Fifty-five years after the fact, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports smugly presented a stunning indictment, with help from his expert witness, author Bill Jenkinson, that the 565’ blast by Mickey Mantle on April 17th, 1953 at Griffith Stadium is merely a myth and could not possibly have travelled that far. The prosecution’s entire case rests on this flimsy, circumstantial evidence;
- the fact that Donald Dunaway (the boy who found the ball) can not be located 55 years later,
- that Yankees PR man, Red Patterson never actually measured the ball with a tape measure and
- the fact that the prosecution feels that nobody could ever hit a ball as hard or as far as the great Babe Ruth.
The defense plans to convincingly dispute each of these pieces of evidence.
Defense opening statement:
The defense wishes to clearly state that it acknowledges Babe Ruth as the greatest baseball player in the history of the game. Unlike the prosecution, we are in no way going to challenge the distances of balls that Babe Ruth hit during his tremendous career. Even though none of the material witnesses are with us today (they are on Heaven’s team now), we plan to present well documented written testimony from multiple people who actually witnessed Mickey’s home run in question on April 17, 1953. We intend to show, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the home run in question was, and still is, the longest measured home run in the history of the game.
Oddly enough, the only material witness that Jeff Passan seems interested in is Donald Dunaway. In Passan’s article, he states that even though Red Patterson admitted that he did not actually measure the homer with a tape measure (he stepped off the distance), he never wavered from his story that Donald Dunaway found the ball. Passan issues an objection that because Mr. Dunaway can not be found today, he didn’t exist in 1953 and therefore his “testimony” is hearsay. That is hardly evidence that the homer didn’t land 565’ from home plate. Objection overruled.
The prosecution also claims that Mickey’s blast could not have gone 565′ because it was not precisely measured. The defense objects on the grounds that, prior to this home run, no home run ball in the history of the game had ever been precisely measured. Yet, people still insist that Babe Ruth’s blast traveled specific distances and nobody has ever questioned them. At least in this case, Red Patterson did something never done before and that was to measure the distance in steps which was a widely accepted and common means of measuring distance at that time. Objection sustained.
Let’s review the facts that are agreed to by both the prosecution and the defense:
- The ball definitely did carry completely out of the confines of Griffith Stadium.
- The ball glanced off the National Bohemian Beer sign which was 460’ feet from home plate and 55’ off the ground.
- There was a wind blowing out of the stadium that day.
The defense would now like to introduce Exhibits A, B and C to the jury:
- Exhibit A – The day after the home run blast, an article appeared in The Washington Post titled, “Ruth Never Slugged A Baseball Farther”. The opening paragraph of the article read, “MICKEY MANTLE’S home run in the fifth inning was the first drive ever to clear the 55-foot high left field bleachers at Griffith Stadium since they were built in 1924. Veteran New York baseball writers agreed that Babe Ruth never hit a ball farther.”
- Exhibit B – An article titled, “Home Run Big Guns – From Ruth to Mantle”, appeared in the July 1953 edition of Baseball Magazine which stated, “Red Patterson, public relations officer of the New York Yankees, dashed in pursuit. He found the ball in possession of ten-year old Don Dunaway, who pointed out the spot where he’d retrieved the leather. Patterson’s measurement of the gaudy blast was 565 feet. Later, the calculations were reviewed by Cal Griffith, vice president of the Senators, who made it 562 feet.” Thus, Red Patterson was not the only person to have calculated the distance. Cal Griffith, the vice president of the Senators, did his own analysis and determined the home run to have traveled 562’. Keep in mind that Red Patterson might have reason to exaggerate since he worked for the Yankees– but Mr. Griffith?
- Exhibit C – An article titled, “As High and Far as Ruth”, appeared in the July 1956 Baseball Digest which stated, “The late Clark Griffith, a Yankee hater from far back, paid Mantle complete, if grudging, tribute for the ball he hit completely out of the park in left center in 1953 in Griffith Stadium. ‘Maybe the wind did help him,’ Griffith said, ‘but that wind has been blowing off and on for 51 years out here and nobody else ever put one over that fence.’”
We would like to pose this question to the jury – Is it merely a coincidence that the prosecution waited fifty-five years to make their indictment against Mickey Mantle when there are no living witnesses that can counter their claims? Or is it just out of convenience? Although Passan states that only 4,206 fans attended that historic game on April 17, 1953, fortunately, there were at least two people present on the field that day who had witnessed both Mickey’s blast and long homers hit by the great Babe Ruth – Yankee coaches Bill Dickey and Frank Crosetti. While Crosetti only witnessed the Babe’s last three years on the Yankees, Dickey witnessed seven years (half of Babe’s Yankee career).
The defense would like to present testimony from these actual witnesses.
The defense now calls Bill Dickey to the stand to hear his testimony that was published in multiple magazines over the years that he coached with the Yankees:
- June 1956 Newsweek: Bill Dickey describing Mickey Mantle – “I thought when I was playing with Ruth and [Lou] Gehrig I was seeing all I was ever gonna see. But this kid… Ruth and Gehrig had power, but I’ve seen Mickey hit seven balls, seven, so far … well, I’ve never seen nothing like it.”
- July 1956 Baseball Digest – “The home runs he [Mantle] hits are not only Ruthian in quality, sometimes they’re farther than the late Babe’s. Bill Dickey, the Yankee coach who played with Ruth, almost said after the opening game that Mantle could hit a ball farther. Then he amended it, and said: ‘Put it this way: Ruth could hit a ball awful high and awful far. Mickey can hit it just as high and just as far.’”
- 1961 Complete Sports – “Most of his tape-measure homers (450 feet or better) had been hit righty. The grand daddy of them all was the 565-footer over the left field bleachers in Washington on April 17, 1953. That is the longest fair ball ever recorded by actual measurement. Two weeks later, he hit one (again righty) out of St. Louis’ Sportsmans Park, (now Busch Stadium), which measured 512 feet. Those two convinced Dickey, then a Yankee coach and former teammate of both Ruth and Gehrig. ‘Mickey can hit a ball further than the Babe,’ he said, refusing to let his fealty to Ruth cloud his honest appraisal of the pair of all-time greats.”
- July 1962 Great Moments In Sports: Referring to Mickey’s 565’ blast in Washington in 1953 – “Clark Griffith, Bucky Harris, Casey Stengel and Bill Dickey, who’d seen ’em all in the era of the lively ball, agreed it was the longest drive in the history of the game. ‘I never thought I would live to see a man who could hit a baseball as far as Ruth,’ said the awe-struck Dickey. ‘But now I’ve seen a man who could hit ’em further.’”
The defense would now like to call our second witness, Frank Crosetti, to the stand:
- January 1964 Sports Calvacade – Commenting on Mickey’s façade shot in 1963 – “FRANK CROSETTI: ‘That’s the hardest I’ve ever seen anyone hit a ball. Foxx, Ruth, anybody. I don’t believe a man can hit a ball any harder. It went out like it was shot out of a cannon.’”
The defense would like to call our third and final witness, Casey Stengel.
Stengel played during the same era as Babe Ruth. Let’s hear testimony from Stengel, that we believe is actually on point and easy to understand:
- 1957 Mickey Mantle Baseball King: Regarding Mickey’s 565’ foot blast – “‘I don’t care how far it went,’ said manager Casey Stengel in his best Stengelese. ‘It was the longest ball I ever’ saw.’”
The defense believes that no further testimony is necessary and therefore the defense rests.
Defense closing argument:
So whose evidence is more convincing? Mr. Passan’s evidence which is less than even circumstantial or that of Bill Dickey, Frank Crosetti, Casey Stengel, Red Patterson, Cal Griffith, Clark Griffith and numerous other experts of that time? It seems the answer is clear. The ball DID travel between 562’ and 565’, and, had it not glanced off the beer sign, it would have surely traveled even further.
Since the prosecution has failed to prove the facts necessary to sustain an indictment of this magnitude, we believe that their case should be dismissed. The only real question remaining is whether Passan and Jenkinson have engaged in an unprofessional and malicious prosecution and are therefore guilty of irresponsible journalism? We think the verdict should be clear on this issue and the penalty should be up to the baseball fans. So there you have it baseball fans. Forget about the steroid controversy that no one seems to care about – this is the real baseball trial of the century.
You be the judge and the jury.