Sunday, April 6, 2003

Crosley was home of HRs before new park

Former Reds field led the NL in homers during the '50s

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

With 20 home runs hit in the first five games, Great American Ball Park is revealing itself as a launching pad.

But unless it maintains the pace, it will have nothing on the former Reds park to which it pays tribute in several places.

Crosley Field led the National League in home runs four seasons in the 1950s. The numbers are relative, of course. Crosley Field yielded 219 home runs in 1957.

Great American is on pace to yield more home runs (324) than the 303 that Coors Field in Denver yielded in 1999.

It is highly unlikely that Great American will continue that pace.

An average of four home runs a game are being hit at Great American. The Reds' Adam Dunn hit two Saturday, both into the Sun Deck in right field.

But when it came to league-leading home run numbers, Crosley Field was in a league of its own in the 1950s.

Crosley was the Reds' West End home from 1912 to June 1970. It led all National League parks in home runs in 1954, 1956, 1957 and 1959.

Today, there are more home runs being hit throughout baseball because of livelier baseballs, worse pitching, smaller ballparks and stronger players.

Here's how many home runs Crosley yielded in those years:

• 1954 - 199

• 1956 - 203

• 1957 - 219

• 1959 - 185

A big reason was the insertion of temporary seating in front of the Sun/Moon Deck in right field before the 1950 season. That shortened the home run distance down the line by 24 feet (366 feet down to 342 feet).

Also helping was the emergence of Reds slugging first baseman Ted Kluszewski, who averaged 43 home runs a season from 1953-56. But Big Klu, who hit amazing home runs, wasn't personally aided all that much by the Goat Run.

The Goat Run was in place in 1950, and 1952-58. Even when the Goat Run came down before the '59 season, Crosley was still a good home run park, again leading the NL that season.

Coors Field yielded an annual average of 252 home runs its first eight seasons (1995-2002).


Kevin Kelly contributed to this report.

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