Is Yours a Tape Measure Homerun?

Mickey Mantle is my all time favorite athlete. Each time he went to bat, we had the same feeling Reds fans have today when Aroldis Chapman comes in to pitch. Now we think, "How many pitches will top a 100 miles an hour?" With Mantle we thought, "Can Mantle hit another ‘tape measure homerun?’”

The term "tape measure homerun” comes from a homerun Mickey Mantle hit on April 17, 1953, at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D. C. A public relations person for the New York Yankees, Red Patterson measured and found that the ball traveled 585 feet. He then called it a "tape measure homerun.” The term stuck for any long homerun. Mantle later said that the only reason people remember that homerun over the other homeruns he hit was because "Red Patterson attached a number to it," as told in The Last Boy by Jane Leavy.

A point from this story is that people remember specifics; specifics give people direction and focus. Whether delivering a speech or talking to a person over coffee, be specific.  When giving instructions to an employee or a child for a task deadline, don't say, "Do it soon," or “Clean your room.” Say "I want this to be in by 4:30 tomorrow afternoon," or, “Put away all your clothes and books that are on the floor and bed.” When someone asks for directions, don't just give the address; say, "This building is next to Frisch's on Central Parkway a few blocks from the entrance to I-74 West." 

Specifics are important in most actions in life. For example, always know how long you can speak before delivering your presentation. Whether I’m giving “High Bid,” or “Be Present When You are Present,” or a presentation skills workshop, I make a point to end 2-3 minutes before the end of my allotted time. Regard for what I am saying wanes quickly if I run overtime, but ending a bit early leaves everyone on a high note.

Also, keep track of the time when you are meeting someone to discuss a matter. That person may have planned on a brief lunch and not have time for a leisurely afternoon discussion. Be specific when making such plans.

You can immediately improve the quality of your communication in a speech or conversation by adding specificity. So instead of saying, "I'll have another blog entry soon."  I'm going to end with "Look for my next blog entry by the afternoon of Monday, April 18.”

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *