by Rob Joyce
The Marlins don’t have much to play for over the final dozen games of the season. Entering Tuesday at 70-80, they are mathematically eliminated from postseason contention, and at this point all they can do is play spoiler when they head to Colorado next Monday. However, Miami slugger Giancarlo Stanton is chasing history. His 455-foot home run on Monday gives him 55 for the season, the most hit in a single year since 2010, and if he can hit five more over the next week-and-a-half, he’ll join an exclusive club.
Put an asterisk (or multiple) where you see fit, but only five players in major league history have ever reached 60 home runs in one season. Without getting into an argument over steroids or the number of games played, here is the factual list that Stanton is trying to join:
For over 30 years (and, depending your view of baseball history over the last two decades, perhaps still) Ruth held the record with his 60 dingers in 1927. Mind you at that time there were only 154 games in a season, not the current 162. You could argue that his 1921 season was better: he didn’t quite reach 60 homers (59) but had more RBIs, hits, walks, runs scored and doubles.
The all-time home run king, Bonds is the single-season record holder as well with his 73-homer performance in 2001. That’s one home run every nine plate appearances, and with his 177 walks his on-base percentage that year was .515. He made McCovey Cove his personal target practice.
The Cardinals slugger made the list in back-to-back years, with his then-record 70 long balls in 1998 in the chase with Sammy Sosa, and then again the next year with a 66 homer encore. In fact, his 193 home runs from 1997-99 (he slugged 58 homers in ’97) is the most ever hit in a three-year stretch in baseball history.
Unlike all of those with the cloud of steroids hanging over them, Maris’ 1961 season literally had an asterisk. When he hit 61 home runs in the 162-game season, commissioner Ford Frick declared Ruth the record-holder because Maris didn’t break the mark within 154 games. Until 1991 the feats of Maris and Ruth were separate from one another in the official record books.
The only three-time member of this list, Sosa was in the chase with McGwire in both 1998 (66 home runs) and 1999 (63), then added another 64 two years later in 2001. That outlier season in ’00 he only hit 50 long balls, making a four-year stretch in which the Cubs’ outfielder slugged 243 homers.
The overwhelming note with this list? Of the five players who have hit 60-plus, only Babe Ruth is in the Hall of Fame.