This Day in Baseball History: March 26th, 1951

There’s the Mick.

On March 26, 1951:

Mickey Mantle hit a home run an estimated 650 feet.

Let’s get this out of the way quickly. Video games have guys hitting home runs in the range of 420-470 feet on most home runs, but they aren’t that common. A 400-foot shot is impressive. Fifty more feet is extraordinary, and fifty feet after that are put in history books for people to remember. So Mantle hitting one 650 feet is just so incredibly rare … that it’s unbelievable. In much the same way way the Bible says someone is 900 years old means they’re just really freakin’ old, saying a home run went that far is just saying it went really freakin’ far. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that technology truly began to accurately distance ball flights, and when it did, home runs went from 500 feet to 450 feet. The longest home run in history is still up for debate, but there is no doubt that Mantle has hit some of the longest in history.

Anyway, what I find more interesting about this season is that this is one of the famous anecdotes of Mantle’s career. Signed in 1949 right after graduation, Mickey Mantle was an instant celebrity in the Yankee organization, and after this Spring Training home run (which was probably true but slightly embellished), he was in the starting lineup on Opening Day in 1951 as a rookie. Joe DiMaggio called him the best prospect he ever saw. But things didn’t go so swimmingly for Mantle.

Though his stats aren’t terrible, he was sent down to the minors during a slump. When he couldn’t find his legendary power stroke from either side, he almost quit. Wanting his father to console him, his father told Mantle to wait for him. Mantle’s father came into his hotel room, packed his clothes, and demanded that Mickey follow him back home to work in the mines. Deciding that his best option was to stay in baseball, Mantle promptly broke out of his slump, and after 40 games and 11 home runs, the Yankees brought him back up for good (why the heck did the Yankees wait so long to call him up? Hello, by the seventh or eighth homer, I would have thought Stella had gotten his groove back).

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