By Jon Fishman, Executive Editor, Lerner Sports
From baby animals and blooming flowers to rainstorms and galoshes, signs of spring have finally arrived after a typically long Minnesota winter. For many sports fans, spring also signals the start of Major League Baseball (MLB).
For me, spring was more special than usual this year because MLB’s Opening Day coincided with the appearance on bookstore shelves of award-winning sports author Matt Doeden’s It’s Outta Here! The Might and Majesty of the Home Run. The action-packed text covers every aspect of baseball’s biggest hits, from the longest and strangest home runs to the physics of hitting the ball out of the park.
With baseball on my mind, I asked Doeden a few questions about the book and what he thinks about the current state of MLB.
Do you have a favorite home run featured in the book?
I have two favorites, for different reasons. The first is Babe Ruth’s 1919 home run that traveled an estimated 587 feet (179 m). This one fascinates me because it happened before home run distances were formally measured. It was a guess by media members. Did it really go that far? Was it a tall tale? The mystery gives it a mythic feeling, and the fan in me finds that irresistible.
Second, for strictly personal reasons, I would choose Kirby Puckett’s game-winning blast in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series. I’m a born-and-raised Minnesota Twins fan, and I remember watching that amazing series in 1991 when I was just a kid. The memory of that home run, and the nail-biting Game 7 that followed, is one of the best and most enduring sports-related memories I have.
Who is your favorite slugger of all time?
I’ll give a nod to Josh Gibson here. Having written a book on the Negro Leagues (The Negro Leagues: Celebrating Baseball’s Unsung Heroes) and Gibson’s contributions to the sport, it’s fascinating to imagine what he might have done if he was allowed to play in the majors. Would he and Ruth have been back-and-forth, battling year after year for the title of baseball’s greatest slugger? How much fun would that have been to see? He was robbed of the chance, though, and so were we as fans.
What was the most surprising thing you discovered in your research for this book?
By far, the chapter on the physics of the home run was the most revealing to me. Of course I’d heard terms like exit velocity and launch angle before, but learning about some of the subtler factors—like high humidity and air density—and how they affect the ball’s flight was enlightening.
Do you think MLB should make any changes to make home runs harder to hit?
I think MLB needs to be really careful about how much they actively interfere with the game. I fear that it would be too easy to overcorrect for perceived problems. If aspects of the game such as the height of the pitcher’s mound change from year to year, it makes comparing seasons and players very difficult.
Do you think the 2021 baseball season will be another big year for home runs like we saw in 2019?
MLB has changed the composition of baseballs to reduce home run rates for 2021, but the league is also taking steps to more closely monitor the ability of pitchers to doctor baseballs by scuffing them or using substances such as pine tar. I’m not sure whether one step or the other wins out, or whether they will cancel each and have no effect. My guess is that it will still be a big year for the long ball, but not at the rates we saw in 2019.
Praise for It’s Outta Here!
★ “Holy cow! It is high; it is far; it is gone! A game winner.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews
“[E]ngaging and exciting.” – Kiss the Book
Check out more Author and Illustrator Interviews on the Lerner blog here!