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Thom Loverro: Sixty years later, still feeling Mickey Mantle's clout in D.C.

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Sports,MLB,Nationals,Thom Loverro

When Bryce Harper crushed a home run into the second deck at Nationals Park last Wednesday, the crowd marveled at the distance and sheer power. The sound of the ball leaving the bat was like no other we have heard.

Well, if you are quiet enough, maybe you can still hear the sound of perhaps the most legendary home run in Washington, one that took place at Griffith Stadium 60 years ago Wednesday.

Harper has been compared to a young Mickey Mantle in his brief baseball career, but the phenom has yet to pound a shot like Mantle did April 17, 1953, against the Senators. It disappeared from view at the old ballpark and found its way into baseball lore as one of the longest home runs in baseball history.

The distance -- 565 feet -- is the most recognizable one recorded for a home run. Topps even put out a special baseball card for the shot, with an arrow supposedly showing how far the home run went and "565 feet" posted over the arrow.

The story of Mantle's shot off Senators pitcher Chuck Stobbs has had more holes in it than the Redskins' secondary, however. Researchers have questioned the true distance.

Still, it was one hell of a shot for a 21-year-old.

With New York leading 2-1 in the fifth and Yogi Berra on first, the switch-hitting Mantle came to the plate batting right-handed against the left-handed Stobbs. Mantle took ball one but blasted the second shot out of Griffith Stadium. The ball reportedly grazed the large scoreboard on top of the left-field bleachers and continued until it reached Fifth Street NW.

Thanks to enterprising Yankees public relations man Red Patterson, the home run then got an identity. He supposedly ran out of the press box declaring, "This one has to be measured."

Patterson came up with a scuffed-up ball, saying a young boy had found it in a backyard at 434 Oakdale Place. The public relations man said he paced the distance from the place the ball landed to the ballpark and came up with 565 feet. And that was the story.

The next day, The Washington Post's headline blared, "Mantle's 565-Foot Homer Clears Leftfield Stands." But the New York Daily News declared it was 562 feet in its coverage, and the debate began about exactly how far the ball traveled. Some researchers have said it was likely about 510 feet.

Still, it was a home run like no one ever saw before in Washington. As the great Post columnist Shirley Povich noted, "Babe Ruth never did it. Jimmie Foxx never did it. Hank Greenberg never did it."

Something for Bryce Harper to shoot for.

Examiner columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

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