#Shortstops: Bat for a Blast

Written by: Alexa Brown

On April 17, 1953, on a windy day at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C., Mickey Mantle made history.

On that day, Mantle hit what is thought to be one of the longest home runs in baseball history. This homer is often regarded as the event that made people think of Mantle as one of the greatest hitters of his time period.

Mantle hit this home run using a borrowed bat from teammate Loren Babe – a bat that is now a part of the Hall of Fame’s collection. It is said that this ball traveled a whopping 565 feet. Mantle hit a fastball batting right-handed off of Senators pitcher Chuck Stobbs in the top of the fifth inning. Mantle hit the ball so hard that part of the cover actually came off. The ball then proceeded to soar over the left field wall and Fifth Street right outside of the stadium. It was reported that the ball landed in a backyard on 432 Oakdale Street.

Even the Washington Senators manager Bucky Harris was in awe of the home run. Hours after the game ended, Harris stated that “I just wouldn’t have believed a ball could be hit that hard. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

One lucky 10-year old boy by the name of Don Dunaway found the ball and would have the story of a lifetime. Dunaway had been sitting in the left-center field bleachers when Mantle hit the ball. Dunaway then ran clear out of the stadium and searched for the ball for 45 minutes before finding it at 432 Oakdale St.

What Don Dunaway got in exchange for the home run ball remains somewhat of a mystery. One theory is that Red Patterson, the head of public relations for the New York Yankees, came and found Dunaway, giving him five dollars and two autographed baseballs for the home run ball. The other theory comes from Don Dunaway himself who stated that he took the ball all the way back to the Yankee clubhouse and he was given $100 for the ball.

Clark Griffith, the owner of the Senators, later said of Mantle’s blast: “Wind or no wind, nobody ever hit a ball that hard here before.”

Mantle seemed to be very unimpressed about the whole affair. When he was presented with the ball by Patterson, Mantle jokingly stated that if he sent the ball back home to Commerce, Okla., his twin brothers would “take it out on the lot, like any 20-cent rocket.”

The actual distance that this home run traveled has been disputed over the years. This distance was measured by Patterson using the dimensions of the park, which we now know is not the most reliable way to measure a home run. But contrary to reports, Patterson did not measure this home run using an actual tape measure.

Mantle, who was 21 years old at the time, would go on to have a career for the record books. Over the span of an 18-year career with the Yankees, Mantle batted .298 with 2,415 hits, 1,509 RBI, and 536 homers. Mantle won seven World Series, three AL MVPs, one Gold Glove Award (1962) and the 1956 Triple Crown. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1974.

Alexa Brown is the 2022 education intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development

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