Every baseball fan knows the Yankees’ Aaron Judge is a big guy.
Yeah, 6-foot, 7-inches tall, he weighs in at 282 pounds. That’s big by any standard.
Not so fast: How about legendary outfielder Buster Logan, born in May of 1928, who stood more than seven feet tall, weighed in the neighborhood of 350 pounds, and walloped prodigious home runs of 500 feet or more?
Of course, while Judge closes in on Roger Maris’s Yankees record of 61 homers in 1961, big Buster is merely legendary – as were Paul Bunyan and Forrest Gump.
Author Don Shearer said he put together his enjoyment from seeing old Gene Mack ballpark illustrations and the true story of Robert Wadlow, who grew to 8-11.
“What if a really large person who was actually athletic, and powerful, back in the early times of these parks could ‘happen’? And then I started doing the homework, moved all the puzzle pieces around,” he said.
A pituitary disorder, similar to what happened to Wadlow, led to Logan’s massive size – and, with it, an enormous strike zone. Logan used custom-made Louisville Slugger bats, weighing about three pounds and measuring 40-44 inches in length.
Hitting 27 home runs as a high school senior attracted more than a fair share of coaches, all envying adding someone of Logan’s bulk to a big-league roster.
A Pittsburgh Pirates scout visited the Logan home in Pennsylvania and signed him to a contract. Logan’s pro days began with the nearby White Roses team in the Interstate League in July 1945.
Not every baseball this seven-footer hit was a home run, and he was often a strikeout victim, but when he hit one over the fence – and sometimes the light towers – the baseballs never came back.
Before July ended, Logan was promoted to Class A Albany, and after winning the league championship, he was sent all the way up to the Pirates, where Hall-of-Famer-to-be Frankie Frisch was the manager.
Shearer weaves in real ballplayers and coaches of that era along the way – Vince DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Al Gionfriddo and even New Mexico-born Vern Stephens and Fred Haney, to name a few – as well as long-gone big-league ballparks.
Logan had quite the career with the Pirates – BTW, Shearer is a Baltimore Orioles fan – and it winds down right after the 1960 campaign, which any Pirates fan will tell you ended well after a Bill Mazeroski home run. Logan led “that team” with 25 homers, and socked a couple in the World Series.
Retiring at the age of 32, Logan clouted 651 homers, a National League record until Willie Mays wound up with 660. He led the league in homers six times and was an eight-time all-star.
We read of “The Ballpark Buster” at age 74, living comfortably in his Greene Township home in the year 2000, happily gardening.
It was quite a career for the lovable giant, and although Shearer stretched his imagination to pen this tale, it’s an enjoyable read for fans of the national pastime – of which, Shearer prefers the olden days, before hefty salaries.
“He was a good-natured person and I wanted him to end up in a place far from the madding crowd, living in the same house his parents brought him up in,” Shearer said. “I wanted it to be realistic and have fun with it, too.”
You can find the book at donshearerwriter.com and on Amazon.