ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The greatest hitting performance I ever saw, courtesy of Jim Rice

Updated on December 31, 2012

I love baseball stories. I love telling them and I love hearing other people’s stories – of great moments, great players or just funny events. Over the next few months, while we wait for baseball to start up again, I’ll drop in a few stories just for entertainment sake. Feel free to add any fun stories of your own in the comments.

I’ve attended a lot of Major League games over the past four decades and have seen many great hitters, including quite a few Hall of Famers, and some great hitting performances. But the greatest hitting performance I ever saw didn’t happen during the game. It came during batting practice.

Batting practice, naturally, allows players to show off their big bats so it’s not unusual to see some bombs launched. I’ve seen quite a few of those, but nothing like I saw from Jim Rice in his final six swings of BP before a game against the White Sox in 1977.

Rice was already a great hitter by 1977

Rice had enjoyed a terrific rookie season in 1975, overshadowed only by teammate Fred Lynn’s MVP and Rookie of the Year season. In 1978, of course, Rice enjoyed his outstanding MVP season. That year he had 213 hits, 15 triples, 46 homers, 139 RBIs and scored 121 runs. His average line was .315/.379/.600.

But he also had a tremendous season in 1977. He would lead the league in homers with 39 and finish second in RBIs with 114. More important, his power was already legendary.

By the time my brother and I, along with a few friends, ventured to Comiskey Park in Chicago on July 16, 1977, Rice had already belted 23 homers (in 1976 only six American League players hit 23 or more homers for the entire season and Graig Nettles led the league with 32).

Old Comiskey Park was huge

Old Comiskey Park was a gigantic field. The measurements down the foul lines were 349 feet, the power alleys were 382 and, in 1977, the centerfield wall was 445 feet from home. Not only that, the wall stood about 12 feet high. Not an easy park to hit homers.

That said, it was possible to hit a ball completely out of the stadium. Just a month earlier I had seen Richie Zisk do that against the Yankees and, if I remember correctly, it was the 18th time in the stadium’s history. I think Lou Gehrig did it twice, and others on that list were players like Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Jimmie Foxx.

Not sure the date of this photo but there is a temporary fence in center that was not there in 1977. A ball had to be hit over the tall cement wall in center for a homer, 445 feet away.
Not sure the date of this photo but there is a temporary fence in center that was not there in 1977. A ball had to be hit over the tall cement wall in center for a homer, 445 feet away.

Rice starts his awesome power display

As usual, that night we arrived at the park early enough to watch batting practice. Fortunately, that meant we got to see Rice take his cuts. It was his final six swings that had our jaws hanging open in disbelief. Here were the first five of those swings:

Swing 1 – Ball crushed over the leftfield roof, completely out of the park.

Swing 2 – Ball crushed over the leftfield roof, completely out of the park.

Swing 3 – Ball crushed over the leftfield roof, completely out of the park.

Swing 4 – Ball crushed over the leftfield roof, completely out of the park.

Swing 5 – Ball crushed over the leftfield roof, completely out of the park.

Yes, Rice hit five balls in a row completely out of the park – not just homers, not just into the upper deck but completely out of the park. I’ve never seen anyone else do that even once in batting practice, let alone five times in a row.

Saving the best for last

But, believe it or not, that wasn’t even the most impressive part of that batting practice. Swing 6, his final one in that BP, still stuns me.

On that final swing, Rice smashed a line drive to dead centerfield. A frozen rope. The kind that usually scoots to the wall for extra bases if hit in the alleys.

Except this ball didn’t dip down and scoot to the wall. It kept carrying and carrying and carrying until it collided with the wall at the 445-foot mark, still about 10 feet off the ground. It hit so solidly that we could hear it in our seats along the third base line. I’m sure if the wall hadn’t been there the ball would have traveled at least 500 feet. That would be a 500-foot line drive. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it possible to hit a ball like that.

Hard to top that performance

In the game itself, Rice’s performance was unmemorable, a single and a walk in four plate appearances. Butch Hobson hit the only homer of the game. (Side note: This game also had one of the most bizarre plays I’ve ever seen, which I’ll write about at another time.)

Nowadays I seldom arrive at games in time to see much of batting practice, usually the final swings of the subs. I’m sure there have been other impressive batting practice performances. But I doubt there have been many, if any, others more impressive than the six swings I saw Jim Rice take in 1977.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • theframjak profile image

      theframjak 

      5 years ago from East Coast

      Great story. Thanks for sharing. Rice was one of my favorite players growing up and I remember that other players would speak in reverential tones about his legendary strength. I can't wait for your next story.

    • e-five profile image

      John C Thomas 

      5 years ago from Chicago, Illinois, USA

      Long before the steroid era, when that type of display was still rare.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)