It has been said that Mickey Mantle gave birth to the “tape measure” home run. The legendary moment of conception came in the 5th inning, during a contest at Griffith Park against the Washington Senators, on April 17th, 1953.
It was an offering from Washington LHP Chuck Stobbs and Mantle (hitting right handed) smashed the ball over the LF bleachers and out of the park. The ball would later be found on the front lawn of a neighbouring house. The Yankees PR rep at the time took it upon himself to find out the exact distance of the shot and set out with a tape measure to find out the true measurement. 565 feet later and a legend was born.
It has been almost 60 years to the day since the “tape measure” home run entered our sports vernacular. In that time there have been NUMEROUS candidates who have thrown their proverbial “hat into the ring” as a challenge to Mantle and his historic clout. Some of these candidates have been cast from the same “country strong” mould that produced the likes of “Big” Harmon Killebrew and Mike Schmidt.
Included in the country strong category are the likes of:
The “Big Hurt” Frank Thomas:
the Fielders (Cecil and Prince):
and Josh Hamilton:
However the best example of country strong currently in the MLB is hands-down the “Big Donkey” Adam Dunn.
Since making his debut as a 21 year old in 2001 all Dunn has done (no pun intended) has mashed baseballs. To date the Big Donkey has hit a career 443 home runs – good for 38th overall on the all-time Home Run list. That includes hitting 40 home runs in a season six times; five in a row from (2004-08). Dunn has been the definition of “all or nothing” for his entire career in the sense that he will either hit the ball out of the ball park or he will whiff. Despite hitting 443 career dingers, Dunn has also struck out 2234 times in his career. Regardless of his high strikeout numbers the Big Donkey still has the ability to do this to baseballs:
I know what you are wondering, where did the ball go? The ball in question sailed clean out of the Great American Ballpark and landed in the parking lot some 535 ft away. Amazingly the ball continued to roll another 200 ft and ended up on a piece of driftwood in the Ohio River. The same ball would later be found in KENTUCKY! And that was the day that the “Big Donkey” knocked a ball out of a state.
Unfortunately legendary long ball hitters are not created equal. Some are gifted with immense size and strength like Dunn, some are passed down their power through great genes like the Fielders. Others, however, choose to go the chemical route in order to get the achievements that they desire.
Yes steroids and PED’s are illegal (now), however that was not always the case. Whether or not MLB wants to continue denying their knowledge of it, unfortunately the “steroid era” did occur. As black of an eye as it is now, the great steroid fueled Home Run chase of 1998 between Sosa and McGwire pretty much saved baseball from obscurity. I don’t personally condone the whole steroid/PED use but I am also not hypocritical enough to throw the book at guys who were not doing anything illegal.
That being said, some of the biggest and baddest power hitters were prevalent in that era from 1987 to 2004. The Oakland A’s were a force to reckon with in the late 80′s and early 90′s with a lethal combination of speed and power. The great Ricky Henderson provided the speed as a table setter and left the power to be supplied by the “Bash Brothers”
I really do miss the unintentional humour of sporting posters of the late 80′s and 90′s.
Before he was considered a complete laughing stock by the professional baseball world for his tell all book(s), PR stunts, appearances on reality TV, and just being a meat head, Jose Canseco was a 6x All-Star, Rookie of the Year recipient, and 1988 AL MVP. In 17 seasons, “the Chemist” (I can’t make that up) as he is known, launched an impressive 462 career taters. Even though he is more known for his rampant steroid use and “fly ball of the head for a HR” video, there was a time that Canseco was more known for this:
But still… how can you ever get sick of watching this:
Other notable (enhanced) sluggers of the Steroid Era include Canseco’s fellow Bash Brother, Mark McGwire:
The always quotable Manny Ramirez:
And of course, the Home Run king himself. Mr. Barry Bonds:
In the past few years the baseball world has seen it’s fair share of sluggers. Players like Miggy Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Ryan Braun, etc.. are all capable of hitting 40+ home runs in any given season but they are not true murderers of the baseball like our next contender for the title of “Monster of Mash;” Mr. Giancarlo Stanton.
At 6’6, 240 lbs. Stanton looks more like an NFL tight end stuffed into a Miami Marlins jersey than he does a ballplayer. It’s no surprise that he received scholarships from UNLV and UCLA to play football before settling on being a professional murderer of cowhide. Stanton made his professional debut as a 20 year old in 2010 and gave the baseball world a sample of what was to come when he hit his first career homer off of Matt Garza; for a grand slam none the less.
The action figure known as Stanton has hit a career 122 home runs in a mere 504 career games. In fact he became the 9th fastest player to hit 100 career home runs which he achieved by the age of 22. The only concern about Gio has been his inability to remain healthy for a full season. In his short career Stanton has only played over 130 games once (150 in 2011) and has been forced to the DL on multiple occasions because of issues with his knees and hamstrings. One bright side is that he is still under 25 and the durability issues could subside. However nothing is more concerning than a power hitter with bad knees/legs. See Guerrero, Vladimir. Luckily for Stanton (unlucky for Marlins fans) he has a very good chance of being traded to another team by seasons end. If he gets moved to a contender in the AL they could have him get AB’s as a DH in order to preserve his legs; a move to 1B in the future wouldn’t be a surprise either.
When he is healthy, there may be nobody better in the game at punishing a baseball. Not only does Stanton treat fans to colossal blasts during the game but he also puts on a display for those lucky fans who show up for batting practice.
In the past couple seasons Stanton has either led the league, or been among the leaders, in home run distance and average distance of home runs. But Stanton isn’t just about the long ball. He can even flash the leather from time to time. In 2012 he launched this three run bomb in the top of the first inning and followed it up with a highlight reel catch in the second inning.
Although the 2014 season is still young, Stanton has (easily) been one of the bigger stories thus far. He started the 2014 power show early by flexing his muscle against the Mets in Spring Training. It is actually comical how STRONG he actually is.
Power is the only thing that Gio knows. His first home run of the season was measured at 484 feet! It was his FIRST homer mind you.
In the past couple of days alone Stanton has gone off on NL pitching. The guy is completely locked in right now and opposing pitchers should take note. No fastballs. Nothing straight or hard. The Phillies and Nationals didn’t get the scouting report in time though…
That blast happened in the 5th inning. He followed it up with this one in his next at bat:
Silly. Just silly.
Gio wasn’t done there though. In his next game against Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals, Stanton decided to deposit an 88 mph slider to CF in the 1st inning for a three run bomb. The home run was measured at 457 feet and was the furthest one EVER surrendered by the former 1st overall pick. The Marlins would chase Strasburg from the game by the 4th inning after tagging him for 6 runs and would go on to win the game 11-2; Stanton’s blast being the catalyst.
With the season being only 15 games young there is a very good -and likely- chance that Stanton’s torrid pace will cool off. Hopefully that will be because of teams adapting to him and less from DL stints. There is also a VERY good chance that he gets traded from the Marlins sooner rather than later. Marlin’s fans (if there are any left) should take advantage of being able to see a true, chemical free, power hitter in their home ballpark – while they still can.
It’s hard to say how Stanton’s career will wind up. It’s too soon to tell. Either way, Marlins fan or not, enjoy the highlight reel that is Stanton. They don’t come around too often.