Young baseball players dream of being the next Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, or Barry Bonds, but not everyone is gifted with a powerful swing and a good eye. For great players who just don’t possess the size or power to hit a ball out of the park, there is another way to collect home runs.
The inside-the-park home run has been around for a long time but not really tracked until all MLB stadiums finally had outfield walls. Before that, some early MLB stadiums were wide open, and players would have to chase the ball anywhere it went. So, it is not outrageous to think that the origin of the home run mostly started with inside-the-park home runs.
For those who remember the Polo Grounds in the Bronx (demolished in 1964), you know what a 483-foot centerfield looks like. Try a defensive shift in this cavern of an outfield:
- An inside-the-park home run is when a batter hits the ball in play and touches all four bases without being thrown out.
- Factors that contribute to an inside-the-park home run include fast runners, stadium size and shape, and quality of outfielders.
- Notable examples of famous inside-the-park homers include Ichiro Suzuki (2007), Trey Mancini (2022), Alcides Escobar (2015), and Erick Aybar (2013).
- Historically speaking, before 1900, teams played on open fields with no defined outfield, so every homer was technically an “inside the park” one.
- The most recorded inside–the–park homers have been at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City due to its large dimensions from 1973 – 2015; Willie Wilson had 13 career IPHRs during this time period which is more than anyone else who played after 1950.
How an inside-the-park home run is scored
According to the MLB rulebook, an inside-the-park home run occurs when the batter hits the ball in play (not over the wall) and touches all four bases without being thrown out.
What is interesting to note is that on the MLB website, they also acknowledge the following: “Home run totals can be affected by the ballpark in which the game is being played.” They already know.
As it is scored on the stat sheet, an inside-the-park home run is scored no differently than a standard home run that goes over the outfield wall. Both plays involve the batter and all baserunners advancing all bases and scoring without being tagged or thrown out. In the stats, an inside-the-park home run is scored simply as “HR.”
With MLB going all-in on technology, they do keep what are called second and third generation statistics and track these home runs as “IPH,” but this is only data tracked by statisticians and does not have a leaderboard like other stats. However, if a player hits the most home runs in the league, even if they are all inside-the-park home runs, they would still be crowned the home run champ for the season.
Factors that contribute to an inside-the-park home run
Experts agree that there are three main factors that contribute to an inside-the-park home run:
1. Fast Runners
Big power hitters are not traditionally as fast as leadoff hitters and base stealers. The faster the runner, the more likely they are to touch all bases before being thrown out.
2. Stadium Size and Shape
All ballparks have quirks, and this was especially true prior to 1950. Just like the photo of the Polo Grounds above, other stadiums with massive outfields and strange dimensions included Forbes Field (Pittsburgh), Griffith Stadium (Washington, DC), and the king of weird outfield dimensions—the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia. The only way to properly explain the Baker Bowl is to show you a rendering of the dimensions because we can’t explain it either:
3. Quality of Outfielders
Major league ballplayers are the best in the world. But even the best make mistakes. Luckily in this situation, Joey Gallo is not that fast, and Fenway park has a short right field:
Notable inside-the-park home runs in baseball history
The most notable inside-the-park home runs have come in critical times and in big games with the brightest spotlights. Here is a list of some of the most important ones:
1. Ichiro Suzuki (2007)
The great Ichiro is the only player in MLB history to hit an inside-the-park home run in the MLB All-Star game. That is not an easy feat considering Ken Griffey Jr was in the outfield at the time. But again, the dimensions of Oracle Park in San Francisco are highly unorthodox. Just watch the bounce.
2. Trey Mancini (2022)
This hit had no impact on the postseason, but as far as we know, this is the only inside-the-park home run that bounced off the outfielder’s face:
3. Alcides Escobar (2015)
Consider hitting an inside-the-park home run on the first pitch of the World Series. That’s what Escobar did at home in Kansas City against the Mets:
4. Erick Aybar (2013)
If you think the only way to bunt for a home run is on a video game, you’re mistaken. Watch this play from an Angels-Diamondbacks game:
How inside-the-park home runs have changed over time
Inside-the-park home runs and the rules about them have changed over time as stadium construction changes. In the dead ball era (pre-1920) and especially prior to 1900, MLB played games in open fields with no defined outfield, so it is fair to assume that for some teams, every home run they hit was technically an inside-the-park home run because there was no wall.
In fact, one story from baseball history states that during a regular season game in 1880, an outfielder was chasing a ball that rolled into a river. What did he do? He hopped into a small canoe to try and find the ball before giving up. This is why we love baseball.
As rules changed over time, it became harder for a play to be considered an inside-the-park home run, but it has never stopped the phenomenon from still happening.
What qualifies as an inside-the-park home run?
For a hit to be considered an “inside-the-park home run,” the batter must hit a ball into play and touch all four bases during the play (including home plate) without being tagged out.
How rare is an inside-the-park home run?
An inside-the-park home run is very rare to see. Current estimates state that out of every 158 home runs hit in MLB, one will be an inside-the-park home run. This means that for every 1000 home runs hit in a season, 5-6 of them will be inside the park.
Has there ever been an inside-the-park grand slam home run?
Yes, in the history of baseball, there have been 225 inside-the-park grand slam home runs. The most notable of them all was perhaps the first one hit after the dead ball era of 1920. In 1956, the great Roberto Clemente hit a walk-off inside-the-park grand slam at home. A video of this game cannot be found, but below is an image of the crucial hit:
Who has the most inside-the-park home runs in a game?
In the dead ball era (pre-1920), several players had two inside-the-park home runs in one game. The last time it was done in MLB was in 1986 by Greg Gagne of the Minnesota Twins. You can watch the record-tying highlights here:
What stadium has the most inside-the-park home runs?
The stadium with the most recorded inside-the-park home runs is Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. This stadium was in use from 1973-2015 and had one of the largest outfields in MLB. In addition, during this time, the Royals had Willie Wilson, who had a career total of 13 inside-the-park home runs (mostly in KC), which is more than anyone else who played after 1950.
Whether you can hit a 500-foot bomb into the bleachers or hit a ground ball to a hard-to-reach corner of the outfield, a home run is a home run if you can get it. Runs, in general, can be hard to come by, so teams with a balanced roster of power and speed will always be more dangerous on offense.
The opposing team should be just as cautious of speedy hitters at the bottom of the order as they are of the power hitters in the middle. When it is all said and done, inside-the-park home runs are awesome highlights to watch, as long as it’s not your favorite team on defense.
Got a free 10 minutes? We know you do. Watch below to see them all from last season:
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