In baseball, a home run (abbreviated HR) is scored when the ball is hit in such a way that the batter is able to circle all the bases, ending at home plate and scoring runs for himself and each runner who was already on base, with no errors by the defensive team on the play. In modern baseball, the feat is typically achieved by hitting the ball over the outfield fence between the foul poles (or making contact with either foul pole) without first touching the ground or outfield fence, resulting in an automatic home run. Circling the bases while the ball is in play on the field, an "inside-the-park" home run, is rare in modern baseball.
When a home run is scored, the batter is also credited with a hit and a run scored, and an RBI for each runner that scores, including himself. Likewise, the pitcher is recorded as having given up a hit, a run for each runner that scores including the batter, and an earned run each for the batter and for all baserunners who did not initially reach base on error.
Home runs are among the most popular aspects of baseball and, as a result, prolific home run hitters are usually the most popular among fans and consequently the highest paid by teams, hence the old saying, variously attributed to slugger Ralph Kiner, or to a teammate talking about Kiner, "Home run hitters drive Cadillacs, and singles hitters drive Fords."
A batted ball is also considered a home run if the ball touches any of the following while in flight, regardless of whether the ball subsequently rebounds back onto the playing field:
A home run accomplished in any of the above manners is an automatic home run. The ball is considered dead, and the batter and any preceding runners cannot be put out at any time while running the bases. However, if one or more runners fail to touch a base or one runner passes another before reaching home plate, that runner or runners can be called out on appeal per MLB Rule 7.10(b).
An automatic home run counts for the same number of runs whether it cleared the fence by 1 foot or by 200 feet, but the more impressive a home run's distance is, the more superlatives and colorful adjectives are likely to be applied to it by the media: "tattooed", "hammered", "drilled", "towering", "tape measure", "in orbit", etc.
In the early days of baseball, outfields were relatively much more spacious, reducing the likelihood of an over-the-fence home run, while increasing the likelihood of an inside-the-park home run, as a ball getting past an outfielder typically had more distance that it could roll before a fielder could track it down.
With outfields much less spacious and more uniformly designed than in the game's early days, inside-the-park home runs are now a rarity. They are usually the result of a ball being hit by a fast runner, coupled with an outfielder either misjudging the flight of the ball (e.g., diving and missing) or the ball taking an unexpected bounce, either way sending the ball into open space in the outfield and thereby allowing the batter-runner to circle the bases before the defensive team can put him out.
If any defensive play on an inside-the-park home run is labeled an error by the official scorer, a home run is not scored; instead, it is scored as a single, double, etc., and the batter-runner and any applicable preceding runners are said to have taken all additional bases on error. All runs scored on such a play, however, still count.
An example of a diving miss was committed by Torii Hunter of the Minnesota Twins in Game 2 of the 2006 ALDS vs. the Oakland Athletics at the Metrodome. He came in on a fly ball hit by Mark Kotsay, dove and completely missed the ball. It rolled behind him toward the center field area, with a fence 408 feet from home plate, while Kotsay dashed around the bases.
An example of an unexpected bounce occurred during the 2007 Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 10, 2007. Ichiro Suzuki of the American League team hit a fly ball off the right-center field wall, which caromed in the opposite direction from where National League right fielder Ken Griffey, Jr. was expecting it to go. By the time the ball was relayed, Ichiro had already crossed the plate standing up. This was the first inside-the-park home run in All-Star Game history, and led to Ichiro being named the game's MVP.
The most famous post-season inside the park home run was probably the one hit by Mule Haas of the Philadelphia Athletics in Game 4 of the 1929 World Series at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. In the eighth inning, the Cubs led 8-0 and were six outs away from bringing the Series to a 2-2 tie, until disaster struck. The late afternoon, autumn sun angle at Shibe tended to be almost directly in the eyes of the center fielder. This fact, along with a center field corner that was about from home plate, caught up to Chicago Cubs center fielder Hack Wilson, who lost Haas' fly ball in the sun. It sailed past Wilson, allowing Haas to round the bases while the short and chunky Wilson futilely chased after it. This punctuated a 10-run inning that effectively doomed the Cubs in that Series.
A grand slam occurs when the bases are "loaded" (that is, there are base runners standing at first, second, and third base) and the batter hits a home run. According to The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, the term originated in the card game of contract bridge. An inside-the-park grand slam is a grand slam without the ball leaving the field, and it is very rare, due to the relative rarity of loading the bases along with the significant rarity (nowadays) of inside-the-park home runs.
Two World Series have ended via the "walk-off" home run. The first was the 1960 World Series when Bill Mazeroski of the Pittsburgh Pirates hit a 9th inning solo home run in the 7th game of the series off New York Yankees pitcher Ralph Terry to give the Pirates the World Championship. The second time was the 1993 World Series when Joe Carter of the Toronto Blue Jays hit a 9th inning 3-run home run off Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Mitch Williams in Game 6 of the series.
Such a home run can also be called a "sudden death" or "sudden victory" home run. That usage has lessened as "walk-off home run" has gained favor. Along with Mazeroski's 1960 shot, the most famous walk-off or sudden-death homer would probably be the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" hit by Bobby Thomson to win the 1951 National League pennant for the New York Giants.
In baseball, back-to-back can refer to two consecutive players hitting a home run, or it could refer to an individual hitting home runs in two consecutive at bats. The former usage is probably more common.
When two consecutive batters each hit a home run, this is described as back-to-back home runs. It is still considered back-to-back even if both batters hit their home runs off of different pitchers. A third batter hitting a home run is commonly referred to as back-to-back-to-back, although at that point the anatomical analogy no longer works. Four home runs in a row by consecutive batters has only occurred six times in the history of Major League Baseball. Following convention, this is called back-to-back-to-back-to-back. The most recent occurrence was on August 14, 2008, when the Chicago White Sox hit four in a row against the Kansas City Royals in U.S. Cellular Field as Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, Alexei Ramirez and Juan Uribe homered off pitchers Joel Peralta (the first three) and Robinson Tejada. Two pitchers have surrendered back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs; Paul Foytack on July 31, 1963, and Chase Wright on April 22, 2007. Come-from-behind back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs occured on September 18, 2006. Trailing 9-5 to the San Diego Padres in the 9th inning, Jeff Kent, J.D. Drew, Russell Martin, and Marlon Anderson of the Los Angeles Dodgers hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs to tie the game (The Dodgers won the game in the 10th).
Simple back-to-back home runs are a relatively frequent occurrence. If a pitcher gives up a homer, he might have his concentration broken, and might alter his normal approach in an attempt to "make up for it" by striking out the next batter with some fastballs. Sometimes the next batter will be expecting that, and will capitalize on it. A notable back-to-back home run of that type in World Series play involved "Babe Ruth's called shot" in 1932, which was accompanied by various Ruthian theatrics, yet the pitcher, Charlie Root, was allowed to stay in the game. He delivered just one more pitch, which Lou Gehrig drilled out of the park for a back-to-back shot, after which Root was removed from the game.
Another notable pair of back-to-back home runs occurred on September 14, 1990, when Ken Griffey, Sr. and Ken Griffey, Jr. hit back-to-back home runs, off Kirk McCaskill, the only father-and-son duo to do so in Major League history.
Likewise, individuals hitting home runs in consecutive at bats is not unusual, but three or more is rare. The record for consecutive home runs by a batter under any circumstances is 4.
Of the fifteen players (through 2006) who have hit 4 in one game, six have hit them consecutively. 28 other batters have hit four consecutive across two games.
Bases on balls do not count as at-bats, and Ted Williams holds the record for consecutive home runs across the most games, 4 in four games played, during September 17-22, 1957, for the Red Sox. Williams hit a pinch-hit homer on the 17th; walked as a pinch-hitter on the 18th; there was no game on the 19th; hit another pinch-homer on the 20th; homered and then was lifted for a pinch-runner after at least one walk, on the 21st; and homered after at least one walk on the 22nd. All in all, he had 4 walks interspersed among his 4 homers.
In World Series play, Reggie Jackson was the most recent to hit a record three in one Series game, the final game in 1977. Those were consecutive in his first three at bats. He had also hit one in his last at bat the previous game, so he owns the record for consecutive homers across two Series games, which again is 4.
Though multiple home run cycles have been recorded in collegiate baseball, the only home run cycle in a professional baseball game belongs to Tyrone Horne, who stroked four long balls for the minor league, Double-A Arkansas Travelers in a game against the San Antonio Missions on July 27, 1998. A major league player has come close to hitting for the home run cycle twice. The first was on April 26, 2005 when Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees hit 3 home runs off Los Angeles Angels pitcher Bartolo Colón. Rodriguez hit a 3-run home run, 2-run home run, and a grand slam in the first, third, and fourth innings, respectively. He later, in the bottom of the eighth inning, just missed a solo home run, lining out to Jeff DaVanon in deep center field.. The second was on May 16, 2008 when Jayson Werth of the Philadelphia Phillies hit 3 home runs off Toronto Blue Jays pitchers David Purcey and Jesse Litsch. Werth hit a 3-run home run, a grand slam, and a solo home run in the second, third, and fifth innings, respectively.
In the early days of the game, when the ball was less lively and the ballparks generally had very large outfields, most home runs were of the inside-the-park variety. The first home run ever hit in the National League was by Ross Barnes of the Chicago White Stockings (now known as the Chicago Cubs), in 1876. The home "run" was literally descriptive. Home runs over the fence were rare, and only in ballparks where a fence was fairly close. Hitters were discouraged from trying to hit home runs, with the conventional wisdom being that if they tried to do so they would simply fly out. This was a serious concern in the 19th century, because in baseball's early days a ball caught after one bounce was still an out. The emphasis was on place-hitting and what is now called "manufacturing runs" or "small ball".
The home run's place in baseball changed dramatically when the live-ball era began after World War I. First, the materials and manufacturing processes improved significantly, making the ball somewhat more lively. Batters such as Babe Ruth and Rogers Hornsby took full advantage of rules changes that were instituted during the 1920s, particularly prohibition of the spitball, and the requirement that balls be replaced when worn or dirty. Along with the baseball being easier to see and capable of being hit farther, as the game's popularity boomed more outfield seating was built, shrinking the size of the outfield and increasing the chances of a long fly ball resulting in a home run. The teams with the sluggers, typified by the New York Yankees, became the championship teams, and other teams had to change their focus from the "inside game" to the "power game" in order to keep up.
Prior to 1931, a ball that bounced over an outfield fence during a major league game was considered a home run. The rule was changed to require the ball to clear the fence on the fly, and balls that reached the seats on a bounce became ground rule doubles in most parks. A carryover of the old rule is that if a player deflects a ball over the outfield fence without it touching the ground, it is a home run.
Also, until approximately that time, the ball had to not only go over the fence in fair territory, but to land in the bleachers in fair territory or to still be visibly fair when disappearing behind a wall. The rule stipulated "fair when last seen" by the umpires. Photos from that era in ballparks, such as the Polo Grounds and Yankee Stadium, show ropes strung from the foul poles to the back of the bleachers, or a second "foul pole" at the back of the bleachers, in a straight line with the foul line, as a visual aid for the umpire. Ballparks still use a visual aid much like the ropes; a net or screen attached to the foul poles on the fair side has replaced ropes. As with American football, where a touchdown once required a literal "touch down" of the ball in the end zone but now only requires the "breaking of the [vertical] plane" of the goal line, in baseball the ball need only "break the plane" of the fence in fair territory (unless the balls is caught by a player who is in play, in which case the batter is called out).
Babe Ruth's 60th home run in 1927 was somewhat controversial, because it landed barely in fair territory in the stands down the right field line. Ruth lost a number of home runs in his career due to the when-last-seen rule. Bill Jenkinson, in The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs, estimates that Ruth lost at least 50 and as many as 78 in his career due to this rule.
Further, the rules once stipulated that an over-the-fence home run in a sudden-victory situation would only count for as many bases as was necessary to "force" the winning run home. For example, if a team trailed by two runs with the bases loaded, and the batter hit a fair ball over the fence, it only counted as a triple, because the runner immediately ahead of him had technically already scored the game-winning run. That rule was changed in the 1920s as home runs became increasingly frequent and popular. Babe Ruth's career total of 714 would have been one higher had that rule not been in effect in the early part of his career.
The all-time, verified professional baseball record for home runs is held by Sadaharu Oh, a former player and manager of the Yomiuri Giants and current manager of the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in Japan's league which is called Nippon Professional Baseball. Oh holds the all-time home run world record, having hit 868 home runs in his career.
In Major League Baseball, the record is 762, held by Barry Bonds, who broke Hank Aaron's record on August 7, 2007, when he hit his 756th home run at AT&T Park. Only five other major league players have hit as many as 600: Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey, Jr. (611 and counting) and Sammy Sosa (609). The single season record is 73, set by Barry Bonds in 2001.
Negro League slugger Josh Gibson's Baseball Hall of Fame plaque says he hit "almost 800" home runs in his career. The Guinness Book of World Records lists Gibson's lifetime home run total at 800. Gibson's true total is not known, in part due to inconsistent record keeping in the Negro Leagues. The 1993 edition of the MacMillan Baseball Encyclopedia attempted to compile a set of Negro League records, and subsequent work has expanded on that effort. Those records demonstrate that Gibson and Ruth were of comparable power. The 1993 book had Gibson hitting 146 home runs in the 501 "official" Negro League games they were able to account for in his 17-year career, about 1 homer every 3.4 games. Babe Ruth, in 22 seasons (several of them in the dead-ball era), hit 714 in 2503 games, or 1 homer every 3.5 games. The large gap in the numbers for Gibson reflect the fact that Negro League clubs played relatively far fewer league games and many more "barnstorming" or exhibition games during the course of a season, than did the major league clubs of that era.
Other legendary home run hitters include Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle (who on September 10, 1960, mythically hit "the longest home run ever" at an estimated distance of , although this was measured after the ball stopped rolling ), Reggie Jackson, Harmon Killebrew, Ernie Banks, Mike Schmidt, Dave Kingman, Sammy Sosa (who has hit 60 or more home runs in a season 3 times but has never led the league in that category), Mark McGwire, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Eddie Mathews. The longest verifiable home run distance is about , by Babe Ruth, to straightaway center field at Tiger Stadium (then called Navin Field and prior to the double-deck), which landed nearly across the intersection of Trumbull and Cherry.
The location of where Hank Aaron's record 755th home run landed has been monumented in Milwaukee. The hallowed spot sits outside Miller Park, where the Milwaukee Brewers currently play. Similarly, the point where Aaron's 715th homer landed, upon breaking Ruth's career record in 1974, is marked in the Turner Field parking lot.
Player nicknames that describe home run-hitting prowess include:
Past single-season home run record holders by average home runs per game:
Number of home runs in the season divided by number of games in schedule (not games played)
Selected list of pitchers giving up record-breaking home runs:
This includes only the home runs that broke a record set in a previous year, not home runs that extended a record within the same year.
On August 28, 2008, instant replay review became available in MLB for reviewing calls in accordance with the above proposal. It was first utilized on September 3, 2008 in a game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees hit what appeared to be a home run, but the ball hit a catwalk behind the foul pole. It was at first called a home run, until Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon argued the call, and the umpires decided to review the play. After 2 minutes and 15 seconds, the umpires came back and ruled it a home run.