- 1B, OF, C
- March 6, 1926
- 6' 4"
- 205 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 4-21-1951 with PIT
Richard Dale Long (February 6, 1926 — January 27, 1991) was a first baseman in professional baseball. Between 1951 and 1963, Long played with the Pittsburgh Pirates (1951, 1955-1957), St. Louis Browns (1951), Chicago Cubs (1957-1959), San Francisco Giants (1960), New York Yankees (1960, 1962-1963) and Washington Senators (1961-1962). He batted and threw left-handed.
A native of Springfield, Missouri, Long turned down an offer from the Green Bay Packers to play football, opting instead to play baseball.
While players like Babe Ruth, Pete Rose and Hank Aaron made their marks on the game over a career and Owen Wilson, Mark McGwire and Roger Maris had incredible seasons that brought them immortality, there are some players with marginal talent, who for whatever reason get in a zone for a short period of time and do phenomenal things to cement their names in the history of the sport. Springfield native Dale Long is one former player that certainly falls into that category.
Dale was not only a solid young baseball product, but was offered a contract from the NFL’s legendary Green Bay Packers, which he turned down to remain in baseball. He began his career with the Pirates in 1951 to which he was waived and picked up by the Browns. He played a short time in St Louis, before he was sent down to the minors, where he remained for three seasons. After winning the MVP of the Pacific Coast League with the Hollywood Stars in 1953 by hitting 35 homers, Long was given another opportunity in the Steel City in 1955, and this time he would not return to the bush leagues.
The Young slugger responded with 16 homers and a .291 average, cementing himself as the starting first baseman. He also hit 13 triples that season which was the best mark in the senior circuit, tied with the Sey Hey Kid himself, Willie Mays.
Home run streak
While impressive in his first year as a starter, it was only a prelude to Long’s legendary moment the following campaign. After beginning the season on fire, that included a two-homer game against the Giants on April 17th, Dale came up in the ninth inning of a game against the Cubs on May 19th where he hit a long shot to begin what would be his legendary eight game home run streak. While the streak is detailed more thoroughly later in the book in the chapter on the greatest Pirate Moments, it was a streak that saw the 6’4’ hitter not only break the mark previously held by Ken Williams and Lou Gehrig, but in the process, have his homerun totals compared to that of the 60 home run season of the Bambino, Babe Ruth. Long’s shots were monstrous that season including one that was considered the longest homerun ever hit in the majors at the time at Forbes Field when he poked a shot over the 436 foot sign past the centerfield side of the light pole, the first one any one could remember going over that point. Several went into the upper deck on the Right Field stands.
After Dale broke the record in the seventh game, a long shot off Phillies knuckleballer Ben Flowers, he was a national celebrity. GM Joe L. Brown was so impressed he gave Long a $2,500 raise on the spot. His record was chronicled in Life magazine and he made it to the Ed Sullivan show. Reliever Roy Face said during the streak, Long wanted to take the whole half hour of batting practice that the team was allotted, they let him and enjoyed the show.
As with all good things, this record came to an end. Dale was now recognized as one of the greatest sluggers in the game, his title was short lived as he fouled two balls in a row of his ankle. Not wanting to leave the lineup, Long suffered through 1 for 50 slump and was never the same. After hitting 8 shots in 8 games, he hit only 99 more over the next nine seasons.
He proceeded to get angry with Brown claiming that the Pirate GM was treating him now poorly that he was no longer performing at star status. The two grew irritated with each other and Long found himself traded the following season to the Cubs.
Even though he would hit 21 and 20 homers for Chicago in 1957 and 1958, it was a game he played on September 21st, 1958 that would be the moment he was most noted for in the Windy City. That day the first baseman was used as a catcher making him the first lefty since 1906 to play behind the plate. It would be another 22 seasons until another lefty would catch when Mike Squires caught for the Mariners in 1980. Dale hung on until 1963 when he retired. After his career he became a minor league umpire, eventually being appointed by Bowie Kuhn to oversee minor league operations.
Ultimately Don Mattingly, in 1987, and Ken Griffey Jr., in 1993, would tie Longs incredible mark, but nobody has beaten it in 46 seasons. Yes Dale Long’s career may not go down in the history of the sport as one of the greatest, but for 10 days in May of 1956, there was no home run hitter who was ever better.
In a 10-season career, Long was a .267 hitter with 132 home runs and 467 RBI in 1013 games.
* 1953 MVP Pacific Coast League Hollywood Stars
* NL All-Star (1956)
* NL Triples Leader (1955)
* 20-Home Run Seasons: 3 (1956-1958)
* Won a World Series with the New York Yankees in 1962
* Pittsburgh Pirates (1951)
* St. Louis Browns (1951)
* Pittsburgh Pirates (1955–1957)
* Chicago Cubs (1957–1959)
* San Francisco Giants (1960)
* New York Yankees (1960)
* Washington Senators (1961–1962)
* New York Yankees (1962–1963)
Nine Other Players Who Debuted in 1951
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- 1962 World Series, All-Star, Chicago Cubs, Dale Long, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Browns, The Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia, Washington Senators