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By Alan O'Connor 





Ernie Lombardi was a Major League Hall of Fame catcher who started his professional baseball career as a Pacific Coast League (PCL) Oakland Oak in 1926 and finished

his career as an Oak in 1948. In between, he played 17 years for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, Boston Braves and New York Giants. During that time Ernie was an eight time MLB all-star, won two National League batting crowns and was the National League MVP in 1938. He finished his MLB career with a lifetime batting average of .306 and was member of the 1940 World Series Champion Cincinnati Reds. Lombardi’s six-year PCL batting average was .349 and he is a member of the PCL Hall of Fame.


Ernie spent April 1948 and part of May 1948 catching for the Sacramento Solons. It was during this short stint as a Solon that he left his mark on Sacramento baseball history. On May 4, 1948 in front of 3,984 fans at Edmonds Field he blasted a hanging curve ball thrown by Oaks’ pitcher Lloyd Hittle over the left field fence for a home run that was reported at the time as being 578 feet!


Oaks catcher Billy Raimondi, who in his 21 year PCL career had seen thousands of home runs, said at the time that, “When the ball was hit, everyone just gaped—the players couldn’t believe anyone could smash one that far. It was easily the longest home run I’ve ever seen.” Charlie Gassaway of the Oaks said, “I saw Ted Williams hit a 415-foot home run at Fenway Park in 1946. But that one didn’t start to compare with Lombardi’s.” Sacramento Union sportswriter, Bill Conlin, said that it headed toward Tower Theater and was “the longest smash in the history of the Pacific Coast League.”


The determination of distance of the ball’s flight was based on the testimony of an un-named Edmonds Field parking lot attendant.  The attendant said that the ball cleared the 326 foot fence and landed on the fly at a spot that was “stepped” off the next day by Solons manager Joe Orengo as being 578 feet. PCL Secretary Harry Williams stated later that month that the home run was the longest that he knew about and he believed the distance to be correct because “Joe…not only is honest but has an even and graceful stride.”


While Lombardi’s home run that day was likely one of the longest ever hit at Edmonds Field, the distance of 578 feet stretches the credibility of this writer and Solons fan. The parking attendant could have actually seen the first bounce or just been mistaken about what he had seen. The records do not have the man’s name, exactly what he said that he observed, or demonstrate any questioning of his story. While I also believe that Joe Orengo was an honest man, I do not think that stepping off the distance is not the most accurate way to measure distance. Recent experience with other famous Solons home runs and discussions with other baseball junkies about the laws of physics lead me to speculate that the distance was likely more than 500 feet, but certainly not 578.


At this point in time the truth will never be known, but Lombardi’s home run is another great story in the history of home runs hit at the corner of Riverside and Broadway.


(To read about another Solon's famous long home run, go to the Sheridan story)


(Above: Lombardi's 1948 contract with Solons, property of Alan O'Connor Collection)


 Uploaded 08/17/10