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Roberto Clemente - Wrigley's Longest Home Run

January 29, 2010

by William Szczepanek

1959 Topps # 478 Roberto ClementeRoberto Clemente is remembered for many accomplishments - 3000 hits, 4 batting titles, a cannon arm and fielding plays that will long be remembered. In the field he was like a true artist.  Plays that others could not make at all, he made look easy.

Clemente was a bad-ball, line drive hitter who often hit to right field.  He twice led the league in grounding into double plays not because he was slow afoot, but because his ground balls were hit so hard.  He hit 240 home runs in his career, but never more than 29 in any given year.

One personal memory of mine relates to Roberto Clemente — the home run that he hit on May 17, 1959 in Wrigley Field, which has been considered the longest home run in Wrigley Field history. Others will say Dave Kingman or Glenallen Hill have the longest and that is hard to debate since no measurement was taken of Clemente's shot because no one saw where it finally landed.  But, if you have doubts ask Ernie Banks who was at shortstop or Bobby Thomson who was in center field for the Cubs.

Clemente had a powerful swing, but he only hit 4 home runs in 1959. On this day he would hit one that would rival the swing of Babe Ruth.

It was the ninth inning of the second game of a double header.  Bill Henry was on the mound for the Cubs and he was protecting a 7-5 Cub lead with two out and none on. The Pirates had already won the first game in which Clemente had a home run to deep right.  Many of the 32,047 fans had already left the park giving it that hollow sound with distant echoes.

What I remember best was Clemente making contact and the awful sound of the ball hitting the bat.  It was one of the loudest cracks that I had ever heard in a ball park, but the silence that followed indicated something special had happened.  It was as if the crowd just got the wind knocked out of them.  There was the crack of the bat and then an "oomph", then silence, as the ball sailed out of the park over the diagonal fence in back of the bleachers to the left of the scoreboard.  The ball would not have struck the scoreboard if it had been hit to center field, only because it wasn't hit high enough.

Clemente would only hit one more home run all year, but his line drives would continue to scare infielders to death.

You can check out Clemente's stats at Baseball-Reference.com.

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