The Longest Home Run at Fenway Park

As any Red Sox fan will tell you, the Lone Red seat in the right field bleachers is exactly 503 ft from home plate.  It represents the landing spot of Ted Williams epic HR blast on June 9, 1946.  It was his second game of the afternoon BTW.

The only one to come close since then was Manny Ramirez on June 23, 2001.  He hit two mammoth shots that day – officially measuring in at 463 and 501 ft.

Below is radial plot showing the Maximum and Average wind speeds in mph per direction.  This is based on the the 3231 games played between 1970 and 2009.  To get an idea of the park’s orientation look here.

As a reminder, the plot is a “wind rose” which means based on the orientation of Fenway Park, 180 is blowing out to left and around 270 is blowing out to the short porch in right field (aka “Williamsburg” back in the day).

Based on historical weather data, I’ve added a point (“T”) to indicate the wind speed and direction on June 9, 1946.  The “M” indicates the wind at the time of Manny’s HR.  Clearly Ted’s HR was aided by a strong (15mph, at least) wind which blew from the West for the entire afternoon.  In the 40 years of data reviewed only one day had stronger wind conditions (May 13, 1979 – 3 HR’s hit in an 8-2 Red Sox win over the A’s).

Obviously, we’ll never know the exact distances and wind speeds.  But I present this as  evidence that Manny’s HR was far more impressive that Williams’.

Impact of weather at Fenway

From my thesis dataset which combines 40 years of games at Fenway Park with the weather at the start of the game. These plots were done using R’s radial.plot() in the plotrix package.

First is the number of games held “per Direction”. So we can see that the most common direction for winds at Fenway is from the Southwest at 200 degrees:

This actually has me a little bit worried. Though hard to tell from the graphic, the lowest number is 23 games at due North (360 degrees), but you can generally see that relatively few games are played with winds from the North-Northeast.

If we then take some baseball statistics like hits and divide by the above graphic we get this:

This seems to make sense:

  • More HR’s get hit when the wind is blow out – well duh
  • Interestingly, I’d expected the number of singles to be roughly equal for all directions, but there are those two spikes 20 and 40 degrees.  When the wind is blowing in do they take a break from swinging for the fences?
  • Could the builders of Fenway have oriented the park to take advantage of prevailing winds? I’ll have to do some research.

Growing up in New England, I’ve always equated “nor’easter” with a winter storm – they don’t play many games in the winter or during nor’easters. Still the dearth of games which actually have winds from the North bothers me.

UPDATE (3/27/2012):  In Glenn Stout’s book, “Fenway 1912”, he says the park was oriented to match the previously existing field at the site – Huntington Avenue Grounds. Also, rule 1.04 of MLB’s official rules states “it is desirable that the line from home base through the pitchers plate to second base shall run East-Northeast.”  According to www.baseball-almanac.com, this is supposed to be so the setting sun shines in right field where fewer balls are hit.  So it seems to make sense that an older park like Fenway would be built to follow this rule.

UPDATE (3/30/2012):  Dr. Steve at CCSU Weather tells me that my wind rose looks exactly as it’s supposed to since the actual weather data I used was from the Logan Airport station where due to its position on the coast, it tends to only have either land or sea breezes. Also as I stated above, they don’t play many Sox games during nor’easters.  The weather between Fenway and Logan is probably not exactly the same, but I think they’ll be close enough AND I think they’ll be consistently different.  Still there is no weather station at Fenway, and the game time reports I’ve seen are over the place (literally, when compared to the weather at Logan) so if the conditions are not consistent between the two locations well then I’ll probably find no affects on runs scored.