I was really entertained by last night's All-Star Game Home Run Hitting Contest, and especially the sight of Josh Hamilton hitting balls high into the upper deck at Yankee Stadium.
Hamilton and those other guys showed tremendous power. It was a great show.
But I agree with Reggie Jackson, who was quoted by The Associated Press in this morning's Observer-Dispatch as saying that the sluggers of his generation and earlier were just as strong and hit the ball just as far as today's stars.
He mentioned Harmon Killebrew, Frank Howarrd, Willie McCovey, Dick Allen, Willi Stargell, Rico Carty, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, Gorman Thomas.
He didn't say Babe Ruth, because he didn't have to. Most people seem to think Ruth always was a fat old man with spindly legs. The truth is, he was 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds in his prime, and one of the greatest athletes of the century. He was one of the top pitchers in the American League before becoming a full-time outfielder, and supposedly was sensational at every sport he tried, especially bowling and golf.
Today's athletes might be bigger on average, better trained and somewhat stronger than the old-timers, but don't think the guys from 30, 40, 50 and more years ago were not great athletes and big, strong men. And, you can only hit a baseball so hard and so far anyway.
Certainly, few men ever hit a baseball harder than Jackson did. I saw him standing with David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez on TV last night, and he looked like a shrimp next to them, but I know they couldn't hit it any harder. The guy was a beast in his heyday, and in 1971, at the All-Star Game at Tiger Stadium, he hit the most monumental home run I've ever seen - off his bat and rocketing into the light tower on the right field roof in a split second.
It was beyond belief. I seem to remember the crowd issuing a gigantic gasp, and the television announcers - I can't remember who they were - were speechless.