Ever since Babe Ruth launched Major League Baseball into the live-ball era with his majestic home runs, stunned fans have been asking: “How far did that ball go?”
Teams had their own formulas for estimating home run distance for over a century. Since 2015, Statcast has given us a whole new tool to answer the question more accurately, thanks to the tracking technology at every major league park.
However, one home run from baseball’s past leaves little debate. No. It’s not Mickey Mantle’s moonshot that allegedly traveled 600 feet. It’s not even the one hit by Dick Allen that became space trash, though NASA recently confirmed it’s still orbiting the planet. The one I’m referring to didn’t even leave the infield!
Andy Oyler bashed a 2-foot home run way back in 1905. He was batting for the Minneapolis Millers during a soggy home game versus St. Paul when an inside fastball hit his bat and shot straight down into the mud.
“Torrential rains had soaked the field the night before, and the ball disappeared into the mud two feet in front of home plate,” the book Long Ball: The Legend and Lore of the Home Run described. “Oyler was the only man in the park who knew where the ball was. He started running to first, then to second, and then to third while the St. Paul players searched in vain for the baseball.”
Oyler rounded third with a huge smile on his face, completing a home run on a swing that placed the ball only 24-inches from home plate. Its Launch Angle was later projected (by me) to be about -40 degrees. Who knows how deep into the mud it went. I don’t think Statcast could estimate it anyway.
Believe it or not, Oyler’s blast isn’t the only infield home run ever recorded. The craziest thing? It happened with the same team!
In 1917, Minneapolis slogged through yet another wet doubleheader in Virginia, MN.
“Center field flies in deep water went for two base hits,” the Minneapolis Journal said. “Heine Berger got credit for a home run in the second game when his hard hit ball got lost in the mire near second base and he made the circuit before it was recovered.”
As for Oyler, he eventually reached the majors and hit one home run for the Baltimore Orioles, a blast I assume traveled more than 2-feet.
Check out Mudball by Matt Tavares on Goodreads.