Massachusetts

Ted Williams Hits the Ball Into the Red Seat (Before the Red Seat Was There)

Photo courtesy Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

Ted Williams hits a homer. Photo courtesy Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

Ted Williams didn’t know whether he could pick up where he left off when he returned to the Red Sox in 1946 after spending 3-1/2 years in the Marine Corps during World War II.

He put those doubts to rest during a doubleheader at Fenway against Detroit on June 9, 1946

Williams got four hits in the first game. In the first inning of the second, he faced Fred Hutchinson and launched a ball into the bleachers. It was the longest home run ever hit in Fenway Park.

The ball traveled 502 feet and struck the straw hat of Joe Boucher, a 56-year-old construction engineer from Albany, N.Y. The ball careened off Boucher’s head and bounced a dozen rows higher. When Boucher took off his hat, he found the ball had put a hole in it.

He didn't get the ball, saying 'after it hit my head, I was no longer interested.'

And he asked the Boston Globe, "How far away must one sit to be safe in this park?"

The next day the Globe ran a page one photo of Boucher sticking his finger through the hole in his straw hat. The caption read 'Bullseye.'

“He threw me a changeup and I saw it coming," Williams remembered. "I picked it up fast and I just whaled into it."

Tigers catcher Paul Richards has a different memory of the game. He told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he was in the dugout with Hutchinson between the doubleheader games. Hutchinson said he didn't care if Williams was a superstar, he wouldn't let Williams hit like that. Said Richards,

The game starts now and Williams comes up. He stomps his foot and digs in and Hutch comes inside and Williams leans back. Next pitch, Hutch really comes inside and Williams hits the dirt. He gets up and digs in again. Williams hits the next pitch out of sight...By the third inning, Hutch was out. He's back in the clubhouse and he's relly fuming, but I can't resist. I sneak back there and leave the door open so I can get back out. I said to Hutch, 'You really showed that Williams.' Here comes a chair, flying at me, but I beat it to the door.

Hurricane?

ESPN for its Home Run Tracker analyzed meteorological data and tested various models to figure out how far the ball would have flown had Boucher not been sitting in the way. Analysts concluded the ball would have traveled 530 feet before landing on the ground, since the impact point was approximately 30 feet above field level had it not hit Joseph Boucher.

Physicist Alan Nathan said the ball would have gone 535 feet. He looked at meteorological records and estimated the temperature that day was 76 degrees and the wind was blowing 21 mph from the west. He figured Williams hit the ball at an unusually steep angle of 30.3 degrees, and figured the ball’s speed off the bat was 119.4 mph. Based on those assumptions, the ball would have gone 535 feet.

No one has come close, not even David Ortiz. Ortiz himself said a hurricane would have had to carry a ball that far.

The bleacher bench where Boucher sat was replaced by a seat, and in 1984 Red Sox owner Haywood Sullivan decided to install a red plastic seat to commemorate Williams’ mighty blast.

Boucher's grandson, William McGuire, later said, 'You never would find a more devoted Red Sox fan than my grandfather. WHen he didn't go home to Albany on weekends, he always went to Fenway Park. I used to hop on the train and go meet him when I was a kid. If they ever tear down Fenway, I want first dibs on that seat."

After Williams died on July 5, 2002, a rose appeared on the red seat.

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