As I read the recent story by Michael Bleach about soon-to-be-inducted Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame member Jack Mugford, I couldn't help but recall a story I ran across many years ago while perusing the dusty Gazette files.
The story, written in the early 1950's, described a mammoth home run hit by the late Mugford during a district tournament game played at old Hubbell Field in Houghton.
The writer (I don't recall his name) said the long blast carried well over the light towers in left field. It was estimated to have traveled close to 350 feet, which is very long way for a softball to go.
I had the chance to talk to Jack Mugford many years later while he was watching his son Keith play in an Over 35 Softball League game in the early 1980s.
Jack, who still had the forearms of a blacksmith, laughed when I asked about the long homer.
"I did hit that one pretty good," he chuckled, adding little more to the story.
Fast-pitch softball historian Gordy Schaaf has told me that Mugford blasted some of the longest circuit blasts he had ever seen.
"Jack Mugford had amazing power, he could really belt the ball," Schaaf commented.
"But Topper Ricci also hit many tape measure shots in his time. And Keith Mugford and Arne Putala were two other guys who could hit the ball a long way."
On the baseball scene, there have been several players who were noted for their power. Leo Durocher of Stanton and Don Wanhala of Tapiola were two mentioned often.
Personally, I think that Bud Patrick might have hit as many long balls as anyone.
Playing for Wolverine in the Twilight League, Patrick belted towering, majestic-looking shots.
A dead-pull right-handed batter, he probably hit just as many over the fence that just went foul. The distant fire department in Tapiola still has dents from some of those.
For the Granddaddy of baseball homers, that honor probably would have to go to Fred "Fats' Haapala. While playing Hancock in the 1950s, Haapala socked a ball that cleared the center field fence at the old Driving Park.
The distance to center field at the Driving Park in those days was something like 512 feet.
Slow-pitch softball has also produced some gigantic homers, but I tend to discount many of those because of the nature of the game and the sometimes "loaded" aluminum bats used.
Craig Ludwig, the former Montreal Canadiens' and Dallas Stars defenseman and native of Eagle River, Wis., certainly unloaded some of the longest shots while playing here with an all-star team.
He cleared the fence in Hancock by prodigious distances, some likely sailing 350-plus feet.
And I clearly recall former Michigan State football player Kim Bokamper hitting one at the Karvakko's Tournament.
Bokamper, who was 6-foot-5 and 290 pounds, went over the centerield flag pole in Tapiola by 40 feet with a shot that is still probably going.
Tape-measure home runs are as American as apple pie, Chevrolet and baseball. That's why they are remembered for so long ...