Chuck Stobbs; Senators Pitcher in 1950s

By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 25, 2008

As a journeyman left-hander for the woeful Washington Senators of the 1950s, Chuck Stobbs had few moments of shining glory. He won 15 games for the lowly Nats in 1956 but was best known for throwing a pitch that might have traveled farther than any other baseball in big-league history.

Mr. Stobbs, 79, died July 11 at his home in Sarasota, Fla. He had throat cancer.

On April 17, 1953, in his very first game with the Senators, he gave up a titanic blast to Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees that soared out of Griffith Stadium and into baseball lore as the longest home run ever hit.

With two outs in the top of the fifth inning and a runner on base, Mr. Stobbs faced Mantle, then 21 and in his third season with the Yankees. Mantle, a switch hitter, was batting right-handed.

Mr. Stobbs's first pitch was low. Mantle hit his second pitch, a chest-high fastball, over the left-center field wall, 391 feet from home plate. The ball flew beyond the final row in the bleachers, 460 feet away, and over a wall 55 feet high. It knocked some black paint off the edge of a National Bohemian beer sign above the wall and kept going.

A press spokesman for the Yankees ran out of the stadium and retrieved the ball from the back yard of a house across the street. He paced off the distance from the outer wall of Griffith Stadium at 105 feet.

Mantle's 565-foot shot was regarded as the first "tape-measure" home run, and no player has hit a home run that far in the 55 years since. Several writers have questioned the accuracy of the distance, but they were not among the 4,206 spectators at Griffith Stadium that day.

"Other things happened" in the game, the New York Times reported, "but no one appeared to be interested." (The Yankees won, 7-3.)

The ball and Mantle's bat, which he borrowed from teammate Loren Babe, were sent to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Later in his career, Mr. Stobbs did well against Mantle, but for the rest of his life he would be haunted by that monumental blast in 1953.

"So the guy hit a home run, so what?" he said in 1993. "Somebody just sent me a blank piece of paper and asked me to fill out my recollections of that homer. I sent it back blank."

Charles Klein Stobbs was born July 2, 1929, in Wheeling, W.Va., and spent his early years in Springfield, Ohio, and Vero Beach, Fla. He moved to Norfolk for high school and was coached by his father.

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