Mantle connected on a belt-high fastball from Stobbs, and the ball kept soaring, a shooting star in the afternoon sky. It clanged off the Natty Boh sign, estimated about 460 feet from home plate, and disappeared. The ball had broken the confines of the stadium, and with it went any chance of truly knowing how far it traveled.
Still, Arthur “Red” Patterson, the Yankees’ enterprising public relations man, wanted to find out. So he returned with the ball – and a tall tale.
Patterson said he retrieved the ball from a 10-year-old boy named Donald Dunaway, who stood with it in the back yard of 434 Oakdale Lane. Patterson said he paid Dunaway $1 and sent him a pair of autographed balls in exchange for Mantle’s home run. Finding any record of a man named Donald Dunaway who would have been 10 years old in 1953 has proven elusive.
Until his death, Patterson never wavered on the Dunaway portion of the story. He did admit later in life that his claim of using a tape measure to record the distance between the ball’s landing spot where Dunaway found it and the edge of the stadium was dubious. Though the term tape-measure home run stuck, Patterson in reality walked the space himself, added the guess to 460 and, voilà, Mickey Mantle’s 565-foot home run was born.
I believe Baltimore Sun reporter Scott Templeton could find Donald Dunaway.
A few years back, I was asked by another long home run expert, John Pastier, to check on a report that Mantle, in an exhibition game played at USC in 1951, hit a home run that traveled close to 600 feet. The game was played at USC's old stadium, Bovard Diamond and supposedly carried over the fence and then across the entire width of the adjoining track stadium, Cromwell Field.
I read five different newspaper accounts of the game. Not one writer mentioned Mantle hitting a home run that long. Maybe nobody covering the Yankees in 1951 thought it was newsworthy to mention that the team's much heralded rookie phenom hit a home run that carried 600 feet.