- Jayson Stark, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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It took off like Apollo XII. It disappeared faster than Dane Sardinha. It eventually came to rest on a piece of driftwood in a different state than the batter's box it departed.
This, friends, was no ordinary homer.
In baseball, there are home runs. And there are long home runs. And then there are home runs like the one Reds masher Adam Dunn launched Aug. 10 -- home runs that need a passport, a suitcase and a couple of jet-lag pills.
Some guys hit home runs that curl around the foul pole. When Adam Dunn hits home runs, teammate Sean Casey told Wild Pitches, "they disappear over the horizon."
Technically, of course, this particular Adam Dunn homer didn't really disappear over the horizon. But it did, in fact, literally disappear.
One second, it was resting in the right hand of Dodgers pitcher Jose Lima. The next, Dunn was unfurling that monster swing of his. And there went the baseball.
Over the fence in center field, 404 feet from home plate. Over the 20-foot patch of grass behind that fence. Over the 32-foot-high hitter's eye at the back edge of that grass. Then over yet another wall that separates Great American Ball Park from the rest of the world.
It's impressive enough when a guy hits a baseball and it goes over a wall. Adam Dunn hit a baseball that cleared three walls -- and came down in the street.
"Can you imagine you're driving along out there, switching radio channels or something, and then a baseball comes through the window -- during a game?" Casey laughed. "What the heck would you think?"
Yeah, those Reds are just going to have to establish some kind of Adam Dunn protective zone in the future: Block traffic. Hand out hard hats. Maybe build a protective tunnel. Because it just isn't safe to walk the streets of Cincinnati when this guy's around.
This fellow is one strong human being.
"Oh, he's strong," Casey said. "He's country strong, from Porter, Texas. He's United States country strong.
"You know the Paul Bunyan legend?" Casey chuckled. "He's building the Adam Dunn legend. He's so strong, maybe he can help push boulders around and build a dam or something. If a flood is coming, they can use him to stop up the river. He could probably grab those 5,000-pound boulders and pick them up with one arm."
And meanwhile, in his spare time, Adam Dunn could just play baseball.
Fortunately, Dunn's mighty homer off Lima didn't break any windows or cause any concussions. According to an HOK architect who helped design the park, it landed on a street named Mehring Way, a ridiculous 535 feet from home plate.
Then it hopped along for another 200 feet or so and came to rest on a piece of driftwood on the banks of the Ohio River. Which, according to local geographers, meant it was hit in Ohio and came to rest in KENTUCKY. So maybe it just wanted to visit Smarty Jones on the stud farm. That's as good an explanation as any.
"I couldn't hit a golf ball that far," Reds reliever Phil Norton told the Dayton Daily News' Hal McCoy.
"He couldn't," Dunn concurred. "Ever see him play golf?"
McCoy reports that the baseball eventually was retrieved off that driftwood by an electrician named Tom Tuerck. Which is a shame, in retrospect. Think how cool it would have been to just leave that baseball alone and let it float off down the river.
Who knows where it might eventually have ended up? That Ohio River, after all, flows all the way into western Pennsylvania.
"It probably would have wound up in Pittsburgh," said Casey. "And Jason Kendall would have found it on his way to work."
Multi-Tasker of the Month
It tells you something about how Phillies pitcher Randy Wolf has been going that he was recently asked how he would compare himself to a guy named Babe Ruth.
"Well," Wolf replied, "I'm a lot thinner."
Ah, but that's not the only difference. Historians tell us that Wolf has now done something the Babe never did back when he was just an up-and-coming young left-handed twirler: hit two home runs in one game.
Yes, on the momentous evening of Aug. 11, Wolf rolled up the coolest offensive box-score line of his burgeoning offensive career: 3-3-3-3, with two home runs.
He launched a third-inning solo homer off Colorado's Jason Jennings. Then, three innings later, he thumped a two-run shot off Adam Bernero. In between, he singled -- just to prove he can hit them long or hit them short, whatever it takes.
So that may explain why, as we attempted to track him down in the clubhouse recently, teammate Todd Jones' reaction was a casual: "Gonna go talk to Cy Cobb, huh?"
Hey, why not? It may seem, in this rocketball era in which we live, as if pitchers hit two home runs in a game every week or so. But au contraire.
Wolf was only the ninth pitcher in the DH era to haul out his trot twice in one game. It was just a little tougher than usual to impress anybody in his own clubhouse, however, because the last pitcher to do it was also a Phillie -- Robert Person, who hit a grand slam and a three-run homer in the same game in 2002.
"It's just too bad," Wolf told Wild Pitches, "that Robert Person will always one-up me. Those were his only two hits of the year, though. These weren't even my only homers. So take that, Robert."
Yes, Wolf is up to three home runs this year, which leads all NL pitchers and makes him only the 15th pitcher in the last quarter-century to hit that many in a season.
And not only that. It also means he's been able to keep practicing his home run trot until he gets it right.
"I hit one in Montreal this year, and a few of the reporters were making fun of me because they said my trot was so slow," Wolf reported. "So when I hit the first one [in the Colorado game], I did a Scott Rolen trot. I was just going around there as fast as I could. It actually tired me out.
"So the second one, I was in between. I didn't sprint. I didn't trot. I don't know how it looked, but when you don't do it that much, you're lucky if you just don't trip. You definitely don't want to do that. That would take the whole 'cool factor' out of it."
Wolf admitted that when he hit that second homer, he was in complete disbelief. Then, after he found himself doing interviews about his sweet swing for three days afterward, he was in even deeper disbelief.
"I guess," he said, "that's why chicks dig the long ball."
The best indication that he'd taken his offensive repertoire to a new plateau came in the seventh inning that night. He'd already been told he wouldn't pitch the eighth. But manager Larry Bowa wasn't going to be crazy enough not to let him hit again.
So Wolf made it into the on-deck circle, only to have Marlon Byrd foil his quest for the trifecta by whiffing to end the inning.
"I wanted to have another at-bat," Wolf admitted. "Not that I really thought I was going to hit another home run. But it would have been fun to go for it."
And what kind of trot would he have used if he'd hit three?
"If I'd hit three?" Wolf laughed. "I probably would have done cartwheels all the way around."
Moving Target of the Month
Here at Wild Pitches, we've always had a theory about how the Yankees win all those big games in September and October:
It's The Case of the Moving Fences.
Oh, the Yankees have never admitted to this, naturally. But we swear those fences at Yankee Stadium secretly move up or down, depending on who's hitting.
Ever wondered why all those Red Sox rockets seem to hit the top of the wall, while all Yankees fly balls seem to make it into the seats by a sixteenth of an inch? Heck, it's not the ghosts of Ruth and Gehrig. It's those moving fences. Explains everything.
Of course, we've never been able to document that. But now, along comes a team that has actually confessed that its fences move.
That team is the Phillies. And for the first three and a half months of life at their new abode, Citizens Bank Park, the sign in the left-center-field gap read: 369 feet. Seemed like just your normal, run-of-the-mill, power-alley distance.
Then, however, a couple of hundred suspicious home runs later, a Philadelphia TV guy named Howard Eskin slipped into the park one day with a golf-course surveying device. He aimed it at that 369 sign and ... (insert spooky music here) ... presto, the fence had apparently sneaked in by at least 10 feet while nobody was looking.
Eskin then announced this scoop on TV. A few days later, an amazing thing happened. That 369-foot sign had moved -- at least 25 feet toward center field.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jim Salisbury had the grounds crew stretch a tape measure out to where that 369 sign used to be. It was only 358½ feet from home plate, which would make it the shortest power alley of any park this side of Williamsport.
So Wild Pitches has been asking ever since: What the heck happened? If that fence had really moved since Opening Day, how did it do that?
Did it wriggle its way in toward the plate at night when no one was around? Did the hitters sneak in one day with a forklift and move it themselves? Was there a secret earthquake? The possibilities were truly endless.
Only one man could possibly supply the answers. And that was faithful Wild Pitches investigator Doug Glanville, the noted Phillies outfield-humorist.
"A stadium is no different than a single-family home," Glanville explained exclusively. "After new construction is completed, you get to walk through your home and make a punch list, itemizing all the imperfections or changes you would like to make. Of course, homes take a while to settle, and after one heating and cooling season, the house tends to shift, causing cracks, moving walls, causing nail pops, etc.
"Obviously," Glanville theorized, "this holds true for stadia, also. It is of my expert opinion that the stadium is just settling in. In our case, the walls moved in around 15 feet in death valley [left-center field] in three months. The Phillies just need to add that to their punch list, next to the leaky faucet in the section 302 rest room, and, by next season, the walls will be back to normal."
Now it may be true that this could affect the Phillies' ability to hit, say, 400 home runs a year. But the alternative, Glanville said, is even more dangerous.
"If they don't take care of this," he said, "an accident like Vince Coleman's [the famous mishap in which he was once eaten by the automatic tarp machine in St. Louis] may happen. Someone may have the wall roll up on their leg while stretching before a game. We can't have that."
No, we can't. And while we're waiting for the contractors to get this fixed, can we fill out a Yankee Stadium punch list, too?
Boxscore Line of the Month
Rockies pitcher Jeff Fassero, Aug. 8 vs. Cincinnati:
3 IP, 11 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 73 pitches to get 9 outs.
STAT OF THE DAY: This was Fassero's 652nd trip to the mound in the major leagues and his 234th start -- but the first time he'd ever given up 10 runs or more in a game.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: From Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, after a 14-7 wipeout:
"It wasn't his day. It wasn't our day."
Curse of the Month
There have been many theories advanced on why the Phillies have spent the last couple of months plummeting like an Acapulco cliff diver. But our Wild Pitches investigators think we've hit upon the real reason.
It's the Curse of the Missing Handshake.
In late May, right after they'd moved into first place for the first time, they came to a teamwide decision to abandon one of baseball's time-honored traditions:
They stopped shaking hands on the field after they won.
Since they swore off the handshakes, by our calculations, they were nine games under .500 through Thursday. And counting.
So once again, we turned to Wild Pitches mainstay Doug Glanville to explain exactly why they chose to mess with the baseball gods. And once again, we've been reassured by Glanville that there's a perfectly logical, even worldly explanation:
"Due to the rising insurance costs and the influx of contagious elements in our environment," he told Wild Pitches, "the team decided that we could lower the team's insurance premium if we minimize all contact. That would reduce the possibility of passing on SARS, mad cow disease, the bubonic plague or, in my case, a torn semitendonosus tendon, to our teammates.
"We're just trying to be extra-sanitary while being cost-effective," Glanville said. "There is no crime in that."
Yeah, the crime is going 1-9 in a 10-game homestand. Just don't blame it on that handshake curse.
Bat Burglar of the Month
He'd gone homerless since July 6. He hadn't had an extra-base hit in a month. He hadn't driven in a run in August.
So on Tuesday, Tigers outfielder Bobby Higginson finally did something he'd never done in his entire career (all 1,320 games): He borrowed Ivan Rodriguez's bat and used one other than an official Bobby Higginson model.
Naturally, he hit two homers that night. Then he hit two more Thursday.
Asked by Booth Newspapers' Danny Knobler what he planned to do with his own bats, Higginson replied: "I wouldn't give those bats to anyone. They have no hits in them."
Asked if he had any suggestions, teammate Carlos Guillen suggested: "Maybe use them for a barbecue."
Bazooka Joe Fan of the Month
And here's how bad Higginson had been going before he borrowed that bat:
After making the final out in a game in Oakland the week before, he angrily spit out his gum -- and took a swing at it.
"That's the hardest I've hit anything all year," he told Knobler afterward. "Best swing of the year. I think it carried all the way to the dugout."
For a hit?
"No," he said. "I'm sure somebody caught it."
Spin-off of the Month
There may never have been a weirder hit in baseball history than Julio Lugo's unforgettable infield single for Tampa Bay on Aug. 10 at Fenway Park.
Lugo thunked a bizarre spinning foul ball down the first-base line that was hopping merrily along the grass when it abruptly pirouetted back toward fair territory -- and somehow hit the first-base bag.
It appeared so far foul at first that Lugo just stood at home plate and watched it. So did first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz. When the ball hit the bag, and then caromed toward second base, Lugo took off -- and made it to first safely.
"I wanted no part of that ball," Mientkiewicz told the Boston Globe's Gordon Edes. "I was going to treat it like a grenade. If it came close to me, I was going to jump on it."
On June 12, Torres was ejected from the Pirates' game in Oakland for throwing two straight pitches behind Damian Miller.
A couple of days later, he was suspended for four games and fined $1,700.
On June 28, his appeal was heard by MLB's John McHale Jr.
But it wasn't until July 26 -- 44 days after the ejection -- that Torres learned his suspension had been cut to three games, and his fine was lopped to $1,000.
"After all this time, I thought I had pled my case so well that I hung the jury," Torres told the Beaver County Times' John Perrotto. "I thought maybe it was a mistrial. Instead, I'm under house arrest with an ankle bracelet, and I can't leave the state of Pennsylvania for three days."
Furniture Buster of the Month
Just last Sunday the Twins thought they were seeing their whole season pass before their eyes.
They'd already lost two games in Cleveland. They trailed 2-0 in the third game, knowing that if they lost again, the Indians would tie them for first place.
So no wonder that, after whiffing with the bases loaded his first time up, Twins third baseman Corey Koskie marched back into the clubhouse, swung that bat again and whacked a pole, a chair and anything else that got in his way.
We don't advise trying that at home, kids. But Koskie did get hits in his next five at-bats. They included a game-winning extra-inning home run in that game, followed by another homer Tuesday in his first at-bat back in the Metrodome.
"We've got to break more chairs around here," teammate Justin Morneau told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Jim Souhan.
Hair-Raising Foul Ball of the Month
It's OK to have a foul mouth in baseball. It's not so OK to hit your manager in the head with a foul ball.
But that's what Kenny Lofton did Aug. 12 in Texas, conking Joe Torre with a soft line drive into the dugout.
"It didn't take any hair off," Torre quipped afterward. "That had already been taken care of."
Crime Stopper of the Month
It was barely noticed in a game in which the Tigers hit seven home runs and lost. About the only good news for the Tigers in their goofy 11-9 loss to the Red Sox on Aug. 8 was that Pudge Rodriguez became just the second catcher to throw out Johnny Damon stealing twice in the same game. (The other: Sandy Alomar Jr., May 20, 1998.)
Damon's respectful reaction: "When's that guy going to retire?"
Mystery Pitcher of the Month
It was bad enough that Mets infielder Todd Zeile had to sacrifice his pristine 0.00 ERA by giving up five runs in an emergency pitching appearance in Montreal on July 26. Then he capped off the evening by striking out with the bases loaded in the ninth.
"I told Al [Leiter], it's amazing," Zeile told Newsday's David Lennon. "I pitch for one inning, and I start hitting like a pitcher, too."
Quotes of the Month
From always-inventive Marlins manager Jack McKeon, after being asked last month by Wild Pitches when Josh Beckett would come off the disabled list and make his next start:
"It'll be anywhere from Sunday to Sunday -- but I doubt it'll be Sunday."
From Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, on how bench coach Steve Liddle saved the day after the Twins got an early morning wakeup call in Kansas City because of a tornado warning:
"He just took a bag of our bats and put them in the window. He knew nothing would hit it."
From Andy Stewart, of Canada's Olympic baseball team, on how he estimated the attendance at a game against the Netherlands on Tuesday:
"I was looking for my wife and counting the people. After I got to one, I didn't have to go a lot higher."
And, finally, from Giants philosopher-manager Felipe Alou, who summarized the allure of the wild card in words we're pretty sure John McGraw never uttered:
"The wild card is the purgatory of the lost. It's a place souls go and wait millions of years until redemption. We have had a tough time, but there was always the possibility of the wild card. There are so many teams in this purgatory."
Comedians of the Month
It's time once again for the best of the late-night baseball humor:
THIRD PRIZE -- From David Letterman: "There was a big trade between the Cubs and the Boston Red Sox. What they did was exchange curses."
SECOND PRIZE -- From Jay Leno: "Concrete pieces from Wrigley Field in Chicago have been falling down. Well it's strange this time of year, because usually the Cubs don't collapse until the playoffs."
FIRST PRIZE -- From Letterman's Top 10 Signs It's Too Damn Hot: "It's so hot, Randy Johnson is demanding a trade to Montreal."
Zoologist of the month
Finally, as long as we're quoting Leno and Letterman, it's only fitting that we close with Wild Pitches' own official monologue-ist, Brewers coach-witticist Rich Donnelly. Today's topic is his recent trip to the Milwaukee Zoo.
"I went to see the apes, and they took me on a tour," Donnelly reported. "They told me they have a psychiatrist who works with the apes -- and so far, it's really helped the psychiatrist a lot. I told them that's funny, we have a psychiatrist for our players, and it works the same way. The players are teaching the psychiatrist all kinds of new stuff. He said, 'If I'd known this, I wouldn't have gone to college. I'd just walk in the clubhouse.' "
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
Adam Dunn just might have hit the most prodigious homer ever seen in baseball -- clear into another state!