PITTSBURGH -- The shortest distance from PNC Park’s home plate to the Allegheny River, according to the Pirates, is 456 feet -- straight down the right-field line. That proximity to the water has created a tantalizing target for left-handed power hitters over the years, no different than the “splash hits” into San Francisco’s McCovey Cove or the blasts onto Eutaw Street in Baltimore.
For 20 years, hitters have taken big batting practice swings with their sights set on the river beyond the right-field wall at PNC Park. Many have tried, but only some have succeeded when it counts.
Here’s everything you need to know about the baseballs that have landed in the Allegheny River and the hitters who sent them there. Special thanks to the Pirates for their diligent record-keeping on this topic.
How many home runs have reached the river? 58, as of the end of the 2020 season.
How many different players have homered into the river? 38, with Bryan Reynolds (Sept. 18, 2020) being the newest member of the club.
How many of those home runs landed in the river on the fly? Only five, and Josh Bell (May 8 and 22, 2019) is responsible for two of them. The others were hit by Daryle Ward (July 6, 2002), Garrett Jones (June 2, 2013, making him the first Pirates player to accomplish this feat) and Pedro Álvarez (May 19, 2015).
Have any of those ever hit or landed in a boat? Why, yes. Álvarez launched a home run between the fourth tower and the right-field foul pole that landed in a boat docked along the North Shore riverwalk on May 19, 2015.
How many home runs have the Pirates hit into the river? 33.
How many Pirates players have homered into the river? 16: Rob Mackowiak, Matt Stairs, Matt Lawton, Ryan Doumit, Ward, Nate McLouth, Adam LaRoche, Jones, Travis Snider, Álvarez, Neil Walker, Gregory Polanco, Bell, Max Moroff, Colin Moran and Reynolds.
How many home runs have Pirates opponents hit into the river? 25.
How many opposing players have reached the river? 24: Lance Berkman, Todd Helton, J.D. Drew, Stairs, Jim Edmonds, Ward, Ken Griffey Jr., Mo Vaughn, Jeromy Burnitz, Prince Fielder, Jim Thome, Carlos Guillen, Cliff Floyd, Colby Rasmus, Tyler Colvin, Matt Carpenter, Matt Adams, Travis Shaw, Curtis Granderson, Derek Dietrich, Joey Gallo, Paul Goldschmidt, Christian Yelich and Josh VanMeter.
So two players have homered into the river for and against the Pirates? That’s right. Stairs did so for the Cubs on Sept. 24, 2001, and then twice for the Pirates in ’03. Ward homered into the Allegheny River for Houston on July 6, 2002, and then for Pittsburgh on Sept. 7, 2005.
And only one visiting player has homered into the river twice? Yes, only one person has hit more than one homer into the Allegheny River as a visiting player at PNC Park: the Reds’ Dietrich, who bounced a pair of balls into the river in one game on April 7, 2019.
Who has reached the river the most overall? There’s a three-way tie entering 2021 as Jones, Álvarez and Bell each own four river blasts.
Who was the first player to homer into the river? Berkman, who hit a 428-foot homer that bounced off the slope leading down to the river for the Astros on April 18, 2001. It was just the fifth game played at PNC Park.
Who was the first Pirate to do it? Mackowiak -- perhaps more famous for the pair of homers he hit at PNC Park on May 28, 2004 -- bounced one off the upper walkway and lower riverwalk to reach the river on June 23, 2002.
Which season had the most Allegheny River shots? There were eight homers hit into the river in 2019: two by Bell, two by Dietrich and one each by Gallo, Goldschmidt, Yelich and VanMeter.
How many seasons have there been without a homer into the river? Three: 2004, ’12 and ’18. There was only one per season in '08, ’10 and ’14.
Has a right-handed hitter ever gone deep into the Allegheny? Just one, in fact: Goldschmidt, who bounced a go-ahead grand slam off the upper walkway to the left of the right-field seats for the Cardinals on July 22, 2019.
What is the longest home run ever hit into the Allegheny River? Ward hit a 479-foot grand slam for the Astros off Kip Wells on July 6, 2002.
What is the longest home run ever hit into the river by a Pirate? 472 feet, by Bell against the Rangers’ Shelby Miller on May 8, 2019.
What is the shortest home run that’s ever wound up in the river? This one’s a tie, according to the club’s official records, between Goldschmidt’s right-handed homer and Bell’s first river shot on May 5, 2017. Both were listed at exactly 400 feet.
How many times have there been multiple river balls in the same game? Twice, about a month apart in 2019. Dietrich went deep twice for the Reds on April 7, 2019. With the Rangers in town on May 8, 2019, Bell reached the river on the fly and Gallo bounced one into the water off the riverwalk’s upper walkway.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.