Josh Bell joins Willie Stargell on list of longest Pirates home runs
Josh Bell’s 472-foot home run at PNC Park on Wednesday created plenty of chatter around town, but it pales in comparison to two struck by legendary Pirates Hall of Famer Willie Stargell.
It also wasn’t Bell’s longest this season — he hit a 474-foot shot April 7 — and only tied teammate Jung Ho Kung for the third-longest by the Pirates since 2015, according to Statcast.
Bell’s two tape-measure blasts this season rank fourth and fifth all-time at PNC Park.
Here is a list of the five longest documented home runs in Pirates history. Some of the distances are estimated. Statcast didn’t start tracking distances until 2015.
1. Willie Stargell, May 20, 1978, Olympic Stadium, Montreal, 535 feet
Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson said Stargell had “power enough to hit home runs in any park, including Yellowstone.”
Stargell hit 475 home runs in a 21-year career, including two of the inside-the-park variety at cavernous Forbes Field.
He arrived at Stade Olympique only two home runs shy of tying Duke Snider on the all-time list. Serendipitously, Snider was part of the Expos’ broadcast team that day. Stargell hit two off Expos pitcher Wayne Twitchell, but the second one — with John Milner on base — was the most memorable.
“He made perfect contact,” Twitchell later said in an article on baseballhall.org. “This ball made it to the upper deck in a heartbeat. It was like trying to watch a tracer bullet — you could hear it when it hit. I was kind of in shock.”
“One of the most awesome things I have ever seen in my life,” Expos pitcher Rudy May said.
The baseball kept carrying and appeared like it might hit the far side of the dome. But it landed in the upper deck in right field.
The Expos painted the seat where Stargell’s blast landed in Pirates yellow. It was relocated to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ontario, after the Expos moved to Washington, D.C., and became the Nationals.
Stargell, apparently, liked hitting long home runs in Montreal.
Prior to playing their games in Olympic Stadium, the Expos played in Jarry Park, which had a public pool outside the right-field scoreboard. The team presented Stargell with a life preserver to commemorate “all the swimmers he chased out of the pool.”
2. Stargell, Aug. 5, 1969, Dodger Stadium, 506 feet
Hall of Fame Dodgers pitcher Don Sutton didn’t surrender this home run, but he saw it.
Later, he commented in a baseballhall.org article, “I never saw anything like it. (Stargell) doesn’t just hit pitchers. He takes away their dignity.”
The solo blast off Alan Foster was the first to clear every part of Dodger Stadium and land in the parking lot.
“I never saw anything like it,” Sutton said.
3. Pedro Alvarez, PNC Park, Oct. 4, 2015, 479 feet
Alvarez’s home run was struck on the last game of the season against Cincinnati Reds pitcher Josh Smith, leaving his bat at 115.4 mph. It helped the Pirates to a 4-0 victory, No. 98 on the season and the most in 24 years.
The home run was second-longest in PNC Park history and the longest by a Pirate. The PNC Park record (484 feet) was set by the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa in 2002.
Alvarez’s homer was a solo shot that didn’t reach the Allegheny River, but he had four others that did. One of those was struck in 2015 against the Minnesota Twins’ Rick Nolasco. It landed 461 feet from home plate in a boat docked between the fourth light tower and foul pole.
4. Josh Bell, PNC Park, April 7, 2019, 474 feet
The game against the Reds was better known for the benches-clearing fracas that erupted when Chris Archer threw behind Derek Dietrich, a retaliatory measure for Dietrich admiring a home run he hit previously.
Bell’s blast against Anthony DeSclafani left his bat at 113.3 mph in the fourth inning and is the fourth-longest at PNC Park.
5(t). Jung Ho Kang, Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, Sept. 8, 2015, 472 feet
Kang’s home run against the Reds’ Collin Balestar was his 14th of the season, and it led to a 7-3 victory.
5(t). Bell, PNC Park, May 8, 2019, 472 feet
Bell’s home run against the Texas Rangers’ Shelby Miller was his team-leading ninth of the season and it was only the fourth all-time that landed in the Allegheny River on the fly.
But the dramatic blast that tied the score, 2-2, in the fourth inning, got lost amid the bullpen woes that are currently plaguing the Pirates. The Pirates lost, 9-6.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .