In just the last month some very long home runs have been hit by Major League baseball players. The announcers at the time hyperventilated trying to come up with their usual superlative gibberish to hype the masses. Colossal, Ruthian, and even "moon shot" are typical in their vocabulary. Hey, if somebody can hit a baseball from planet Earth to the moon, forget about the Babe, 'roids, and even baseball. Sign this guy up for special ops in the military, or at least to give Adrian Peterson a righteous vengeful switching. What great fun that would be to watch, but I digress.
Consider some of a the "breath-taking" homers that have been hit lately.
1) Kyle Schwarber of the Chicago Cubs hit two. One estimated at 459 feet, and the other at 449. Alas, he has flopped around like a fresh-caught perch trying to play defense in left field of late. The Cubs really, REALLY need to find another position for this guy. Left field isn't working out.
2) Eric Hosmer of the KC Royals hit one 452.
3) His teammate Kendrys Morales popped one 442.
4) Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays hit a 436 foot dinger.
5) And Anthony Rizzo, another Cubbie, checked in at 434.
Very impressive stuff -- until one considers a few other relative factors.
Let's start out with the old Tiger Stadium. Only one of these balls would have even been a home run to dead center field. Barely. It was 440 feet from home plate. And none, repeat NONE of these so-called gargantuan blasts would have came close in the old Yankee Stadium to left-center. It was a ridiculous 465 feet away.
So if I have this right, better conditioned athletes with custom-made bats, hitting juiced up baseballs, can't seem to match the feats that players of yore accomplished. Seems odd.
Ruth may have been the gold standard, but there were others in years past that clubbed monstrous home runs. Jimmy Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, the behemoth Frank Howard, and Reggie Jackson's blast into the light tower high above Tiger Stadium's right field wall. Harmon Killibrew was a brute on occasion, and even chubby first baseman Norman Cash hit a couple estimated at well over 500 feet. Throw in a couple Cecils as well -- Cooper and Fielder. They had notable blasts.
So how can it be that the longest home runs of today pale in comparison to those hit in the past? The pitchers are still throwing 90+ MPH heat and even the heel-swinging steroid era brutes never came close -- juiced balls and all -- to some of the stats the old timers put up.
But it's recently been revealed that many of the "historic" home runs of yesteryear were likely exaggerated -- in a couple different ways. The people that can now compute such things have looked at film and, in effect, dispelled some myths.
They were many that claimed some of the olden blasts were still rising when they cleared the roof of the ballpark. They were not. If that were true, given we're typically talking at least 450 feet away at a height of perhaps 100 feet, the ball may have traveled 600, perhaps 700 feet before it came back to earth. Nobody has ever claimed a home run has gone anywhere near that far.
Another common misconception is a fly ball, much less a long home run, travels in a perfect arc like a rainbow. Also not true. When it reaches its peak height, it has already lost most of the velocity originally generated by the bat hitting the ball. The resistance of the air and gravity combine for a drag effect. In reality, a hard hit fly ball travels quickly to its zenith, but then the rate of descent becomes a lot faster than its further distance traveled. Kind of like hitting an iron in golf. It goes up quick, peaks, then falls swiftly. Despite how much backspin a player might put on the ball, if it traveled in a true arc, no way would it hit the green, bounce once, and stop. It's a matter of physics and laws of motion.
True, smashed line drives can leave the park in a hurry, sometimes even into the upper deck. But you'll never see a line drive leaving the yard entirely. People have claimed if any particular such hitter had "got under" it a bit, the ball might have went 500+ feet. It may have traveled a bit further in total distance, but then it would have become a fly ball and the above-mentioned factors would have come into play.
Bottom line? In today's baseball world, people can closely calculate how far a ball travels. When's the last time you heard of one going over 500 feet? Not lately. Even 470-480 is considered Gargantuan.
Or maybe all those 500+ foot blasts from yesteryear have been exaggerated all along. It makes for great nostalgia, but they had sensationalist announcers and over-hyping scribes (especially the homers -- no pun intended) back in those days too.
Food for thought.....