This morning, William Brock, Jr. of Houston and a relative i’ve never met posted a brief history of the Astrodome with photos on Facebook. This allowed me to reminisce. The response i gave, with some edits and additions, to William on his post is below:
i saw the Astros play the Braves there (in the Astrodome) in August ’67.
Rico Carty was in left field for the Braves and had a running conversation with fans in the left field/bleacher corner. Somewhere in the middle of the game, Rico hit a line drive. Jimmy “Toy Cannon” Wynn in center field took a couple of steps in before the ball started rising. It cleared the leaping Wynn’s glove by inches. The drive hit in the middle of the fence in dead center. It bounced straight back to Wynn who twirled and threw to second holding Carty to a single. And Carty was one of the faster players in the league.
It remains the hardest ball i ever saw in person.
i saw the Twins’ Harmon Killebrew hit a 500 foot home run out of the park against the Yankees in spring training, 1961.
With my father at Sulfur Dell in 1955, i saw Dick “Doctor Strangeglove” Stuart hit an extarorinary pop up when he played for the New Orleans Pelicans (before he moved up to the Pirates)
— In researching Stuart to be sure i had my facts straight, i found on Wikipedia a nickname i had not heard before. Apparently, because of his fielding woes at first base, he was called “The Ancient Mariner.” According to Wikipedia, Stuart was given that moniker because the first lines of Coleridge’s famous poem are “It is an ancient Mariner, / And he stoppeth one of three…”
— The Nashville Vols catcher finally caught Stuart’s pop up standing on home plate. It had gone straight up and totally out of sight before coming back down.
In 1965, i saw the Braves play the Pirates in the first game in Atlanta after moving from Milwaukee. Willie Stargell hit a line drive home run to right in the 13th inning to win the game, 3-2. It was dramatic, but i don’t think it was close to being as hard hit as Carty’s single.
i did not see this one in 1960 except on replays i’ve watched probably a hundred times or more, and it remains my all time favorite home run ever, even matched against the only one i ever hit which was not that hard but rolled and rolled and rolled in left center where there was no fence on the Tiger’s ball field on Hill Street when i was a senior. It was Bill Mazeroski’s home run that beat the Yankees, 10-9, in the bottom of the ninth in the seventh game and got Mike Dixon and i in trouble for skipping the noon mess (written about here before). i can’t say it was hit hard, but it hit me hard and still does.
In 1961 as the Castle Heights catcher, i saw Arnold Umbach (who later pitched for the Braves) hit a line drive off Mike Gannaway and Mike Dixon did a similar act that Jimmy Wynn did later, coming in before the ball started rising. But Dixon leaped and caught the ball at the apex of his leap. That was a hard hit ball and one of the few i’ve seen actually rise during flight.
Yet, Carty’s single in the Astrodome remains the hardest hit baseball i ever saw.