Atlanta's 'Launching Pad'

Playing in Atlanta, Dave Johnson set a major league record for second basemen with 43 home runs. Hank Aaron hit his record-breaking 715th career homer there, and some people think third baseman Bob Horner could become a 50-homers-a-year man if he stays in a Braves' uniform.

If any National League park qualifies as a home run paradise, Atlanta Stadium is it. During the last five complete seasons, 799 balls have cleared the fence there, more than in any other NL stadium and second only to the 875 hit in Boston's Fenway Park, an American League precinct.

Nobody knows why sluggers thrive so in the ballpark nicknamed ''The Launching Pad.'' The outfield dimensions are about average, with no short ''porches'' like those in Yankee and Tiger Stadiums and no invitingly close walls like Fenway's famed left-field Green Monster. Furthermore, the winds aren't the factor they sometimes are in Chicago's Wrigley Field.

Trying to unearth the stadium's secret, Atlanta Constitution reporter Ed Hinton asked Dr. John Harper, an aerospace professor at Georgia Tech, if the city's elevation has anything to do with it. He doesn't think so, discounting the the notion that being baseball's highest city (l,050 feet above sea level) could be much of a factor. ''I really don't have an answer, or a theory,'' said Dr. Harper.

Knowing how well the ball carries in Atlanta Stadium, sluggers just seem to feel their oats more there. And as Hinton theorizes, the pitching-poor Braves surely have played a part in the home run totals, as has the team's interest in acquiring power hitters such as Horner, Dale Murphy, and Jeff Burroughs (now with Oakland). Is it any wonder Chief Noc-A-Homa is the team mascot?

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