In baseball, a home run is a base hit in which the batter is able to circle all the bases, ending at home plate and scoring a run himself (along with a run for each runner who was already on base), with no errors on the play that results in the batter achieving extra bases. If the ball is hit out of the playing field and in fair territory, it is an automatic home run.
Home runs are among the most popular aspects of baseball, and the biggest (and best-paid) stars are often the players who hit the most of them. It was once said that "Singles hitters drive Fords, and home run hitters drive Cadillacs." There is also a legend that Babe Ruth was asked by a reporter about the fact that his salary was higher than that of President Herbert Hoover. Ruth's response was, "How many home runs did he hit last year?" (It is worth noting that Ruth had been an official endorser of Am Smith for President in 1928, according to Marshall Smelser's The Life That Ruth Built.
Types of home runs
In addition to the general title "home run," certain plays in baseball have been given names to denote that they are a special type of home run. These home runs are considered special generally because of their rarity, but also because of the kind of excitement they can cause.
Inside-the-park home run
In almost all cases nowadays, a home run involves hitting the ball over the outfield fence in fair territory. Very rarely, a batter can hit the ball in play and circle all the bases before the fielders can throw him out; this is called an inside-the-park home run, and typically requires that the batter be a quick runner and that the fielder misplay the ball in some way; or that the ball is made difficult to play by caroming in unexpected ways or by becoming difficult for a fielder to reach due to structural variances and peculiarities of different ballparks. If the misplay is labeled an error by the official scorer, however, the batter is not credited with a home run.
A grand slam home run occurs when the bases are "loaded" (that is, there are base runners standing at first, second, and third base) and the batter hits a home run. An inside-the-park grand slam is the combination of the two, but it requires such a confluence of circumstances that it is very rare. The last inside-the-park grand slam was hit by Michael A. Taylor on September 8, 2017.
Walkoff Home run
A walk-off home run is a term coined by famous closer Dennis Eckersley to signify a home run that immediately ends the game, so named because after the run is scored, the players can "walk off" the field. In order for this to happen, a member of the home team must hit a home run in the bottom of the last inning to either come from behind or break a tie. Walk-off grand slams are even rarer, and the last one was hit by David Bote on August 12, 2018.
History of the home run
In the early days of the game, when the ball was less lively and the ballparks generally had very large outfields, most home runs were of the inside-the-park variety. The "home" run was literally descriptive. Home runs over the fence were rare, and only in ballparks where a fence was fairly close.
The home run's place in baseball changed dramatically when the lively ball was introduced after World War I. Batters such as Babe Ruth and Rogers Hornsby took full advantage of it during the 1920s, especially as the game's popularity boomed and more outfield seating was built, shrinking the size of the outfield. The teams with the sluggers, especially the New York Yankees, became the championship teams, and other teams had to change their focus from the "inside game" to the "power game" in order to keep up.
Prior to 1931, a ball that bounced over an outfield fence during a Major League Baseball game was considered a home run. The rule was changed to require the ball to clear the fence on the fly, and balls which reached the seats on a bounce became ground-rule doubles in most parks.
Also, until around that time, the ball had to not only go over the fence fair, but to land in the bleachers fair. The rule stipulated "when last seen" by the umpires. Photos from that era in ballparks such as the Polo Grounds show ropes strung from the foul poles to the back of the bleachers, in a straight line with the foul line, as a visual aid for the umpires. Babe Ruth's 60th home run in 1927 was somewhat controversial, because it landed just fair in the stands down the right field line.
Further, the rules once stipulated that an over-the-fence home run in a sudden-victory situation would only count for as many bases as was necessary to "force" the winning run home. For example, if a team trailed by 2 runs with the bases loaded, and the batter hit a fair ball over the fence, it only counted as a triple, because the runner immediately ahead of him had technically already scored the game-winning run. That rule was changed in the 1920s as home runs became increasingly frequent and popular. Babe Ruth's career total would have been 1 higher had that rule not been in effect in the early part of his career.
The all-time career record for home runs in a professional career is held by Japan's Sadaharu Oh with 868. In Major League Baseball, the record is 755, held by Hank Aaron since 1974. Only three other Major League Baseball players have hit as many as 600: Babe Ruth (714), Barry Bonds (708 as of September 2005), and Willie Mays (660). The single season record is 73, set by Barry Bonds in 2001. Negro League slugger Josh Gibson may have hit even more home runs than Oh, but official records from the Negro Leagues are sketchy at best and in some cases nonexistent. Guinness Book of World Records lists Gibson's lifetime home run total at 800.
Other legendary home run hitters include Ted Williams, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Mickey Mantle (who hit what is considered the longest home run ever at an estimated distance of 643 feet on September 10, 1960), Reggie Jackson, Josh Gibson, Ernie Banks, Eddie Mathews and all the members of Major League Baseball's 500 home run club.
Home run slang
Slang terms for home runs include: big-fly, blast, bomb, circuit clout, dinger, four-bagger, homer, jack, round-tripper, shot, moonshot, tape-measure shot, swat, tater, wallop and gopherball (because the batter "goes for" it). The act of hitting a home run can be called going yard. A game with many home runs in it can be referred to as a slugfest. A home run that ends the game is often called a walk-off homer, because everyone walks off the field afterward. A player who hits a home run is said to have "dialed 9", from the practice of having to dial 9 from a hotel room telephone to get "long distance".
Player nicknames that describe home run-hitting prowess include:
- The Sultan of Swat, the Colossus of Clout, the Wali of Wallop (Babe Ruth)
- The Crown Prince of Swat (Lou Gehrig, playing on Ruth's nickname)
- The Rajah of Swat (Rogers Hornsby, likewise)
- Hammerin' Hank. The Hammer, The New Sultan of Swat (Hank Aaron)
- Joltin' Joe (Joe DiMaggio)
- The Beast (Jimmie Foxx)
- Hondo (Frank Howard)
- The Killer (Harmon Killebrew)
- Kong (Dave Kingman)
- Juan Gone (Juan Gonzalez)
- Downtown (Ollie Brown)
- Frank "Home Run" Baker
- Two Man Swat Team Manny Ramírez and David Ortiz
- Big Mac (Mark McGwire)
- Big Papi (David Ortiz)
- The Bash Brothers (Mark McGwire and José Canseco)
- Slammin' Sammy (Sammy Sosa)
- Murderers' Row (the entire New York Yankees lineup for 1927)
- The "Big Hurt" (Frank Thomas)
- The Back Bay Bombers Boston Red Sox line up for 2003
Progression of the single-season home run record
- 5, by George Hall, Philadelphia Athletics (NL), 1876(70 game schedule)
- 9, by Charley Jones, Boston Red Stockings (NL), 1879 (84 game schedule)
- 14, by Harry Stover, Philadelphia Athletics (AA), 1883 (98 game schedule)
- 27, by Ned Williamson, Chicago White Stockings (NL), 1884 (112 game schedule)
- Williamson benefitted from a very short outfield fence in his home ballpark, Lakeshore Park. During the park's previous years, balls hit over the fence in that park were ground-rule doubles, but in 1884 (its final year) they were credited as home runs. Williamson led the pace, but several of his Chicago teammates also topped the 20 HR mark that season. Of Williamson's total, 25 were hit at home, and only 2 on the road. Noticing the fluke involved, fans of the early 20th century were more impressed with Buck Freeman's total of 25 home runs in 1899 or Gavvy Cravath's 1915 total of 24.
- 29, by Babe Ruth, Boston Red Sox (AL), 1919 (140 game schedule)
- Even with that relatively small quantity, Ruth outslugged 10 of the other 15 major league clubs. The second-highest individual total was 12, by Gavvy Cravath of the Philadelphia Phillies. Ruth homered in every park in the league, the first time anyone had achieved that goal.
- 54, by Ruth, New York Yankees (AL), 1920 (154 game schedule)
- Ruth hit just a few more home runs on the road (26) than he had the previous year (20), but he hit far more (29) in the Polo Grounds in New York (where the Yankees played at the time) than he had in Fenway Park (9) in Boston the year before, as he took full advantage of the nearby right field wall. Of the other 15 major league clubs, only the Philadelphia Phillies exceeded Ruth's single-handeded total, hitting 64 in their bandbox ballpark Baker Bowl. The second-highest individual total was the St. Louis Browns' George Sisler's 19. Ruth's major-league record slugging percentage (total bases / at bats) of .847 stood for the next 80 years.
- 59, by Ruth, New York (AL), 1921 (154 game schedule)
- Ruth's slugging percentage was just .001 less than his record-setting average the previous year.
- 60, by Ruth, New York (AL), 1927 (154 game schedule)
- Ruth hit more home runs in 1927 than any of the other seven American League teams. His closest rival was his teammate Lou Gehrig, who hit 47 homers that year.
- 85, by Josh Gibson 1934
Selected list of pitchers giving up record home runs:
- 1919 - Waite Hoyt, New York Yankees - Babe Ruth's 28th of the season
- 1920 - (still looking for it - July 20), Chicago White Sox - Babe Ruth's 30th of the season
- 1921 - Bill Bayne, St. Louis Browns - Babe Ruth's 55th of the season
- 1927 - Tom Zachary, Washington Nats/Senators - Babe Ruth's 60th of the season
- 1961 - Tracy Stallard, Boston Red Sox - Roger Maris' 61st of the season
- 1974 - Al Downing, Los Angeles Dodgers - Hank Aaron's 715th of his career
- 1998 - Steve Trachsel, Chicago Cubs - Mark McGwire's 62nd of the season
- 2001 - Chan Ho Park, Los Angeles Dodgers - Barry Bonds' 71st of the season
This includes only the home runs that broke a record set in a previous year, not home runs that extended a record within the same year.
- 61*, a 2001 made-for-TV baseball movie chronicling Maris' 1961 season
- List of home run calls in baseball
Career achievement lists
- List of lifetime home run leaders through history
- Major League Baseball home run milestones
- 500 home run club
- Top 500 home run hitters of all time
- All-Time leaders in home runs for a pitcher
- Home run leaders by letter
Single game or season achievements
- Players who have hit 4 home runs in the same baseball game
- Players who have hit two Grand Slams in the same baseball game
- Players who have hit home runs in consecutive innings
- Players who have hit Two 3-Home run Games in a Season
- Players who have hit 30 or more home runs before the All-Star break