I recently saw this photo, taken in 1970, for the first time. It shows artist Oscar Torres painting a cannon on a seat in the Astrodome after Astros outfielder Jimmy Wynn — whose nickname, of course, was the Toy Cannon — hit the first home run ever to reach the stadium’s upper deck during a regular season game.
The seatback, complete with Torres’s painting, was later exhibited in the Astros Hall of Fame. Here’s a shot of Wynn posing next to it:
I was not aware of this little chapter in ’Stros history, and it ended up leading me down a fun rabbit hole. For starters, I learned that Wynn’s teammate Doug Rader, whose nickname was the Red Rooster, had hit a home run to the same section of the Astrodome a week earlier, in an exhibition game. The seat where his homer landed got a similar treatment:
Twenty years later, on May 17, 1990, Astros outfielder Eric Anthony became the third Houston player to hit a home run into that section, and the seat that marked the feat was once again given a commemorative paint job:
Nearly 30 years after that — by which time, of course, the Astros had left the Dome and moved to their current ballpark — Houston outfielder Yordan Álvarez became the first Astro to hit a home run into the stadium’s third deck in right field. This time the team took a more reserved approach, simply wrapping the seat in orange vinyl:
So that’s Houston. But what about commemorative home run seats in other ballparks? I immediately thought of Fenway Park, where one seat in the right field grandstand is painted red to mark the spot where a titanic Ted Williams home run landed on June 9, 1946 (additional info here):
And there’s more. In Chicago, the White Sox have two light-blue seats that have been left in place while all the other seats around them have been replaced during stadium renovations. Those seats mark the spots of key home runs hit by Paul Konerko and Scott Podsednik during the 2005 World Series:
Washington Senators slugger Frank Howard hit lots of mammoth home runs at RFK Stadium from 1965 through 1971, and several of them were marked with white seats. Here are two examples:
The Senators are no longer in DC, of course, but Washington’s current MLB team, the Nationals, decided in 2015 to start commemorating monumental and/or significant home runs with red seats (additional info here). Here’s one for a 2017 shot hit by Bryce Harper:
Are there any other examples of seats that have been painted or singled out in some way to mark home runs?
Now, there are also several examples of home run spots that were marked in various stadiums. For example, Shea Stadium used to have a marker where Mets outfielder Tommie Agee hit the only fair ball ever to land in the upper deck (that’s Uni Watch membership card designer Scott M.X. Turner posing at marker):
Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia had a similar marker where Pirates slugger Willie Stargell hit a home run in 1971:
It’s interesting that they used the “Stargell Star” design, which didn’t yet exist when Stargell hit that home run in 1971. Did they initially use a different design for the marker and then change it to the star motif later on? Or did the home run initially go unmarked for several years and then they added it during the “Stargell Star era,” so to speak? Anyone know more?
(According to 1970s newspaper reports, the Vet also had seats painted with bullseyes to mark the spots of upper-deck homers hit by Greg “The Bull” Luzinski. Photos have proven elusive, though. Anyone..?)
And Memorial Stadium in Baltimore had a “Here” flag, marking where a Frank Robinson home run flew out of the ballpark:
Those last three examples are interesting, but they’re not as satisfying as the commemorative seats, at least from my perspective, I guess because it’s fun to think you can actually sit in the special seat during a game. Similarly, I know there are assorted home run markers outside of various ballparks (there are several of them outside of Camden Yards, for example), and those are fun too — but again, they don’t seem as special as the commemorative seats.
Fun topic! I’d like to keep the discussion focused as much as possible on seats, but you can bring up other home run markers if you like.
(My thanks to reader Trevor Williams, who sent me down this rabbit hole by bringing the photo at the top of this post to my attention.)