|Inside the Park Home Runs|
By Mil Chipp
The Society launched a research project in 1976 to gather information about - what is now a rather rare baseball occurrence - the inside-the-park home run (IPH). Some of the questions raised at the outset of this project v re rather basic in nature. How many inside-the-park homers are being hit at the present time and how does this compare with earlier eras? Who hits them - power hitters or fast runners, or a combination of both? How important a factor is the size and configuration of the ballpark?
All of these questions have not been answered in detail, but enough research results have been obtained to present an interim report. Fortunately, this report can be made at a time when additional attention has been focused on inside-the-park homers based on the recent exploits of Willie Wilson of the Kansas City Royals. Of his six roundtrippers hit in 1979, five were within bounds, a total that has not been achieved in many years. In 1966, Richie Allen of the Phils and Sonny Jackson of the Astros each hit three, and in 1958, Mickey Mantle also hit three for the Yankees.
Considering that only 31 IPH were hit in the majors in 1979, five by one player is a substantial number. Ruppert Jones of Seattle and Robin Yount of Milwaukee were next with two each.
Some of the major league clubs still do not tabulate those hit in their own parks, although cooperation with SABR in that regard is improving. Baltimore, for example, has records of all those hit by Oriole players or against Oriole pitchers since the club came back into the American League in 1954. The same holds true for the Minnesota Twins since 1961, and the Montreal Expos and San Diego Padres since 1969. The Detroit Tigers also have been keeping tabs on their IPH for the last 20 years, and most other clubs have scattered information on this subject. These records, plus the research of SABR members, have given us a "ball park estimate" of about how many have been hit in recent years.
To put the matter in proper perspective, we also did research on selected seasons back to 1900. We have no intention of going back further than that because some parks in the 19th century had open areas in the outfield, making IPH the typical home run rather than those hit out of the park. On the other hand, there were some balls hit over the fence in at least one park that were ground rule doubles. Ironically, by today's standards, home runs hit within the confines even as recently as 1910-15, were called by some reporters "real" or "bone fide" home runs. The implication was that those hit over the fence, particularly if it was a short distance fence, were a little tainted in that the outfielder was robbed of a chance to play the ball.
This might be a good place to define an inside-the-park home run. Basically it is a drive that stays within the fences and is playable. It would include the rare instance, for example, where a fair ball might roll under the tarpaulin. It does not include cases where the ball might roll under an exit gate, bounce through a hole in the fence or bounce over the outfield fence. Those were legitimate home runs - at least the bounce home run was until 1930 - but we do not include those hits as IPH because they ultimately become unplayable.
The number and percentage of IPH have been gradually reduced since 1901 when about 35 percent were inside jobs. Of course, the home run totals were not very great in those days, with the combined figure for both leagues being 454 in 1901 and only 357 in 1902. Several new parks were built in the next 15 years and by 1915 the IPH percentage was reduced to less than 25 percent. With the advent of the lively ball in 1920, the number of fourbaggers increased considerably, but the percentage and even the real numbers of IPH continued to drop off. The percentage declined from about seven-to-eight percent in 1930 to three-to-four percent in
With the near standardization of field dimensions as a result of the construction of new parks in the l960s and 1970s, the percentage of IPH went down to about one percent of the total. For example, in 1966, one of the recent seasons for which we have solid IPH data, there were 2743 homers hit, of which 30 were inside jobs. In 1979, there were 3,433 roundtrippers hit, including 31 IPH.
To get a feel for how many IPH were hit and where, we conducted surveys of certain seasons and parks. A big boost was received early in the project by discovery of material left by the late Lee Allen at the Hall of Fame which included all the 360 IPH hit by Cincinnati players from 1900 to 1955. Those were the years when the Reds played in League Park, Redland Field and Crosley Field. This was essentially the same ballpark, but it was altered considerably over the years. This was a haven for IPH in the early years of this century, particularly in 1901 when 50 IPH were hit there by home and visiting clubs. That was a very high figure which has not been duplicated at any other park in one season. Sam Crawford, the great triple hitter, extended himself and hit 12 IPH (out of total of 16 homers) that season, which is a record.
Cincinnati IPH went down considerably the next season as total NL home runs shrunk to 98, the lowest figure in this century, but team IPH figures ranged from 20 in 1909 to seven in 1921. In 1931 no Cincinnati player hit a four-base blow within the grounds, and the numbers thereafter were very small. The fact that the Reds were one of the leading home run teams in the mid-1950s made no difference. In 1955 they hit a total of 181, but nary one inside the park.
Some of the other parks and seasons checked were those of the Boston Red Sox 1912, Boston Braves 1915-27, Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants 1907, New York Yankees 1907 and
1923, Pittsburgh Pirates 1911, 1922-27, and 1945, and Washington Senators 1921-23 and 1933-37.
Braves Field in Boston was ideal for IPH from the time of its opening in August 1915 to the start of the 1928 season when it was altered drastically to aid the club's long-ball hitters. In those dozen years, the Braves easily had the largest playing field in the majors. Balls hit sharply to right-center could roll 550 feet to the flagpole. In those 12 years, according to research conducted by Paul Doherty, only seven balls were hit out of the park. Another seven bounced into the stands or rolled under the gate, etc. All 209 of the others were IPH. On April 29, 1922, the New York Giants hit four IPH in one wind-swept game at Braves Field, two by George Kelly. As a visiting player, Rogers Hornsby hit eight IPH there from 1915 to 1927. In 1928 the outfield fence was moved in considerably and balls started to fly out of Braves Field. Unfortunately, the majority of them seemed to be hit by opposition players.
Pittsburgh's Forbes Field (1909-70) was a large park where relatively few homers were hit until after World War II. Many of the great triple hitters on that club, such as Tommy Leach, Honus Wagner, Owen Wilson, Max Carey, Pie Traynor, Kiki Cuyler, Paul Waner, and Arky Vaughan, also hit a fair number of IPH in their particular eras. In 1925, the year that Cuyler hit 26 triples, he also hit eight IPH, the best season total in at least the last 60 years. When Cuyler was traded to the Chicago Cubs after the 1927 season, his chances for a high career total of IPH were sharply reduced. Wrigley Field was one of those parks (and still is) where it was extremely difficult to achieve four bases without hitting the ball into the stands.
Griffith Stadium in Washington was in many ways the Forbes Field of the American League. In 1945, for an extreme example, the Senators hit only one home run there and it was an IPH by
Joe Kuhel. It was a discouraging place for power hitters, except for the big muscle men like Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Greenberg, and Joe DiMaggio, all of whom could hit them out of most any park. Sam Rice, who was five-foot-nine and weighed about 150 pounds, played 19 seasons in Washington and never hit the ball into the stands at Griffith Stadium. His nine homers there were all within the grounds. That is not a record for that park, however, as teammate Buddy Myer hit all but one of his 14 IPH in Griffith Stadium.
Rice also hit IPH in other parks, including the first in Yankee Stadium on April 25, 1923. The "House that Ruth Built" didn't have the squared off fairly even dimensions of spacious Griffith Stadium; it had an uneven configuration in that it had a short distance in rightfield that tapered to extremely deep in center. More than 20 IPH were hit in the new park in its initial season, probably because the outfielders were a little uncertain how to play the garden. Babe Ruth, who had ten IPH in his career, hit four at Yankee Stadium in 1923.
The Polo Grounds in New York was another park where plenty of home runs were hit into the stands, but a fair number were also hit inside the grounds. The right and left field foul lines were the shortest in the majors and even a little guy like Rabbit Maranville could pull one in there; yet, if a player could hit the ball past the center fielder he had a good chance of making four bases before the ball could be retrieved. When parks like this were closed down, the number of IPH was systematically reduced.
The only other big playing field of the old days which is still in use is Comiskey Park in Chicago. Ironically, it has not been a favorite place for hitting IPH, in spite of its size, because of its well balanced configuration. On the other hand, the lines of Baker Bowl in Philadelphia, usually referred to as a Bandbox, were not symmetrical and a batter occasionally could connect for a homer there inside the grounds. In fact, Kiki Cuyler hit two in one game at Baker Bowl on August 28, 1925, in the first and eighth innings.
Now that we've described the types of parks where IPH can be hit most frequently, we should identify what type of player hits them most frequently, the slugger or the fast runner. We probably gave away the answer at the beginning when we noted that Willie Wilson hit five IPH in 1979. With 83 stolen bases to his credit, Wilson, it is safe to say (in spite of his sturdy build), gets his extra base hits primarily because of his legs rather than his bat. Wilson hit only one ball into the stands in 1979.
We found that IPHs are essentially an extension of the three-base hit. If a player hits a sizeable number of triples, is a fast runner and plays his home games in a large park, there is a good chance that he has hit a number of home runs inside the lot. Another factor that could be added to the list is the size of the player. If he was a small player in addition to being fast and a sharp hitter, that feature enhances the possibility that many of his home runs, even if he hit just a small number, were IPH.
Three historical examples were Tommy Leach, Rabbit Maranville, and Sam Rice. Leach, the diminutive outfielder-third baseman for the Pirates in the first decade of this century, led the NL in home runs in 1902 with only six and was a contender the next year with seven. In 1903 he hit all seven inside the park, including two in one game. Leach hit 62 homers in his career and 48 were IPH, including four grand slams. When Leach hit the last home run of his career, for the Cubs against the Cards in St. Louis on October 4, 1914, the St. Louis reporter covering the game marveled at the tremendous speed and spirit of the aging star as he scored standing up just ahead of the relay throw.
Maranville, who was just getting established at short for the Braves as Leach was fading out, was five-feet-five and 155 pounds, an inch or so shorter than Leach, but five pounds heavier. He was probably not as fast as Leach, but a colorful, aggressive little player. He was not much of a hitter, and connected for only 28 homers, but 22 of them were IPH, including two in one game. Rice, discussed earlier, hit a total of 34 home runs and a check of each one revealed that 21 were IPH.
The total number of fourbaggers a player hits has no bearing whatsoever on how many he hits inside the park. To use two extreme examples, Tommy Thevenow, NL infielder between 1924 and 1938, hit two homers in his career of 1229 games and both were IPH, (He also hit one IPH in the 1928 World Series when his drive got by Babe Ruth.) Ted Williams hit 521 in his career and only one was IPH. That one was on Friday, the 13th of September, 1946, when Ted took advantage of the Boudreau shift in the pennant-clinching 1-0 victory over Cleveland. He hit the ball to leftfield, which was practically deserted.
In the tabulation of more than 1600 inside the park homers since 1900, we have noted many strange happenings involving the crazy caroms, outfield collisions, and even a ball rolling up the sleeve of a warm-up jacket. Obviously, Williams' IPH was not the most unusual. In fact, in a game 35 years before, Stuffy McInnis of the A's caught the Red Sox outfielders even more out of position than Williams did the Indians. At the beginning of the seventh inning on June 27, 1911, McInnis swung at a warm-up pitch from Boston hurler Ed Karger. It went sailing into the outfield, but Tris Speaker and his fellow gardeners were not even out there yet. McInnis ran around the bases and was credited with a home run by Umpire Ben Egan who upheld American League President Ban Johnson's new rule that there would be no warm-up pitches before the start of an inning.
Who has hit the most IPH on a career and season basis? This answer really should be broken down by decades, or as least by eras, because the number decreases in each period since 1900. In the deadball era of 1900-19, Sam Crawford hit 51 for his career, including 12 for Cincinnati in 1901. Tommy Leach had a career total of 48, counting three he hit in 1899. Ty Cobb, in his long career from 1905 to 1928, hit 47 IPH, but only six after 1918. By contrast, he hit nine in the one season of 1909.
Edd Roush hit 29 IPH, including four in the Federal League in 1914-15, over a career that ran to 1931. Kiki Cuyler had the best season mark for a player in that period with eight in 1925. Rabbit Maranville hit 22 in a very long career that finally wound up in 1935, and Ben Chapman closed out his playing days in 1945 with 15 IPH for his career. No significant season totals were achieved in that period, or at least research has not uncovered anything better than the four IPH hit by Chapman, the aggressive speedster with the Yankees, in 1935. The career totals also were insignificant in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. A total of seven IPH were found for Willie Mays in an incomplete review of his career. Willie Wilson had already achieved that total with his second homer in the 1980 season.
Complete IPH data are available on only a few outstanding players. Some of these are of the recent period, including active stars, and the results are available primarily because certain clubs or individuals have been compiling this information. On old-time players such as Sam Crawford, Edd Roush, and Babe Ruth, curiosity became so great after noting encouraging preliminary information that each home run was checked. This wasn't as big a job with Ruth as might be expected, because SABR member Al Kermisch had already gone through most of his home runs for other purposes.
In the case of Crawford, he had done so well with Cincinnati with 22 IPH in only three years, 1900-02, the question of how he did with Detroit was begging to be answered. A very strong line drive hitter who also ran the bases well, Crawford racked up an additional 29 IPH while playing for the Tigers in spacious Bennett Field (later Navin Field) in the deadball era of 1903-17.
If Crawford could hit that many with Detroit (we reasoned), what about teammate Ty Cobb, who was a more aggressive base runner and an excellent place hitter (with hands a couple of inches apart on the bat)? This theory was well founded and research of every one of his home runs revealed that he hit 47 IPH for the Tigers, best in the AL. Research revealed also that on several occasions the Tiger Terror swelled his total by making a mad dash for home when the opposition outfielders assumed he was going to stop at third.
Another theory that seemed to apply in the deadball era, didn't pan out very well in the modern era. While small, speedy players of the old days seemed to be good candidates for hitting IPH, a partial check of home runs by Phil Rizzuto and Luis Aparicio of the more recent era was not very fruitful. Neither hit a reasonable number of his relatively few homers within bounds. Of course, by the time they were playing, it seemed that almost all players were aiming for the fences.
There follows a list of the better known players for whom we have complete IPH data. Also listed on the right is a larger group of players for whom we have only scattered returns.
Complete IPH Numbers Interim, Incomplete IPH Numbers