Jimmy Wynn possessed power and speed during his 15-year major league career. People mostly remembered the power, though, because it was prodigious and it was generated by a man who stood 5-10 and weighed 160 pounds.
That power — not to mention a superb throwing arm — helped earn Wynn, who died Thursday at age 78, an all-time nickname: the Toy Cannon. He ended his career with 291 roundtrippers, but it’s worth noting that he spent his first 11 seasons with the Colt .45s/Astros, who played in extreme pitcher’s parks — Colt Stadium and then the Astrodome.
Of course, when Wynn really got a hold of one, no park was going to keep it in. Cases in point: Two tape-measure homers he hit over a six-week period in 1967. They were so impressive, the television footage of them was preserved.
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Sports video in the 1960s was erased about as quickly as it was recorded; only the special stuff was kept.
And these long balls were special.
June 11, 1967: Crosley Field, Cincinnati
Wynn was experiencing a breakout at age 25 as the Astros’ everyday center fielder. On this Sunday afternoon, in Game 2 of a doubleheader in his hometown, he sent a Sammy Ellis pitch clear out of the stadium and into Cincinnati weekend traffic.
July 23, 1967: Forbes Field, Pittsburgh
Wynn just about outdid himself as he faced Pete Mikkelsen in Game 1 of another Sunday twinbill. The ball cleared not only the center-field wall, but also the batting cage, which the Bucs figured was safe out there. As Harry Kalas pointed out in the clip below, it was 457 feet to that part of the yard. Even Rusty Staub, the on-deck batter, seemed awed.
(As an aside, that wall remains standing at the Forbes Field site, preserved after the stadium was torn down in the 1970s.)
Wynn finished the ’67 season with a career-high 37 home runs, 107 RBIs (then a career best), 16 stolen bases and an .826 OPS (an unknown stat at the time). He made first of three All-Star Game appearances that year.
He was with Houston through the 1973 campaign and then played for the Dodgers (he was an All-Star in both of his seasons with LA), Braves, Yankees and Brewers, finishing with Milwaukee in 1977.