Inside Pitch

Sept. 12, 1930: Future Hall of Famer Al Lopez hits the last 'bounce' home run in big league history

 

BY CONNOR O'GARA
SEPTEMBER 10, 2012

Hall of Famer Al Lopez was a solid major league catcher whose record of 1,918 games caught stood for more than 40 years. (NBHOF Library)

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – The dimensions were quirky enough as it was at Ebbets Field.

The former home of the Brooklyn Robins and Dodgers was aligned with the home run fence 382.83 feet to left, 466 feet to center and 296 feet to right field. A true-pull hitter from the right side of the plate would need to muscle up to clear the Ebbets Field wall on a fly. That is, of course, unless a hitter got a friendly bounce.

On Sept. 12, 1930 – 82 years ago this week – the unconventionally shaped ballpark that was home to World Series and pennant races played host to a different kind of historical moment.

With two on in the fourth inning, Robins catcher Al Lopez – who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager in 1977 – roped a pitch from Cincinnati Reds pitcher Ray Kolp deep into the Ebbets Field alley. The ball hit the outfield grass and bounded over the left field wall. But instead of being awarded two bases, Lopez’s modern day “ground-rule double” was correctly called a home run.

Lopez’s “bounce” home run was the last one ever recorded in Major League Baseball after the rule was changed in the National League following the 1930 season. The American League had already adopted the ground-rule double prior to the 1929 campaign.

All home runs now had to clear the outfield wall on a fly. The ground-rule double, as it came to be known, would be called on hits like Lopez’s where a ball bounces in fair territory and into the stands. Just like hitters, baserunners would automatically be awarded two bases on a ground-rule double.

Ironically enough, there has been some debate about the play’s terminology. While some unconditionally accepted the term, some announcers came up with what they believe is a more appropriate way to phrase the sequence.

The term “ground rule” is supposed to be associated with each individual ballpark, meaning different rules apply in different ballparks. The ground-rule double, however, is a league-wide rule that is enforced at every ballpark. Announcers have used the terms “bounce doubles,” “rulebook doubles” and “automatic doubles” to describe the play.

In the first year of MLB-wide bounce doubles, Boston Red Sox outfielder Earl Webb set a single-season record by slugging 67 two-base hits. That mark still ranks as the greatest of all time 81 years later.

Connor O’Gara was the 2012 public relations intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development

 

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