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Fenway Park, Rowdy Tellez, Statcast, Google Maps, and a ruler

Spying on the Boston’s famous ballpark to measure Tellez’s monster home run

MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at Minnesota Twins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

This past Thursday, Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Rowdy Tellez hit a historically gigantic home run. Statcast estimated the blast to travel 505 feet. This breaks two records: 1) the longest home run in the history of Fenway Park, and 2) the deepest bomb ever measured by Statcast (since 2015).

That is one impressive dinger! Unfortunately, the baseball Twitter collective can’t let us have nice things. Widespread skepticism followed regarding the actual distance traveled.

The Ted Williams red seat shown in the @OnlyHomers tweet is allegedly 502 feet from home plate. If that distance is to be believed, the Tellez blast falls considerably short.

Our best frame of reference on any home run is the outfield fence, and there’s reason to doubt the veracity of Fenway’s stated dimensions. If we indeed have a conflict between the fence markings and Statcast, it’s unfair to assume either is automatically true.

Fortunately, thanks to modern and not-so-modern technology, there is a solution! Google Maps can show us satellite images of nearly any location on Earth, including Fenway Park. If we know the scale, we can measure the distances of the outfield fence. Time to break out the ruler!

Here is baseball’s lopsided jewel in all its splendor:

Google Maps gives an estimated scale in the bottom right corner, which works out to about 1.6 cm = 50 ft on my computer. However, this is only an estimate. A more accurate scale would be to measure a known distance, such as the length between the bases.

On my computer, it’s 2.75 cm from second base to third, which are the clearest bases to see in the image. Obviously, this gives us a scale of 2.75 cm = 90 ft. To check my measuring and my math, I found a distance of 3.9 cm from home plate to second base. According to our functional scale, that would be 127.63 ft. In actuality, that distance is 127.25 feet. That’s accurate enough for me.

Here are the outfield fence distances as stated by the Red Sox:

  • 310 ft to left field foul pole
  • 390 ft in dead center
  • 420 ft in the triangle (deepest part of the park)
  • 302 ft to Pesky Pole in right field

Here are my measurements using Google Maps and a ruler:

  • 314 ft to left field foul pole
  • 396 ft to dead center
  • 429 ft in the triangle
  • 304 ft to Pesky Pole in right field

Given that my second base test was a little bit long, it appears that my measurements match the stated dimensions. There are only three possibilities for this:

  1. The Red Sox are telling the truth.
  2. Google Maps is part of the conspiracy to hide the true dimensions.
  3. I am a conspirator myself. I’m lying to you right now.

You can believe whatever you want. Should you indulge possibility #1, that means either the Tellez homer really did travel 505 feet and the Twitterverse is bad at estimation, or Statcast is wrong.

On my computer screen, 505 feet from home plate would be 15.4 cm. Here’s what that looks like:

505 feet is just under the beginning of the second deck. The Tellez homer clearly didn’t travel quite that far, but Statcast measures the distance a ball would travel with nothing in the way. The stands are elevated above the playing field, thereby truncating the actual distance of the ball. Would the blast have reached the red dot on level ground? It’s hard to say.

What we can say conclusively is that Tellez’s home run did not reach the Ted Williams red seat. That is almost certainly 502 feet away from home plate, but it’s also elevated. If we give the Splendid Splinter the benefit of assuming an unobstructed path, his famous blast would likely have traveled much further than 502.

The problem lies in the evolution of home run measurement. The term “tape measure home run” was invented for Mickey Mantle, who hit a ball clear out of the Washington Senators’ Griffith Stadium in in 1953. A sports writer took out an actual tape measure and found the ball in a housing development 565 feet from home plate.

Impressive as Mantle’s shot may have been, the famous measurement was where the ball stopped rolling, not the first bounce. Williams’ red seat home run indicates where it first landed, but doesn’t account for change in elevation. Now we have Statcast, which declares how far Tellez’s homer would have traveled with nothing in the way.

All three are different, and there is no correct way to measure, but it’s important to adjust when comparing homers of different eras. If Statcast could’ve measured the Williams home run, it would likely have spit out a number much greater than 502.

As for the question at hand: how far did Rowdy Tellez really hit that ball? You can make your own conclusions.

UPDATE: The ball did not travel 505 feet.

Oh well.

Daniel R. Epstein is an elementary special education teacher and president of the Somerset County Education Association. In addition to BtBS, he writes at Tweets @depstein1983