Monday, July 26, 2010


If you want to read a great book about baseball read Mark Ribowsky's "The Complete History Of The Home Run." It gives a decade-by-decade breakdown of the home run from the mighty blow that was thought to have literally killed Jim Creighton in 1862 ("Didn't we warn you guys about trying to hit them balls out the park?") through Barry Bonds asterisk-setting 73 round-trippers in 2001. It was published in 2003 by Citadel Press.

However, there's something I've noticed on my own.

There have been 23 occasions since 1995 that players have reached the 50+ mark. Only once was it done by a man whose last name was Bonds. Mark McGwire did it four times, as did Sammy Sosa. A-Rod has done it (so far) three times and Ken Griffey Jr. did it twice. The others were Albert "Don't Call Me Joey" Belle (1995), Brady Anderson (1996), Greg Vaughn (1998), Luis Gonazlez (2001), Gentleman Jim Thome (2002), Andruw Jones (2005), Ryan Howard (2006), David Ortiz (2006) and Prince Fielder (2007). And.... there were only 18 occasions on which it was done in the whole history of Major League Baseball prior to 1995.

So, with that in mind, how many times did it happen in the 35-year span from 1961-1995? Five. Yes, that's right. Five times! From the beginning of the Expansion Era to the year Belle hit his steroid-induced/corked bat 50 only Roger Maris (61 in 1961), Mickey Mantle (54 in 1961), Willie Mays (52 in 1965), Cincinnati Reds' outfielder George Foster (52 in 1977) and Prince Fielder's papa Cecil Fielder (51 in 1990) turned the trick.  During all of the 60's it only happened three times.

Think of it? With the likes of Mays, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Reggie Jackson, Willie McCovey, Mantle, Maris, Ernie Banks, Willie Stargell, Carl Yastrzemski, Billy Williams, Al Kaline, Norm Cash, Ron Santo, Frank Howard, Brooks Robinson, Robert Clemente, Jimmy Wynn, Willie Horton, Boog Powell and Orlando Cepeda playing during the decade only three of them were able to break the century mark. Another slugger got as far as choking twice, hitting at 49 homers  in 1964 and 1969 because the mental block of breaking the barrier was too strong (I'll leave his true identity a secret as to not embarrass my childhood idol any further). During his triple crown season, Orioles' rightfielder Frank Robinson could only muster 49 dingers in 1966. Even the great Lou Gehrig topped out at 49 twice (1934 & '36).

No one in the 1970's hit 50 or more other than Foster and that includes the one and only, Reginald Martinez Jackson. It also includes Foster's own teammate Johnny Bench and any other members of the Big Red Machine.

At first glance you'd think the only people hitting home runs in the early 80's were Phillies' slugger Mike Schmidt, Andre Dawson and Dale Murphy. It was guys like Rickey Henderson, Vince Coleman, Ozzie Smith, Ron Leflore and Tim Raines who dominated the game. They ran the base paths with near-reckless abandon, causing havoc for all that dared throw over to first base. The homer didn't seem that important anymore. Then Bonds, McGwire, Rafael Palmerio and Ozzie Canseco's evil twin Jose arrived on the scene. Andre Dawson of the Cubs won the MVP and the National League home run title by hitting 49 in 1987. McGwire set a rookie record in '87 with the same number of dingers to pace the American League and it was if the rest of players said, "hey, I want to do that too!"

Just about every baseball that's been hit out of the park has been scrutinized since. Shortstop and second baseman, which used be the weakest bats in the lineup, known for defense and place-hitting, soon became power positions. Everyone was hitting home runs except the pitchers because the DH and the fact that most of them hadn't held a bat in their hands since they were in junior high.


  1. Dan: they would be Tony Armas, and again, Tony Armas. Blog most impressive, like the 1960's theme. Will subscribe!

  2. Those were the days of the legitimate homerun!