Griffey goes yard, and then some
”It doesn’t count. It wasn’t in a game.”
-Ken Griffey Jr.
The IBM Tale of the Tape provided an instant estimate of 445 feet.
News stories the next day alerted readers to the fact that the Warehouse stands approximately 470 feet from home plate.
And who knows just how far that mythical baseball off the bat of Ken Griffey Jr. has traveled in the re-tellings of the 47,891 spectators who weathered broiling temperatures at Camden Yards that July day to witness history.
Baseball, like fishing, makes exaggerators of us all.
Given the discrepancies, it may be best to follow the lead of the man himself and keep things simple. Said Griffey after he was the first – and to date, the only – batter to hit the Warehouse at Camden Yards on the fly: “That’s a l-o-o-o-n-g way.”
Griffey became the ultimate bronze bomber during the 1992 All-Star Game Home Run Derby on July 12, 1993. The bronze baseball that adorns the Warehouse to commemorate Griffey’s home run on that humid Monday afternoon lists the distance at 465 feet, and so it shall be.
A heightened sense of excitement surrounded the ’92 Derby as fans and players alike anticipated that one of baseball’s best players surely would reach the iconic brick building in left field for the first time in the ballpark’s brief history.
Bobby Bonilla, the New York Mets slugger who would later hit two blasts of his own onto Eutaw Street, went so far as to name names before the contest, correctly predicting that Griffey would be the player to hit the Warehouse.
“The only way I’ll do that,” Griffey responded, “is if I’m standing at second base with a fungo in my hands.”
The 23-year-old batter didn’t think it was meant to be, and after several rounds of Derby action it seemed the fans had come to share that sentiment. Never mind that an estimated nine baseballs had landed on Eutaw Street, including David Justice’s near miss of the Warehouse that hit a soft drink stand five feet short of the wall and instigated a wrestling match between two fans, one of whom threw the other to the pavement in a headlock. The fans were ready to call it a day.
One of those fans, seventeen-year-old Mark Pallack, had started his journey home to Westminster, Md., when he suddenly spotted Griffey’s home run ball rolling on the Eutaw Street concrete. Pallack pounced, as did some of the estimated 300 fans beyond the right field wall who piled on top of the teenager and joined in the fight for the souvenir. He wasn’t letting go.
“I wasn’t even trying to catch balls,” said Pallack. “I was just getting ready to leave when I saw the ball in the air. I grabbed it and went into a crouch so no one could take it away from me.”
Pallack, who met Griffey in the lockerroom following the competition, ultimately gave the ball to the team’s public relations director in exchange for some baseballs signed by the Orioles.
Following the historic hit, Griffey offered a smile, the crowd roared its appreciation, and the competition continued.
After two overtime sessions, defending Derby champion Juan Gonzalez of the Rangers retained his title by a score of 12-11. Gonzalez made his own mark on the competition, as he became the first player to hit a fair ball off the third-deck facade in left field and the wall behind the center field fence. But his were the less celebrated feats.
As for Griffey, he remarked humbly to the press, “It doesn’t count. It wasn’t in a game.” Nevertheless, he made certain to identify the accomplishment in his inscription on the baseball.
Wrote Griffey: “1993 All-Star. Off the Wall.”