Did Ted Williams Hit the Longest Fenway HR?

Red Sox fans know the story. On June 9th 1946, Ted Williams hit a home run off of Detroit’s Fred Hutchinson that traveled 502 feet. The ball hit the head of a fan named Joseph A. Boucher, a construction engineer from Albany, New York. That ball landed in Row 37, Seat 21 of Section 42 in the right field bleachers, now recognized with a red seat. So while Ted Williams holds the record for hitting the longest Fenway HR, some don’t believe it traveled that far. One of those people is David Ortiz.

“I don’t think anyone has ever hit one there,” Ortiz told The Boston Globe in a July 2015Longest Fenway HR interview. “I went up there and sat there one time. That’s far, brother.”

He’s right. It’s much farther than people think it is, MUCH farther. Anyone who has ventured up to the red seat knows what I’m talking about. So how did Ted Williams, who weighed 25 pounds less than Ortiz, hit a home run that far? According to Greg Rybarczyk of Hittrackeronline.com, Ted Williams not only hit the ball that far, but he estimates that the ball would have gone another 28 feet after impact. That’s a total of 530 feet. Still, Ortiz doesn’t buy it.

“Listen, do you see the No. 1 [Bobby Doerr’s retired uniform number on the façade above the right field grandstand]?” Ortiz added in his July 2015 Boston Globe interview. “I hit that one time. You know how far it is to that No. 1 from the plate? Very far. And you know how far that red seat is from the No. 1? It’s 25 rows up still.” Alan M. Nathan, a Professor Emeritus of Physics at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign stated that the ball would have traveled 440 feet without any wind that day. The wind traveled at 19-24 mph from the west the day Williams hit the home run, so it’s very possible that it could have carried the ball father. Although Ortiz still doesn’t buy it, there’s one thing he may not be considering.

Park Modifications Make It Difficult to Break Longest Fenway HR

Fenway Park has seen many changes since 1946. There are more seats than ever before, electronic scoreboards have been added in the outfield areas, and more tall buildings now surround Fenway Park. There’s no doubt that these factors cut down on wind that would increase a player’s chances of hitting a home run. It’s understandable that Sox fans won’t see long home runs like the one Williams hit that day in 1946.

So did Ted Williams hit the longest Fenway HR? Probably. Did the wind factor into it? Probably. Will David Ortiz hit a home run farther than Williams before he retires?

Probably not.

Red Sox Resemble Old Selves in D’Backs Sweep

It’s good to see the Red Sox resemble their old selves again after a few rough weeks. Several Red Sox hitters posted strong numbers as they swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three game series. Sweeping the D’Backs wasn’t just a team effort though. It resembled the way the Red Sox used to play, a style that often led them straight to the playoffs. I dare hope that this sweep will give the team the confidence it needs to start playing more consistently.

I’ll admit that beating Arizona isn’t the hardest thing to do nowadays. The Diamondbacks’sRed Sox Resemble pitching staff has an ERA hovering around 5 right now, putting them in 29th place in baseball. They also lead the National League in earned runs. So the Red Sox didn’t exactly sweep a pennant contender. But the numbers they posted during the three-game series are hard to ignore.

Home Runs Galore!

Hanley Ramirez hit two home runs Friday night, including a three-run shot that put the Red Sox ahead after David Price surrendered a two-run homer to Rickie Weeks Jr. in the first inning. David Ortiz joined Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski as the third Red Sox player ever to have 1,000 extra base hits. David Price won the game with eight strikeouts in what amounted to one of his weaker wins for the season.

The second game saw Brock Holt and Sandy Leon go the distance in a 6-3 win Saturday. Holt seems to have fully recovered from his injuries earlier in the season, while Leon’s batting average continues to defy logic. Reliever Brad Ziegler, a former Diamondback, struck out three straight to get out of a bases loaded jam in the eighth inning. Robbie Ross Jr. picked up the win while Craig Kimbrel, resembling his old self too, grabbed the save.

The third game saw Mookie Betts blast three home runs. He joins Ted Williams as the only other Red Sox hitter to have two three-home run games in a season. That marked eight RBIs in one game for Betts. Jackie Bradley Jr. added a home run of his own in the second inning.

Red Sox Resemble Old Selves In Bad Ways Too

David Price got the win in Friday’s game but not without a lot of help from the Red Sox offense. Surrendering a home run in the first seems to be a habit for the Red Sox pitching staff. Clay Buchholz allowed three hits and three earned runs in four innings Saturday night.

I’m not exactly sure what’s up with the pitching staff. If Dave Dombrowski really wants to see the Red Sox resemble their old selves then something has to be done about it. Price is very good but he’s not consistent. Steve Wright and Rick Porcello are on fire, but Buchholz continues to struggle badly. The bats give them plenty of run support, and the defense is strong too, but the pitching is still not coming together. If the pitching staff could find a groove like their hitters then the Red Sox could blast past the Blue Jays and Orioles to capture first place again. They’re only a few games behind so it shouldn’t be too hard.

Time, however, is running out.

The Prospect That Scared Ted Williams

Who is the fastest pitcher ever? Some say Nolan Ryan. His fastball topped 103 mph more than once. Others might say Sandy Koufax. But I’ll bet you a million dollars that most people won’t say Steve Dalkowski, a.k.a. “White Lightning.” That’s because he never played one day in the Major Leagues. For Red Sox fans, Dalkowski is remembered as the prospect that scared Ted Williams with his pitching.

Because of his colorful personality, Steve Dalkowski was the inspiration for two major movie characters. Scared Ted WilliamsTim Robbins’ portrayal of “Nuke” LaLoosh in Bull Durham was the first. Brendan Fraser’s Steve Nebraska in The Scout was the second. Like Steve Nebraska, Dalkowski had a mean fastball that people feared. And like “Nuke,” he had control problems. In the 995 innings he pitched during his nine years in the minors, he struck out 1,396 but walked 1,354. Nearly 1400 strikeouts in nearly 1000 innings. That’s not the most amazing thing about Dalkowski though.

The problem with knowing whether Dalkowski actually threw 125 mph is that speed guns weren’t used in baseball until after he left the game. It will always be a mystery lost to time. However, stories about his playing days and what he could do with a baseball remain. Legend has it that one of his pitches tore off part of a batter’s ear. Another story details how a wild pitch broke Hall of Fame umpire Doug Harvey’s mask, knocking him back 18 feet. On two occasions, he allegedly won bets based on the speed of his pitches. He won a $5 bet proving that he could throw a baseball through a wall (He threw a ball through a wooden outfield fence from 15 feet away). On another bet, Dalkowski threw a ball over a fence from 440 feet away.

Unfortunately, Dalkowski never made it to the majors. On March 23, 1963, Dalkowski was used a relief pitcher against the New York Yankees during a spring training game. A slider made something pop in Dalkowski’s arm that caused a severe muscle strain. His arm never recovered. His off-field violent behavior only made life harder for him. When I asked former Red Sox Major Leaguer Jim Gosger, who faced Dalkowski in AAA Rochester, if the stories about him were true, Gosger said, “He was a nice guy, but his nickname was CRAZY STEVE! You never knew if his pitch was going to be a strike or if it was going to go over your head!”

When Dalkowski Scared Ted Williams

Dalkowski was soon released and went to work as a migrant worker. Alcoholism and divorce soon took over his life. Nowadays, Dalkowski lives in an assisted living facility in New Britain, CT and unfortunately suffers from dementia. Though most people don’t know who he is, people like Ted Williams never forgot him.

Dalkowski threw with wild, but demon speed. He had almost as many walks as he did strikeouts in his career. It didn’t deter Ted Williams from satisfying his curiosity about how fast he could throw though. Once during spring training in Miami, Williams stepped in the batter’s box for an at-bat against Dalkowski. One second, Williams was watching Dalkowski wind up. The next thing Williams heard was the ball hit the catcher’s mitt behind him. Startled, Williams dropped his bat and stepped out of the box saying “Fastest ever. I never want to face him again.” The speed of Dalkowski’s pitched scared Ted Williams!

Will Ortiz Actually Retire?

There’s no doubt that David Ortiz is having one of the best seasons of his career. With 9 home runs, 29 RBIs, and a batting average over .320 in the wake of a three game series against the Oakland Athletics, many in the Red Sox nation are asking: Will Ortiz actually retire at the end of the season?

“No, I’m retiring,” Ortiz told ESPN in a tone suggesting that he’s dead set on making his season his last. While he’s onWill Ortiz Actually Retire track to post great numbers this season, probably with an all-star appearance thrown in for good measure, Ortiz wouldn’t be the first Red Sox player to finish his career on a good note. In 1960, at the age of 41, Ted Williams finished the final season of his career in Boston with a .316 batting average and 29 home runs, including a home run in his last at-bat. Even Babe Ruth left Boston with high numbers in 1919 by leading the American League in runs, home runs, and RBIs before going to the New York Yankees. Yes, leaving Boston on a high note seems to be a tradition for seasoned Sox players.

Many who believe that Ortiz is retiring after this season point to the idea that he most likely wants to finish his career on a high note. After all, many players in the Baseball Hall of Fame played a few years too long and their career batting averages took a hit as a result.  On top of wanting to leave on a high note, there’s also the idea that there’s really nothing left for David Ortiz to accomplish. Of course, he could stay on and break Ted William’s team home run record of 521, but that would be a drop in the bucket compared to the accolades he’s already accumulated in his career. Ortiz has three World Series rings, he’s in the 500 Home Run Club, he’ll be a shoe-in for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2021, and his status as a Red Sox legend is already etched in stone.

So when people ask me, “Will Ortiz actually retire?” I’ll say yes, because the man has done his job for Boston and it’s time for him to move on to other things in his life.

Despite Brilliance, Yaz Beats Ortiz

On May 8th, David Ortiz passed Carl Yastrzemski to become second on the Red Sox all time home run list behind Ted Williams. In the last game of a three game series against the New York Yankees, Ortiz hit home runs 453 and 454 in a 5-1 victory over the hated rivals in the Bronx. While there’s no doubt that Ortiz is one of the greatest players in Red Sox history, to say that he’s the second best behind Ted Williams isn’t quite accurate. To Yaz Beats Ortizclarify, it’s widely accepted that Ted Williams is the greatest Red Sox player in history and anyone who disagrees should get a cat scan. But for now, Yaz Beats Ortiz, making him the second best Red Sox player ever.

Let’s look at the numbers. Yaz replaced The Splendid Splinter in left field where he brilliantly learned how to navigate the Green Monster. From there Yaz went on to be an 18-time All Star, won the American League MVP and Triple Crown in 1967 during the Red Sox Impossible Dream season, won three American League batting titles, and compiled an outstanding 7 Gold Glove Awards. Yaz collected 3,419 hits throughout his career too, making him number nine on the all time hit list. Yaz even had five seasons where he stole 10 or more bases, with a career-high of 23 in 1970. While it’s easy to look at numbers and say that one is better over the other, when it comes down to the bare bones of the subject, Yaz beats Ortiz as a much superior baseball player due to his all around abilities, especially since Ortiz isn’t known for his speed and was only a decent first baseman.

It’s No Contest: Yaz Beats Ortiz!

Of course, this isn’t to say that Ortiz isn’t good. Ortiz is outstanding and I wouldn’t argue with anyone who said he’s one of the top five Red Sox players ever. Ortiz helped lead the Red Sox to three World Series titles (four if they keep playing well this season). Ortiz is a clutch hitter who often delivers when we need it the most. Most importantly, Ortiz was a symbol of strength in the wake of the Boston Bombing by declaring that “This is our f—king city!”

Together, Yaz and Ortiz have beaten up the New York Yankees pretty badly in their careers. Ortiz tied Yaz Sunday night when he hit his 52nd home run against the Yankees, tying him with Yastrzemski. Both are only two of just six players in MLB history to hit 50 or more home runs against the Yankees, with Red Sox Hall of Famer Jimmie Fox holding the record with 70.

Regardless of whether you agree or not, it’s easy to say that both players rank in the top five (I’d put Carlton Fisk and Pedro Martinez behind Ortiz). David Ortiz is a symbol to Boston, a beacon of hope and inspiration and always will be. But after you examine the long and rich history of the Boston Red Sox, no matter what you say, I still say Yaz beats Ortiz as number two behind Ted Williams.

Could Ortiz Match Williams In His Final At-Bat?

Few Hall of Famers can say that their final Major League at-bat was a memorable one. Mickey Mantle popped out to Red Sox shortstop Rico Petrocello in 1968, who by then was merely a shadow of the player he once was. Babe Ruth, playing his final year for the Boston Braves in 1935, grounded out, a less than stellar ending to a career that had all but turned into an embarrassment (A pinch runner often took Ruth’s place in his last season because he had become too heavy to run). Even our own Carl Yazstrezemski’s final at-bat was uninspiring as he popped out in the bottom of the seventh against the Indians in Ortiz Match Williams1983. Many in the Red Sox Nation are hoping that David Ortiz won’t go the way of Mantle, Ruth, and Yazstremski when he takes his last at bat this season. In fact, I’m hoping he’ll leave the game the same way Ted Williams did, but in the post-season instead  of the regular season.

Ted Williams, a.k.a. the Splendid Splinter, bid adieu to baseball on September 28th, 1960 when he hit a solo home run to center off of Baltimore’s Jack Fisher in the bottom of the eighth, giving the Sox the edge in a 5-4 win. No other Hall of Famer had ever homered in his last at-bat, and none to date have done it since (as far as I know). But that was in a year when the Red Sox weren’t playoff contenders (they finished 7th in the American League with a 65-89 record). So if the Red Sox make the playoffs this season after a two-year hiatus, Ortiz might not only leave the game in a memorable way of his own, but might do so at Fenway Park during the World Series, perhaps with a home run of his own.

Winning the World Series for Boston with a home run is a LONG shot for Ortiz, and many factors would have to align perfectly in order for there to even be a chance of that happening (If Ortiz pulled that off I’d push to have the Baseball Hall of Fame’s five-year waiting period waived so he could be inducted right away). But if the Sox reach the playoffs, then Ortiz will have a chance to reclaim his role as a clutch hitter (he did hit five home runs and batted .400 in fourteen playoff games in 2004, including a game-winning home run in Game 4 of the ALCS). So if Price and Bucholtz throw the heat, Bogaerts hits over .300, and Betts and Bradley Jr. keep playing like the Gold Glove winners that they are, then I think it will be safe to dream about what Big Papi will do in his final at-bat. Whether it will be with a home run or not remains to be seen. But when we’re talking about Big Papi, anything is possible!