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Howard fastest in history to 100 homers

Howard fastest in history to 100 homers

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PHILADELPHIA -- It soared over the 31-foot, six-inch-high batter's eye in center field, bouncing into the Wall of Fame area, then onto Ashburn Alley.

From there, Ryan Howard's still-going homer rolled through gasping fans eating cheese steaks and stopped before a Citizens Bank Park ATM, where it was retrieved by a fan and later traded for Howard's signature on another ball.

The ball traveled an estimated 505 feet -- very far, by all accounts.

"There should be gold at the end of that rainbow," said reliever Clay Condrey, who had a good view from the Phillies bullpen as the ball sailed well over everyone's head.

Howard's impressive homer, which came in the Phillies' 9-6 loss to the Reds on Wednesday night, may have waved past the monument honoring Mike Schmidt, who hit the majority of his 548 long balls in another Philadelphia stadium during another Philadelphia era. This is Howard's era now, anyway.

This much is known: These 505 feet shattered a Major League record that was in its 59th year. In hitting his 100th career homer in his 325th game, Howard bested Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner by 60 games. Kiner took 385 games to smack No. 100, which came during the 1948 season.

"It's completely and totally ridiculous and impressive at the same time," Phillies outfielder Greg Dobbs said. "It should be illegal to have that kind of power, for everyone else."

Howard's first home run victim was the Mets' Bartolome Fortunato on Sept. 11, 2004, 10 days after the slugger's Major League debut. One other followed in that season, then 22 more in his National League Rookie of the Year campaign of 2005. In all, Howard has punished 85 pitchers in reaching this milestone, with many more to come.

Remember poor Mike Mussina last June 20? The veteran right-hander thought he could bust Howard inside, and the first baseman pasted one into the third deck, the first and still only ball hit there at Citizens Bank Park.

How about Atlanta's Tim Hudson last Sept. 3? He made three mistakes to Howard, who smacked all three to various parts of the stadium. Florida's Scott Olsen last Sept. 8? Don't go there.

For deja vu, there's Florida's Sergio Mitre on April 23, 2006. Ooops. That one ended up in nearly the same spot as Wednesday's but fell short at an estimated 496 feet. That one never made it to Ashburn Alley, either.

So how did this one feel?

"It was one of those feelings where you really don't feel that much off the bat," Howard said. "I hit it pretty good off the sweet spot, and it jumped. The one thing I remember was it was loud. I didn't know it was going to go that far. I figured I got enough. I saw it clear the eye, but I didn't know exactly where the ball went."

Howard wasn't the only one.

"I lost it halfway up, then, all of a sudden, it reappeared," Phillies reliever Brian Sanches said. "It was the furthest [home run] I saw. It landed right where all those people [stood]. It was unbelievable."

"He has all the power in the world," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "He definitely smoked that ball. The fact that he hit that many home runs in a short period of time, that shows you how much ability he has."

The homer came at a big moment, breaking a scoreless game against Reds ace Aaron Harang, and it gave the Phillies a 3-0 lead. It came in the fifth inning, after a 10-pitch walk to second baseman Chase Utley. With Harang clearly frustrated, the battle with the reigning National League Most Valuable Player lasted one pitch.

"Utley gave me a good battle right before that," Harang said. "I threw a lot of pitches to him. I made one mistake [to Howard]. I wanted it middle-away. It was middle-in."

Then out in a hurry. Howard said that he knew he was approaching 100, but he didn't know he was close to becoming the quickest to the mark. He looked down and smiled at the ball, which had already been labeled "No. 100, off Cincinnati's Aaron Harang" and encased in plastic.

"It's always good to be part of history," Howard said. "I'm grateful for it. This is going up in the house. I'll give it to my parents, and I'll probably have to wrestle for it to get it back. This one is definitely up there. It has to be. First hit, first home run, now 100th home run."

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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