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In 1995 Hofstra University hosted a four day convocation commemorating the 100th anniversary of Babe Ruth’s birth. I was honored to sit on a panel, which consisted of a number of speakers, each of whom presented a specific facet of Ruth’s life, his records and his impact on the National Pastime.
One of the panelists was Mr. William (Bill) Jenkinson. Over the past few years I have had many conversations with Bill and have learned much from our talks. He is an internationally known speaker, historian and author. He has been a resource person for, among other entities, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY and the Babe Ruth Museum in Baltimore, MD.
Bill has recently completed a book titled BASEBALL’S ULTIMATE POWER: Ranking the All-Time Greatest Distance Home Run Hitters, which has been published by Lyons Press, situated in Guilford, CT. In this book, Jenkinson ranks the most powerful hitters of all time, in terms of which sluggers hit baseballs the furthest, in addition to measuring the longest home runs ever hit.
Permit me to provide an informal review of this book.
Even before he is a fan of baseball, Bill is a baseball historian. As a researcher, he is tenacious. It is not in his nature to leave any stone unturned. In a real sense, the book took thirty years to complete. He has logged tens of thousands of miles in travel, interviewed hundreds of players (many of whom have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame), viewed countless tapes and movies, read tens of thousands of newspapers articles, not to mention hundreds of books – all in the name of one goal: to obtain the truth regarding baseball’s super sluggers and monster home runs.
Jenkinson covers all the great sluggers of the past: ranging from Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx, thru Mickey Mantle and Harmon Killebrew, up till Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds. He also covers present batters such as Alex Rodriguez, Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard.
In addition to the Major Leaguers dating from 1901 onwards, Jenkinson studies power hitters from the 19th Century and great hitters from the Negro Leagues. He gives a cornucopia of interesting facts like listing the longest fly outs, the longest home runs by teenagers, the longest pinch hit home runs, the longest inside-the-park home runs, and many more such tidbits. He also gives a list of the greatest individual combination of “power personified” when considering the three components of batting, throwing and running all put together. If you are interested in questions like “Who was the fastest runner?” and “Who had the strongest arm (by position)?”, then you will find the answers in this book.
As one who has taught both mathematics and physics on the university level, the aspect of the book which I found most interesting was how Jenkinson projected distances when the flights of baseballs were interrupted. For example, in May of 1963, Mickey Mantle hit a baseball off Kansas City’s Bill Fischer that seemed to be rising when it struck the Yankee Stadium façade. The “linear distance” was much less than 400 feet. The key question to be answered, of course, is “How far would the baseball have travelled if it was uninterrupted in flight?” By consulting well known physicists, Jenkinson gives more than plausible answers to questions such as this one, with a crystal clear analysis grounded with solid scientific underpinnings.
Regarding the style of writing, the reader gets the feeling that Jenkinson is talking to him or her. There is a warm “folksiness” in his recollections about his family and when he first decided to answer the questions about longest hitters and longest homeruns. While the author provides all his references, the reader is never overwhelmed with this scholarly work nor does the reader ever forget that this is a book about baseball, written by an individual blessed to be smitten by the game.
Bottom Line: It is the type of book that readers can pick up, open it to any random page, and immediately find themselves engrossed in the book.
So…who was the most powerful batter ever? And who hit the longest home run? I won’t spoil the results for you – the book is well worth reading!