Wilkes Baseball Field Determined To Be Home Of Babe Ruth's Longest Shot.
The Bambino's blast traveled more than 600 feet according to experts.
Babe Ruth hit quite a few lengthy home runs during his storied baseball career. But,
according to baseball historian Bill Jenkinson, it was Ruth's home run at Wilkes University's
Artillery Park in 1926 that topped them all.
Jenkinson made the trip to Artillery Park, the home of the Wilkes baseball and field hockey teams, to determine the exact distance of Ruth's shot. Jenkinson, who has been researching home runs for the past 23 years, arrived with aerial photographs, old newspaper accounts of the event, and a tape measure. Although he was unable to come to a conclusion on the actual length of the mammoth homer, he was able to conclude that it was indeed the longest home run in the history of the sport.
"I think the people from this area can rightfully claim that the longest ball in competitive baseball history was hit here," stated Jenkinson. "I think we can fairly conclude that this ball traveled well over 600 feet. There's no question about where the ball landed. There are several accounts that say the ball landed on the far side of the running track. It's just a question of whether or not the running track and home plate are in the same location. I think we are going to find that the running track was moved back from where it was in 1926."
Ruth's home run came only two days after the New York Yankees fell to the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1926 World Series. During that series, Ruth cracked four home runs, including what is deemed to be the longest in World Series history, a 510-foot blast. It was also the World Series in which Ruth made a promise to hit a home run for hospitalized youngster John Sylvester. Ruth came through on the promise and actually paid a visit to Sylvester on October 11, one day prior to his historic home run at Artillery Park.
Ruth came to the Wyoming Valley on October 12, to take part in an exhibition game between Hughestown and Larksville. After challenging Larksville pitcher Ernie Corkran to throw his fastest pitch over the plate, Ruth cracked what is now deemed to be the longest ball in baseball history.
The day after the exhibition game, the Associated Press gave a descriptive account of the Bambino's blast.
"The ball cleared the right field fence 400 feet from the plate by more than 40 feet and was still ascending. The ball landed on the far side of the running track of a high school athletic field in Kirby Park. Officials estimated the length at 650 feet."
According to Jenkinson, who hails from the Philadelphia area, it was the only time in Ruth's baseball career that he asked for one of his home runs to be measured. Ruth also claimed that it was the farthest ball he ever hit.
"I've personally researched more than 1,000 home runs hit by Babe Ruth and this is the only time he asked someone to measure how far it went. Immediately after he hit it, he declared it to be the farthest home run he had ever hit."
Jenkinson stated that Ruth had a special place in his heart for the Wilkes-Barre area. After playing in the exhibition game at Artillery Park, Ruth paid a visit to Mercy Hospital where he shook hands with many patients. Several newspaper accounts said Ruth was emotional when leaving the hospital.
"Babe Ruth loved the people in this area," added Jenkinson. "He came here to hunt and fish during the off-season. This was one of his favorite off-season destinations. He had a lot of good friends here."
Jenkinson is hoping that someone will come forward with more information regarding the "Sultan of Swat's" Artillery Park visit. But, even without additional information, Jenkinson firmly believes that Artillery Park now holds a place in baseball history.
"No matter what direction this thing takes from this point on we are going to find out that this ball traveled well over 600 feet. I don't think that there is any way that it didn't."