In baseball, a home run (abbreviated HR) is scored when the ball is hit in such a way that the batter is able to circle all the bases, ending at home plate and scoring runs for himself and each runner who was already on base, with no errors by the defensive team on the play. In modern baseball, the feat is typically achieved by hitting the ball over the outfield fence between the foul poles (or making contact with either foul pole) without first touching the ground, resulting in an automatic home run. There is also the "inside-the-park" home run, increasingly rare in modern baseball, where the batter circles the bases while the baseball is in play on the field.
When a home run is scored, the batter is also credited with a hit and a run scored, and an RBI for each runner that scores, including himself. Likewise, the pitcher is recorded as having given up a hit, a run for each runner that scores including the batter, and an earned run each for the batter and for all baserunners who did not initially reach base on error, except for the runs scored by any runners who reached base while facing an earlier pitcher are charged to that pitcher.
Home runs are among the most popular aspects of baseball and, as a result, prolific home run hitters are usually the most popular among fans and consequently the highest paid by teams, hence the old saying, variously attributed to slugger Ralph Kiner, or to a teammate talking about Kiner, "Home run hitters drive Cadillacs, and singles hitters drive Fords."
The most common type of home run involves hitting the ball over the outfield fence, or above a line on the outfield fence specifically designed to indicate a home run, in flight, in fair territory, i.e., out of the playing field, without it being caught or deflected back by an outfielder into the playing field. This is sometimes called a home run "out of the ballpark", although that term is frequently used to indicate a blow that completely clears any outfield seating, as a home run is usually automatically assumed to have left the field of play unless otherwise indicated.
A batted ball is also considered a home run if the ball touches any of the following while in flight, regardless of whether the ball subsequently rebounds back onto the playing field:
A home run accomplished in any of the above manners is an automatic home run. The ball is considered dead, and the batter and any preceding runners cannot be put out at any time while running the bases. However, if one or more runners fail to touch a base or one runner passes another before reaching home plate, that runner or runners can be called out on appeal, though in the case of not touching a base a runner can go back and touch it if doing so won't cause them to be passed by another preceding runner and they have not yet touched the next base (or home plate in the case of missing third base).
An automatic home run counts for the same number of runs whether it cleared the fence by 250 or 500 feet, but the more impressive a home run's distance is, the more superlatives and colorful adjectives are likely to be applied to it by the media: "tattooed", "hammered", "drilled", "towering", "tape measure", "in orbit", etc.
An inside-the-park home run occurs when a batter hits the ball into play and is able to circle the bases before the fielders can put him out. Unlike with an outside-the-park home run, the batter-runner and all preceding runners are liable to be put out by the defensive team at any time while running the bases.
In the early days of baseball, outfields were relatively much more spacious, reducing the likelihood of an over-the-fence home run, while increasing the likelihood of an inside-the-park home run, as a ball getting past an outfielder had more distance that it could roll before a fielder could track it down.
With outfields much less spacious and more uniformly designed than in the game's early days, inside-the-park home runs are now a rarity. They are usually the result of a ball being hit by a very fast runner, coupled with an outfielder either misjudging the flight of the ball (e.g., diving and missing) or the ball taking an unexpected bounce, either way sending the ball into open space in the outfield and thereby allowing the batter-runner to circle the bases before the defensive team can put him out. The speed of the runner is crucial as even triples are relatively rare in most modern ballparks.
If any defensive play on an inside-the-park home run is labeled an error by the official scorer, a home run is not scored; instead, it is scored as a single, double, etc., and the batter-runner and any applicable preceding runners are said to have taken all additional bases on error. All runs scored on such a play, however, still count.
An example of an unexpected bounce occurred during the 2007 Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 10, 2007. Ichiro Suzuki of the American League team hit a fly ball off the right-center field wall, which caromed in the opposite direction from where National League right fielder Ken Griffey, Jr. was expecting it to go. By the time the ball was relayed, Ichiro had already crossed the plate standing up. This was the first inside-the-park home run in All-Star Game history, and led to Ichiro being named the game's MVP, or most valuable player.
These types of home runs are characterized by the specific game situation in which they occur, and can theoretically occur on either an outside-the-park or inside-the-park home run.
Home runs are often characterized by the number of runners on base at the time, if any. A home run hit with the bases empty is seldom called a "one-run homer", but rather a "solo" homer. With one or two runners on base, the home runs are usually called "two-run homers" or "three-run homers". The term "four-run homer" is seldom used. Instead, it is nearly always called a "grand slam".
A grand slam occurs when the bases are "loaded" (that is, there are base runners standing at first, second, and third base) and the batter hits a home run. According to The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, the term originated in the card game of contract bridge. An inside-the-park grand slam is a grand slam without the ball leaving the field, and it is very rare, due to the relative rarity of loading the bases along with the significant rarity (nowadays) of inside-the-park home runs.
A walk-off home run is a home run hit by the home team in the bottom of the ninth inning, any extra inning, or other scheduled final inning, which gives the home team the lead and thereby ends the game. A home run by the visiting team can become a walk-off homer if the game is suspended for any reason and later is ruled a complete game, although this would be extremely rare because when the visiting team take the lead in the top of any inning, the home team is expected to bat in the bottom of the same inning if at all possible, even after lengthy weather delays. The term is attributed to Hall of Fame relief pitcher Dennis Eckersley, so named because after the run is scored, the players can "walk off" the field. The name initially meant that the pitcher walked off the field with his head hung in shame, but changed over time to mean that the batter, by necessity of the home team, would walk off the field to the cheers of the crowd. An ultimate grand slam is a specific type of walk-off home run (see grand slam above). This type of home run is also called "sayonara home run," "sayonara" meaning "good-bye" in Japanese.
Two World Series have ended via the "walk-off" home run. The first was the 1960 World Series when Bill Mazeroski of the Pittsburgh Pirates hit a 9th inning solo home run in the 7th game of the series off New York Yankees pitcher Ralph Terry to give the Pirates the World Championship. The second time was the 1993 World Series when Joe Carter of the Toronto Blue Jays hit a 9th inning 3-run home run off Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Mitch Williams in Game 6 of the series.
Such a home run can also be called a "sudden death" or "sudden victory" home run. That usage has lessened as "walk-off home run" has gained favor. Along with Mazeroski's 1960 shot, the most famous walk-off or sudden-death homer would probably be the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" hit by Bobby Thomson to win the 1951 National League pennant for the New York Giants.
A sudden-victory home run over the fence is the exception to baseball's one run rule. Normally if the home team is tied or behind in the ninth or extra innings the game ends if the home team (achieves a tie and) scores one more run. For example if the San Diego Padres are trailing the Houston Astros in the bottom of the ninth in San Diego by a score of 5-3 and the Padres have the bases loaded, and their batter hits a grand slam, regardless of the number of outs the Padres would score 4 runs to win the game by the final score of 7-5, where any lesser hit would depend on the speed of the base runners to determine if the runner could score from first for a 6-5 win. This only applies if the ball is hit over the fence. If the ball is hit inside the park, the game ends as soon as the winning run cross the plate, so the batter can only be credited with a single, double or triple at most.
The term "back-to-back" is a colloquialism for "consecutive", specifically referring to two like events occurring consecutively. One example "back-to-back" in general is winning two consecutive championships.
In baseball, back-to-back can refer to two consecutive players hitting a home run, or it could refer to an individual hitting home runs in two consecutive at bats. The former usage is probably more common.
When two consecutive batters each hit a home run, this is described as back-to-back home runs. It is still considered back-to-back even if both batters hit their home runs off of different pitchers. A third batter hitting a home run is commonly referred to as back-to-back-to-back. Four home runs in a row by consecutive batters has only occurred six times in the history of Major League Baseball. Following convention, this is called back-to-back-to-back-to-back. The most recent occurrence was on August 14, 2008, when the Chicago White Sox hit four in a row against the Kansas City Royals in U.S. Cellular Field as Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, Alexei Ramirez and Juan Uribe homered off pitchers Joel Peralta (the first three) and Robinson Tejada. Two pitchers have surrendered back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs; Paul Foytack on July 31, 1963, and Chase Wright on April 22, 2007.
On April 22, 2007 the Boston Red Sox were trailing the New York Yankees 3-0 when Manny Ramirez, J. D. Drew, Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs to put them up 4-3. They eventually went on to win the game 7-6 after a three-run home run by Mike Lowell in the bottom of the 7th inning. On September 18, 2006 trailing 9-5 to the San Diego Padres in the 9th inning, Jeff Kent, J. D. Drew, Russell Martin, and Marlon Anderson of the Los Angeles Dodgers hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs to tie the game. The Dodgers won the game in the 10th, off a walk-off home run by Nomar Garciaparra. J. D. Drew has been part of two different sets of back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs. In both occurrences, his homer was the second of the four.
On September 30, 1997, in the sixth inning of Game One of the American League Division Series between the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians, Tim Raines, Derek Jeter and Paul O'Neill hit back-to-back-to-back home runs for the Yankees. Raines' home run tied the game. New York went on to win 8-6. This was the first occurrence of three home runs in a row ever in postseason play. The Boston Red Sox repeated the feat in Game Four of the 2007 American League Championship Series, also against the Indians.
Simple back-to-back home runs are a relatively frequent occurrence. If a pitcher gives up a homer, he might have his concentration broken, and might alter his normal approach in an attempt to "make up for it" by striking out the next batter with some fastballs. Sometimes the next batter will be expecting that, and will capitalize on it. A notable back-to-back home run of that type in World Series play involved "Babe Ruth's called shot" in 1932, which was accompanied by various Ruthian theatrics, yet the pitcher, Charlie Root, was allowed to stay in the game. He delivered just one more pitch, which Lou Gehrig drilled out of the park for a back-to-back shot, after which Root was removed from the game.
Another notable pair of back-to-back home runs occurred on September 14, 1990, when Ken Griffey, Sr. and Ken Griffey, Jr. hit back-to-back home runs, off Kirk McCaskill, the only father-and-son duo to do so in Major League history.
Likewise, individuals hitting home runs in consecutive at-bats is not unusual, but three or more is rare. The record for consecutive home runs by a batter under any circumstances is 4.
Of the fifteen players (through 2006) who have hit 4 in one game, six have hit them consecutively. 28 other batters have hit four consecutive across two games.
Bases on balls do not count as at-bats, and Ted Williams holds the record for consecutive home runs across the most games, 4 in four games played, during September 17-22, 1957, for the Red Sox. Williams hit a pinch-hit homer on the 17th; walked as a pinch-hitter on the 18th; there was no game on the 19th; hit another pinch-homer on the 20th; homered and then was lifted for a pinch-runner after at least one walk, on the 21st; and homered after at least one walk on the 22nd. All in all, he had 4 walks interspersed among his 4 homers.
In World Series play, Reggie Jackson was the most recent to hit a record three in one Series game, the final game in 1977. Those were consecutive in his first three at bats. He had also hit one in his last at bat the previous game, so he owns the record for consecutive homers across two Series games, which again is 4.
An offshoot of hitting for the cycle, a "home run cycle" is where a player hits a solo, 2-run, 3-run, and grand slam home run all in one game. This is an extremely rare feat, as it requires the batter to not only hit four home runs in a game (which itself has only occurred 15 times in the Major Leagues), but also to hit those home runs with the specific number of runners already on base. Although it is a rare accomplishment, it is largely dependent on circumstances outside the player's control, such as his preceding teammates' ability to get on base, as well as the order in which he comes to bat in any particular inning.
Though multiple home run cycles have been recorded in collegiate baseball, the only home run cycle in a professional baseball game belongs to Tyrone Horne, who stroked four long balls for the minor league, Double-A Arkansas Travelers in a game against the San Antonio Missions on July 27, 1998.
A major league player has come close to hitting for the home run cycle many times. The first was on April 26, 2005 when Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees hit 3 home runs off Los Angeles Angels pitcher Bartolo Colón.  Rodriguez hit a 3-run home run, 2-run home run, and a grand slam in the first, third, and fourth innings, respectively. He later, in the bottom of the eighth inning, just missed a solo home run, lining out to Jeff DaVanon in deep center field. The second was on May 16, 2008 when Jayson Werth of the Philadelphia Phillies hit 3 home runs off Toronto Blue Jays pitchers David Purcey and Jesse Litsch. Werth hit a 3-run home run, a grand slam, and a solo home run in the second, third, and fifth innings, respectively. On June 26, 2009, Andre Ethier of Los Angeles Dodgers also came close to hitting for the home run cycle when he hit a three-run home run off Jason Vargas in the second, a two-run home run off Roy Corcoran in the sixth, and a solo home run off Miguel Batista in the eighth inning in a Dodger home game against Seattle Mariners. On July 7, 2009, Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko came within a three-run home run of hitting the home run cycle. He hit a solo home run in the second inning off Cleveland Indians pitcher Jeremy Sowers, a grand slam in the sixth inning off reliever Chris Perez, and a two-run home run in the seventh inning off reliever Winston Abreu. On April 2, 1997, Tino Martinez, first baseman of the New York Yankees, was a grand slam away from accomplishing this feat in a 16-2 victory over his former team, the Seattle Mariners. He hit a 3-run home run in the 1st inning, a 2-run home run in the 3rd and a solo shot in the 5th; all off starting pitcher Scott Sanders. He would get four more plate appearances that night, three of which came with the bases loaded. He grounded out with the bases loaded in the 6th and singled with a man on in the 8th. In the 9th inning, he would come to bat twice with the bases loaded where he first walked and later struck out to end the inning.
On August 1, 2009, Andrew McCutchen, center fielder of the Pittsburgh Pirates, hit a solo home run in the first inning, a two run home run in the fourth inning, and a three run home run in the sixth inning of a game against the Washington Nationals in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He had one final at bat in the game. Had he hit a grand slam in his final at bat, McCutchen would have been the only major league player in history to hit for the home run cycle in order - a solo home run first, a two run home run second, a three run home run third and a grand slam fourth.
In the early days of the game, when the ball was less lively and the ballparks generally had very large outfields, most home runs were of the inside-the-park variety. The first home run ever hit in the National League was by Ross Barnes of the Chicago White Stockings (now known as the Chicago Cubs), in 1876. The home "run" was literally descriptive. Home runs over the fence were rare, and only in ballparks where a fence was fairly close. Hitters were discouraged from trying to hit home runs, with the conventional wisdom being that if they tried to do so they would simply fly out. This was a serious concern in the 19th century, because in baseball's early days a ball caught after one bounce was still an out. The emphasis was on place-hitting and what is now called "manufacturing runs" or "small ball".
The home run's place in baseball changed dramatically when the live-ball era began after World War I. First, the materials and manufacturing processes improved significantly, making the ball somewhat more lively. Batters such as Babe Ruth and Rogers Hornsby took full advantage of rules changes that were instituted during the 1920s, particularly prohibition of the spitball, and the requirement that balls be replaced when worn or dirty. Along with the baseball being easier to see and capable of being hit farther, as the game's popularity boomed more outfield seating was built, shrinking the size of the outfield and increasing the chances of a long fly ball resulting in a home run. The teams with the sluggers, typified by the New York Yankees, became the championship teams, and other teams had to change their focus from the "inside game" to the "power game" in order to keep up.
Prior to 1931, a ball that bounced over an outfield fence during a major league game was considered a home run. The rule was changed to require the ball to clear the fence on the fly, and balls that reached the seats on a bounce became ground rule doubles in most parks. A carryover of the old rule is that if a player deflects a ball over the outfield fence without it touching the ground, it is a home run.
Also, until approximately that time, the ball had to not only go over the fence in fair territory, but to land in the bleachers in fair territory or to still be visibly fair when disappearing behind a wall. The rule stipulated "fair when last seen" by the umpires. Photos from that era in ballparks, such as the Polo Grounds and Yankee Stadium, show ropes strung from the foul poles to the back of the bleachers, or a second "foul pole" at the back of the bleachers, in a straight line with the foul line, as a visual aid for the umpire. Ballparks still use a visual aid much like the ropes; a net or screen attached to the foul poles on the fair side has replaced ropes. As with American football, where a touchdown once required a literal "touch down" of the ball in the end zone but now only requires the "breaking of the [vertical] plane" of the goal line, in baseball the ball need only "break the plane" of the fence in fair territory (unless the balls is caught by a player who is in play, in which case the batter is called out).
Babe Ruth's 60th home run in 1927 was somewhat controversial, because it landed barely in fair territory in the stands down the right field line. Ruth lost a number of home runs in his career due to the when-last-seen rule. Bill Jenkinson, in The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs, estimates that Ruth lost at least 50 and as many as 78 in his career due to this rule.
Further, the rules once stipulated that an over-the-fence home run in a sudden-victory situation would only count for as many bases as was necessary to "force" the winning run home. For example, if a team trailed by two runs with the bases loaded, and the batter hit a fair ball over the fence, it only counted as a triple, because the runner immediately ahead of him had technically already scored the game-winning run. That rule was changed in the 1920s as home runs became increasingly frequent and popular. Babe Ruth's career total of 714 would have been one higher had that rule not been in effect in the early part of his career.
The all-time, verified professional baseball record for home runs for one player, excluding the U. S. Negro Leagues during the era of segregation, is held by Sadaharu Oh. Oh spent his entire career playing for the Yomiuri Giants in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball, later managing the Giants, the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and the 2006 World Baseball Classic Japanese team. Oh holds the all-time home run world record, having hit 868 home runs in his career. Major League Baseball keeps running totals of all-time home runs by team, including teams no longer active (prior to 1900) as well as by individual players. The All-Time MLB Home Run total is expected to reach 250,000 in late June 2009.
In Major League Baseball, the record is 762, held by Barry Bonds, who broke Hank Aaron's record on August 7, 2007, when he hit his 756th home run at AT&T Park off pitcher Mike Bacsik. Only five other major league players have hit as many as 600: Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey, Jr. (622 and counting) and Sammy Sosa (609). The single season record is 73, set by Barry Bonds in 2001.
Negro League slugger Josh Gibson's Baseball Hall of Fame plaque says he hit "almost 800" home runs in his career. The Guinness Book of World Records lists Gibson's lifetime home run total at 800. Gibson's true total is not known, in part due to inconsistent record keeping in the Negro Leagues. The 1993 edition of the MacMillan Baseball Encyclopedia attempted to compile a set of Negro League records, and subsequent work has expanded on that effort. Those records demonstrate that Gibson and Ruth were of comparable power. The 1993 book had Gibson hitting 146 home runs in the 501 "official" Negro League games they were able to account for in his 17-year career, about 1 homer every 3.4 games. Babe Ruth, in 22 seasons (several of them in the dead-ball era), hit 714 in 2503 games, or 1 homer every 3.5 games. The large gap in the numbers for Gibson reflect the fact that Negro League clubs played relatively far fewer league games and many more "barnstorming" or exhibition games during the course of a season, than did the major league clubs of that era.
Other legendary home run hitters include Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle (who on September 10, 1960, mythically hit "the longest home run ever" at an estimated distance of 643 feet (196 m), although this was measured after the ball stopped rolling), Reggie Jackson, Harmon Killebrew, Ernie Banks, Mike Schmidt, Dave Kingman, Sammy Sosa (who has hit 60 or more home runs in a season 3 times), Mark McGwire, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Eddie Mathews. The longest verifiable home run distance is about 575 feet (175 m), by Babe Ruth, to straightaway center field at Tiger Stadium (then called Navin Field and prior to the double-deck), which landed nearly across the intersection of Trumbull and Cherry.
The location of where Hank Aaron's record 755th home run landed has been monumented in Milwaukee. The hallowed spot sits outside Miller Park, where the Milwaukee Brewers currently play. Similarly, the point where Aaron's 715th homer landed, upon breaking Ruth's career record in 1974, is marked in the Turner Field parking lot.
Slang terms for home runs include: big fly, blast, bomb, circuit clout, dinger, ding-dong, dong, donger four-bagger, four-base knock, four-ply swat, funk blast, goner, gonzo, gopher ball, homer, jack, long ball, moonshot, quadruple, round-tripper, shot, slam, swat, tape-measure shot, tater, wallop, and yakerton. The act of hitting a home run can be called going deep or going yard or going home; additionally, with men on base, it can be called clearing the table. A comparatively long home run can be described as Ruthian, named after Babe Ruth's legendary drives. Babe Ruth himself was often referred to as "The Sultan of Swat", a nickname earned due to the number of home runs which he hit. The act of attempting to hit a home run, whether successful or not, can also be termed swinging for the fences. A game with many home runs in it can be referred to as a slugfest or home run derby. A player who hits a home run is said to have "dialed 8", from the practice of having to dial 8 from a hotel room telephone to dial long distance. A grand slam is often referred to as a grand salami or simply, a salami. If more than one grand slam occurs, a game may be referred to as a salamifest. With the increase of Latin American players a home run is also being called the whole enchilada, or as Kenny Mayne described it, jónrun, the Spanish term for a home run.
In November 2007, the general managers of Major League Baseball voted in favor of implementing instant replay reviews on boundary home run calls. The proposal limited the use of instant replay to determining whether a boundary home run call is:
On August 28, 2008, instant replay review became available in MLB for reviewing calls in accordance with the above proposal. It was first utilized on September 3, 2008 in a game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees hit what appeared to be a home run, but the ball hit a catwalk behind the foul pole. It was at first called a home run, until Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon argued the call, and the umpires decided to review the play. After 2 minutes and 15 seconds, the umpires came back and ruled it a home run.
About two weeks later, on September 19, also at Tropicana Field, a boundary call was overturned for the first time. In this case, Carlos Peña of the Rays was given a ground rule double in a game against the Minnesota Twins after an umpire believed a fan reached into the field of play to catch a fly ball in right field. The umpires reviewed the play, determined the fan did not reach over the fence, and reversed the call, awarding Peña a home run.
Aside from the two aforementioned reviews at Tampa Bay, replay was used four more times in the 2008 MLB regular season: twice at Houston, once at Seattle, and once at San Francisco. The San Francisco incident is perhaps the most unusual. Bengie Molina, the Giants' Catcher, hit what was first called a double. Molina then was replaced in the game by a pinch-runner before the umpires re-evaluated the call and ruled it a home run. In this instance though, Molina was not allowed to return to the game to complete the run, as he had already been replaced. Molina was credited with the home run, and two RBIs, but not for the run scored which went to the pinch-runner instead.
On October 31, 2009, in the fourth inning of Game 3 of the World Series, Alex Rodriguez hit a long fly ball that appeared to hit a camera protruding over the wall and into the field of play in deep left field. The ball ricocheted off the camera and re-entered the field, initially ruled a double. However, after the umpires consulted with each other after watching the instant replay, the hit was ruled a home run, marking the first time an instant replay home run was hit in a playoff game.