I don’t think we’ll ever learn. Home runs crushed down the line always look like they flew farther than they really did, because they clear the shortest fence in the yard by so long. Clutch home runs especially look like they flew farther than they really did, because that’s what clutch does to our brains.. That’s probably why the ball Garrett Jones cracked into the Allegheny River on Sunday looked like it flew about 575 feet.
Jones’s bomb gave Pittsburgh a tie against division rival Cincinnati in the bottom of the eighth inning. He just barely hooked it around the foul pole — in fact, by the time it landed it may have been on the foul side of the pipe.
PNC Park opened its gates in 2001. Jones’s home run was the second time anybody has ever hit the Allegheny River in right field on the fly in a game — it’s been done numerous times in batting practice, but rarely when it counts — and the first time a Pirate has done it. Daryle Ward of the Astros was the first, when he hit a 479-foot (estimated) rocket to the river in 2002.
The Pirates broadcast reported a 463-foot estimate on Jones’s shot. The Law of Broadcast Homerism (a scientific law, not a legislative law) tells us 463 feet was at least 20 feet too long. ESPN HitTracker, one of the ultimate fun-ruiners of our time, confirms the law’s suspicions: just 440 feet for Jones’s blast.
All five of the home runs atop the HitTracker leaderboard went to center field. The foul pole was never part of the action. The swings on those top home runs – all 468 feet true distance or more – let the ball get just deep enough to squeeze all the power out of the lower half while leaving enough room to extend and get the most out of the arms as well. They are the perfect power swings unleashed on ideal pitches.
And yet, at least to me, none of them feel as impressive. There’s just something special about seeing the ball floating in the river, calmly taunting the stadium from afar. It was the same with Barry Bonds‘s 35 splash hits into McCovey Cove. The mind struggles to comprehend the idea of other home runs a full 30 feet farther after seeing this:
He is leaning over the bank of the Allegheny River, but he may as well be leaning over the edge of the world.
By the time a proper search crew (some bros in a boat) reached the landing point, the ball had become a tribute to the Allegheny’s grimy depths.
Legend tells of a home run hit by Ted Williams when he was with San Diego in the Pacific Coast League. The ball landed on the fly in a freight car traveling to Los Angeles, making it the longest home run ever hit, at about 120 miles.
The broadcast never showed what happened to the baseball. Perhaps it got swept up in the current of the Allegheny and rode it into the Ohio River, and from there into the Mississippi River until it reached the Gulf of Mexico, a trip of well over 1,000 miles. Take that, Williams.
In all seriousness, the Pirates needed Jones’s home run. Pittsburgh was in danger of suffering a sweep at the hands of Cincinnati to open June, a sweep that would have pushed them to third place in the division. The season is only a third through, but after the collapses the Pirates have suffered the past two seasons, the last thing the team needed – at least, for the sake of the fans’ collective mental health – was a sweep at home at the hands of a division rival. As such, I doubt too many in Pittsburgh will care too much about whether or not the homer went 440 feet or 463 feet or 575 feet.
If they want to exaggerate, though, I certainly won’t stop them. Between the setting and the impact, it’s a home run well deserving of exaggeration.