Friday, July 19, 2013

Appling Goes Deep Off Spahn

On July 19, 1982, Luke Appling hits a homerun during the Cracker Jack Old Timers game at RFK Stadium. In his 20-year career, White Sox shortstop Luke Appling made seven All-Star teams and collected 2,749 hits, enough to place him in the Hall of Fame. But no amount of All-Star selections could compete with the notoriety he received in 1982, after hitting a home run at the Cracker Jack Old Timers game at RFK Stadium.

Facing off against a 61 year-old Warren Spahn, Appling belted the pitch from the Hall of Famer to the left field stands, 250 feet from home plate. While the smaller configurations of the stadium, which had not been adjusted for a baseball game, certainly helped, the fact that the 75 year-old Appling had hit it out was unbelievable. He had hit only 45 home runs over the course of his career, and that was when he was in his twenties and thirties. At 75, he was the oldest man playing in the old timer's game.

"Funny thing about that homer," he said a month later, "I only took three swings in batting practice. First pitch goes off the end of the bat and the next two off the fists. Thought I'd broken my thumb, so I stopped right there. On the pitch from Spahn I was just trying to get the bat out front. I didn't want to hit it off my wrists."

Appling died in 1991 at the age of 83. For many people, the lasting image of Luke Appling was as a 75 year-old home run hitter, and not a 30 year-old singles hitter.