Tribune columnist Paul Sullivan posted an item in Saturday’s dead-tree edition musing about the famous Wrigley Field center-field scoreboard and whether anyone might hit it with a home run ball someday.
The board will celebrate its 80th anniversary (not 70th, as hinted in Sullivan’s article) later this year.
Sullivan asked a few Cubs players whether they thought they could hit it. Here’s what Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant said after Wednesday’s gale-force wind day:
"We were putting our best shots at it, with the wind howling out like that," Schwarber said. "Some guys were hitting it up in the (upper-center) stands, but (the scoreboard) seems pretty unrealistic. I'd like to get a rangefinder on it. It would be impressive."
Bryant, who hit one over the video board in left field during b.p. Wednesday night, agreed with Schwarber that there was "no chance" it ever could happen.
"How far would that be?" he asked. "Like 650 feet? At least."
Sullivan’s article continues with some numbers:
According to the Cubs, the center-field scoreboard is about 490 feet, horizontally, from home plate. But they didn't have an estimate of the distance of a ball hitting the board without knowing its exact height. The board is higher than the three-story apartment buildings on Waveland and Sheffield avenues. Only one ball — a Glenallen Hill home run — has landed on top of one of the buildings.
Only one person has hit the center-field scoreboard from home plate, and it was golfer Sam Snead, using a 4-iron on opening day, April 17, 1951. Snead then smacked a 2-iron that sailed over the scoreboard and into the street.
Fortunately, here at BCB Mike Bojanowski wrote two articles last year on this very topic, prompted by a FanPost written here about a famous home run hit by the Pirates’ Roberto Clemente in 1959 that reportedly left the premises just to the left of the board.
The first article Mike wrote attempted to put more accurate distances on the Clemente homer, as well as one Dave Kingman hit in 1976, using aerial photos from Google Earth taken from directly overhead, and known measurements converted into pixels. His conclusion in that article was that Clemente’s homer went about 536 feet, Kingman’s about 522.
The 536-foot distance jibes pretty well with the Cubs’ statement that the scoreboard is 490 feet, horizontally, from home plate.
I am completely guessing here, but knowing that the board is higher than the three-story buildings on Waveland and Sheffield helps. In fact, the board is probably about as high as the roof decks built in recent years on those rooftops. Complete conjecture: the board is about 50 feet off the ground, at its base.
Mike’s second article noted the approximate distances of other long, famous home runs hit at Wrigley Field over the years, all of which measured between 443 feet and 536 feet.
I would conjecture that a ball hitting the Wrigley Field scoreboard would have to travel about 540 feet, to straightaway center field.
The HitTrackerOnline website keeps track of distances of all home runs hit. They’ve got data for the last 11 seasons. Here’s the distance of the longest homer hit in each year since 2006.
2016: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins, 495
2015: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins, 484
2014: Mike Trout, Angels, 489
2013: Evan Gattis, Braves, 486
2012: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins, 494
2011: Prince Fielder, Brewers, 486
2010: Josh Hamilton, Rangers, 485
2009: Wladimir Balentien, Reds, 495
2008: Adam Dunn, Diamondbacks, 504
2007: Aramis Ramirez, Cubs, 495
2006: Matt Holliday, Rockies, 498
The longest home run hit so far this year is by former Cub Jorge Soler, now with the Royals: 470 feet.
In that 11-season span, the longest homer hit at Wrigley was the 495-footer hit by A-Ram, off the Pirates’ Paul Maholm on September 21, 2007. There’s no video of it, unfortunately, but the boxscore says it was to left-center on an 85-degree day with a light (eight miles per hour) wind blowing out.
Wednesday night when the wind was blowing out at a reported 24 miles per hour (and the windiest day I can remember at Wrigley), only one home run left the yard, Zack Cozart’s weird wind-blown line drive:
Zack Cozart's HR was hit 91 MPH at a 36 degree launch angle... That combination has never been a HR before and has been a hit 1% of the time pic.twitter.com/VzPmg8Lmno— Daren Willman (@darenw) May 18, 2017
If one of the Cubs’ big bats couldn’t get the ball out of the ballpark and near the scoreboard on that night, then Bryant and Schwarber are probably right — it’s not likely to ever happen. And according to HitTrackerOnline, there’s been only one 500+ foot home run anywhere in the major leagues over the last 11 seasons.
But based on the fact that Roberto Clemente came close, and there have been other 500+ foot homers at Wrigley Field in the past... you never know. Perhaps Bryant or Schwarber or one of the other young Cubs might clang a baseball off the famed board in center field. That would be a fun way to celebrate its 80th anniversary.