Whether you’re an avid fan of baseball or you sometimes see it playing on your stepdad’s TV, you’ve probably heard the term “home run” before. That, or you just really liked Moneyball. Home runs are among the most exciting plays in baseball, and are a critical part of the game. But have you ever wondered why we chose that term? Why is it called a home run?
What Are Home Runs?
Before talking about how they got their name, let’s get technical with baseball rules and define just what exactly a home run is.
As a general statement, a home runs occur when a batter smacks a baseball over the outfield fence (as long as all this occurs in fair territory). Because the ball is effectively gone, the batter can’t be thrown out. Therefore, they get all four bases.
But technically, a home run occurs when the batter takes all four bases on a single hit. So if a batter hits the ball somewhere within the field of play, and they manage to touch all four bases, it’s a home run. We call these “inside-the-park home runs”, and they are very rare.
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Classifying Home Runs
Baseball is a sport that loves stats. So there are many other ways to describe the various types of home runs that a player can achieve.
In addition to regular home runs and an inside-the-park home runs, there’s also grand slams. These occur when a batter hits a home run with the bases loaded (aka when there are runners on all three other bases).
If a player hits any type of home run that ends the game, we call it a “walk-off” home run. You can also get leadoff home runs when your first batter (or “leadoff hitter”) hits a home run in the first inning of the game.
Back-to-back home runs are when two consecutive batters each hit a home run. And yes, you can have back-to-back-to-back and back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs too.
Perhaps the most rare home run classification of all is the home run cycle. This occurs when a batter hits a solo, 2-run, 3-run, and a grand slam in a single game. As at stands, no player has ever achieved this in an MLB game, mostly because it is dependent on having runners on base (something the batter can’t control). There’s also the fact that a player has to hit four home runs in a game to achieve it, something that has only occurred 18 times in the MLB.
The Origin of the Home Run
Alright, you’re probably really here for the reason home runs are called home runs. Sadly, there’s no long, interesting backstory behind the term.
It’s really all about home plate. We don’t really know why the developers of baseball called it that, but we’d gander that it’s referred to as “home” because it’s the goal of the runner in baseball to return to it. So, home runs are just smashing words together–it’s when the batter can run the bases and return to home plate on a single hit.
But, if you watch baseball, you’ve probably seen your fair share of out-of-the-park home runs. In this case, the batter doesn’t really sprint all the way around the diamond–it’s more of a jog, since they have no chance of being tagged out.
Why then, don’t we call them “home jogs”?
Well, way back in the older days of baseball, fields were generally a lot bigger. The first home runs were mostly inside-the-park, rather than out-of-the-park. This meant that early baseball players actually did have to run if they wanted to round all the bases. Hence, the home run.
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