the Yankees' front office immediately left Griffith Stadium to locate the ball. Red met 10 year old Donald Dunaway, who pointed to the spot where he had found the ball. New York Times baseball writer Louis Effrat wrote a detailed account of the game, including Donald Dunaway's address, something that would never be done today, but which lends much credence to Effrat's account, He then wrote that the ball traveled 460 on the fly. After striking the football scoreboard, it continued its historic journey.
In the April 19 edition of the New York Times, Effrat clarified where the ball had landed. "It was estimated that the ball came to rest 105 farther back (from the 460 feet) and to get there, it could not have bounced in the street immediately outside the park. It is unlikely that the ball could have bounced high enough first to clear a two-story building, behind which it was picked up by a 10-year old lad...."
A Baseball Cannot Bounce Over a Two Story Building
Many "experts" have attempted to analyze Mantle's 565-foot home run. Recent articles and investigations refer to Effrat's game account article, but it is the April 19 article that raises the issue that must be addressed. The ball was found BEHIND a two-story building. Can a baseball BOUNCE over a two story building? Remember that it was a 1953 baseball, not a 2009 baseball.
It was pointed out that strong wind helped Mickey's drive, but some veteran fans reminded everyone that "The same wind blew for all the others, but only Mickey was able to produce."
The Hall of Fame Requested the Ball
Sid Keener, curator of the Hall of Fame, requested the baseball. Both the ball and the bat Mickey used, which belonged to Loren Babe, a young Yankees' infielder, were to be sent to the Cooperstown museum, but the Yankees decided to put the ball on display at the Stadium during the season before sending it, which leads to a little known story.
The Baseball Was Stolen
On Memorial Day, the ball was stolen from its display case at the Stadium while the Yankees were in Philadelphia. About a week later, three young boys hesitatingly walked up to Andy, the Yankee Stadium doorman. They told him that they had been playing ball in a playground when two older boys approached them carrying a baseball. The older boys said that it was the ball Mickey Mantle had hit 565 feet and that they regretted taking it. They asked the younger boys to return it to the Yankees. Andy took the ball, no questions asked, and the Yankees invited the boys and their fathers to a game on June 16.
Mantle Bunted After He Hit the Home Run
Mickey Mantle's 565-foot home run is one of baseball's historic feats, but Mickey batted again after the home run and he beat out a drag bunt toward second base. It was that combination of power, speed, and putting the team first that defined the greatness of Mickey Mantle. He could beat you hitting the ball 565 feet. He could beat you hitting the ball 75 feet.
Effrat, Louis. "Towering Drive by Yank Slugger Features 7-3 Defeat of Senators; Mantle's 565-Foot Homer at Capital Surpassed Only by Mighty Ruth Wallops." New York Times. 18 April 1953, p. 12.
Effrat, Louis. "Mantle Homer Hit Into Hall of Fame; Cooperstown Shrine Will Get Ball and Bat Used by Yankk in Wallop at Capital." New York Times. 19 April 1953, p. S1.
"Mantle's Home Run Ball Returns to Yanks Via 3 Small Envoys of 2 Sorry Teenagers." New York Times. 8 June 1953, p. 33.