Mickey Mantle hit long home runs. Those home runs are fun to write about, but sadly, video footage does not exist of those prodigious blasts. Therefore, all we have are first-hand accounts and some scattered images of the tape-measure shots. On occasion, the stories are detailed enough with just the right images, and fans can recreate the moment.
Take 55 years ago, for example. The Yankees took over first place in the American League near the end of June and did not let their lead fall below three games after the All-Star Break. It was a relatively stress-free run to the pennant for Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel's crew, but their games against the Baltimore Orioles were not as easy as they once were. In 1954, the woeful St. Louis Browns franchise moved to Baltimore, having won only one AL pennant in 53 seasons, never matching the success the crosstown National League rival Cardinals achieved. Although the team inherited the same poor players, the fans in Baltimore were simply glad to have a professional team for the first time since 1902. By '57, the Orioles were on the rise, and they finished the year with the franchise's first .500 season in 12 years. Their roster featured some interesting names, like a 20-year-old third baseman named Brooks Robinson and a utilityman who would become a pretty good manager named Dick Williams.
While the Orioles held promise for the future, Mantle and the Yankees were in the middle of living up to their potential. Mantle was in the process of following up on his Triple Crown season in '56 with another run at the prize, but he would fall short in all three categories. By wRC+ though, '57 was Mantle's greatest offensive year, as he finished with an incredible mark of 221, aided by an equally phenomenal .365/.512/.665 triple slash (yes, you read that correctly--Mantle reached base over half the time in '57). Mantle won his second consecutive AL MVP. He continued to make himself into a legend through his long home runs, and perhaps none was more impressive in '57 than his first inning roundtripper against Baltimore's Ray Moore on August 10th.
Veteran left fielder Enos Slaughter reached first base on a single to left, bringing the dangerous Mantle up with a runner on while Baltimore fans were still settling into their seats at Memorial Stadium. The 25-year-old wonder they called "Muscles" put all his strength into a ferocious swing, sending the ball a long way to center field.
Mantle's drive soared far over center fielder Jim Busby's head.
In those days, the Memorial Stadium center field fence stood a distant 445 feet from home plate.
Mantle's drive soared far over the fence.
A big hedge sat 25 feet beyond the center field fence.
Mantle's drive soared far over the hedge.
Some estimates had the ball as far as 540 feet, but while the distance was not precise, it was clear that the odds of anyone ever hitting a ball further in Baltimore were extremely low. Indeed, it was the longest home run in the Orioles' 37-year tenure at Memorial Stadium. The Yankees had a quick 2-0 lead, and after stretching the lead to 5-0 in the third on a rally sparked by a Mantle drag bunt single, it was smooth sailing the rest of the way. The final score was 6-3. No player in major league history besides Mantle could belt an over-500 foot homer in one at-bat, then immediately start another with his speed on a drag bunt single.