All-Time HR Champs and Chumps–Happy Birthday, Babe

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To honor The Babe on his birthday, let’s set the Home Run records straight for him, Maris, and Aaron.

First, Hank Aaron owns the record for most Career Home Runs:  755

Period, end of conversation.

1.

Barry Bonds (22)

762

L

HR Log

2.

Hank Aaron+ (23)

755

R

HR Log

3.

Babe Ruth+ (22)

714

L

HR Log

4.

Willie Mays+ (22)

660

R

HR Log

5.

Alex Rodriguez (19, 36)

647

R

HR Log

6.

Ken Griffey (22)

630

L

HR Log

7.

Jim Thome (22, 41)

612

L

HR Log

8.

Sammy Sosa (18)

609

R

HR Log

9.

Frank Robinson+ (21)

586

R

HR Log

10.

Mark McGwire (16)

583

R

HR Log

There are two active players on the list who could still break Aaron’s record, but, it is not likely that Jim Thome will hit 150 HRs this year and A-Rod, the aging Yankee Cripper, may have a year or two left to hit 115 more HRs; besides, he publicly confessed to using banned PEDs.

 Why is Barry Bonds listed as #1 ahead of Aaron?

Baseball Reference lists Barry Bonds as the record holder.  Depending on the outcome of his court appeal, Bonds may have a case for claiming Aaron’s record.

[Before anyone thinks that we are a Bonds’ supporter, know that he would probably be able to ID me on the basis of hearing a recording of my voice, since I berated him on many occasions at Candlestick Park.  Also see my post, “You’re Barry Bonds…” here on the BSI website.]

Since he is currently a convicted felon, we will leave Bonds [pending appeal] off our personally revised:

1.

Hank Aaron+ (23)

755

R

HR Log

2.

Babe Ruth+ (22)

714

L

HR Log

3.

Willie Mays+ (22)

660

R

HR Log

4.

Ken Griffey (22)

630

L

HR Log

5.

Jim Thome (22, 41)

612

L

HR Log

6.

Frank Robinson+ (21)

586

R

HR Log

To be fair to Barry Bonds, nobody ever proved he used steroids before 2003 and he tested clean after that year.  He was convicted of “obstruction of justice”–on one count of giving an evasive answer to a 2003 grand jury investigating illegal steroids distribution; for evasive, rambling reply during a 2003 grand jury appearance when the prosecutor asked whether he received drugs that required a syringe.’

In August 2011 the jury deadlocked on three charges Bonds made false statements, and prosecutors dropped those counts.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston sentenced Bonds to 30 days of house arrest, two years of probation, 250 hours of community service in youth-related activities and a $4,000 fine. She delayed imposing the sentence pending the appeal.

Bonds’ lawyers argue that his answer was accurate and not meant to obstruct.

Next week, February 13, 2013, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled oral arguments before a three-judge panel in San Francisco.

The significant outcome of his conviction is that obstruction of justice” is defined as a felony in the state of California. 

If Bonds wins his appeal and is no longer a felon in California, his claim to the career Home Run record would deserve consideration.

Hall of Fame? MLB and the Hall of Fame will leave that decision to the irrelevant BWAA “Jury of Pee-ers,” who will pass judgment on his integrity, sportsmanship, and character:” and may deign to award him their vacuous stamp of approval.

If his appeal is denied, unless he can get the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn his felony conviction, Barry Bonds should be relegated to a footnote at the very bottom of the list.

Until that time, Hank Aaron is the record holder for Career Home Runs.

Determining the record holder for most home runs in a “Single Season” is a murky business.  Ruth hit his 60 homers in 154 games; Maris hit his 61st in game 162,

 After 154 games in 1961, Maris had a total of 58 HRs

Maris tied Ruth with his 60th home run in game #159 [9/26/1961] against Jack Fisher of the Orioles at Yankee Stadium.

Fisher had not allowed a hit to the potent Yankees lineup since Maris’s first inning single. The right fielder took the count to 2-2, then lined up a Fisher pitch and crushed hit. The high, majestic drive was one of Maris’s longest clouts of the year, and it bounced off a seat in the right field upper deck. Ruth now had company in the 60-home run club. There were no fights for the ball as it caromed back to the field and right fielder Earl Robinson passed it on to Maris in the Yankees’ dugout…In Maris’s [next] two trips to the plate, he lifted two more fly balls to right field, but both easily settled into Robinson’s glove. It would be a few more days before Maris broke the record.” [http://www.pinstripedbible.com/2012/9/26/3412900/this-day-in-yankees-history-roger-maris-home-run-record]

Maris passed Ruth, hitting his 61st home run in game #162 [10/1/1961] against Racy Stallard of the Red Sox in the fourth inning of the last game of the season at Yankee Stadium.

Remarkably, only 23,154 fans attended the record-breaking game.

[A baseball signed by both Roger Maris and Tracy Stallard recently sold in a reputable auction (held in 2002) for $3,541.00. SEE: http://www.baseball-almanac.com/feats/feats12b.shtml]

Maris had a spectacular year; he led the American League in runs (132), RBIs (142), and home runs (sixty-one) —hit once in every 9.7 at-bats [1961]. His career stat was 18.55.

 

 

 

 

 

CAREER ABs per HR

Rank

Player (yrs., age)

AB per HR

Bats

1.

Mark McGwire (16)

10.61

R

2.

Babe Ruth+ (22)

11.76

L

3.

Barry Bonds (22)

12.92

L

4.

Ryan Howard (9, 32)

13.51

L

5.

Jim Thome (22, 41)

13.76

L

6.

Ralph Kiner+ (10)

14.11

R

7.

Harmon Killebrew+ (22)

14.22

R

8.

Sammy Sosa (18)

14.47

R

9.

Albert Pujols (12, 32)

14.57

R

10.

Adam Dunn (12, 32)

14.60

L

11.

Ted Williams+ (19)

14.79

L

12.

Manny Ramirez (19, 40)

14.85

R

13.

Alex Rodriguez (19, 36)

14.93

R

14.

Juan Gonzalez (17)

15.11

R

15.

Dave Kingman (16)

15.11

R

16.

Russell Branyan (14, 36)

15.12

L

17 

Mickey Mantle+ (18)

15.12

B

86.

Roger Maris (12)

18.55

L

 

FACT:  After 154 games [before the AL extended the season to 162 games in 1961*], Ruth had 60 and Maris had 58 home runs. 

“[Maris’] career BABIP was not that much lower than the league BABIP when he played, approximately .020 points difference. This doesn’t seem too low, and for his career, 1961 seems like an outlier.

He went to plate a lot in 1961 – 698 PAs, walking 94 times and striking out 67, with 61 HRs and 7 sacrifices. That leaves 469 other PA, during which time he had 98 hits for his .209 BABIP.” http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/crowd-outsourcing-roger-maris-batting-profile/]

 After hitting his 60th homer in 1927, Ruth exclaimed:

“60 Count ‘em, 60! Let’s see some son of a bitch try to top that one.”

Case closed?

Babe Ruth    (1927) – 60 home runs in 540 at bats
Roger Maris (1961) – 61 home runs in 590 at bats

On October 1, 1961, the final game of the season, Maris had 4 ABs and hit his famous 61st HR during his second at-bat.

It took Maris 581 ABs to hit 60 HRs: it took Babe Ruth 540 ABs

Thus:

Babe Ruth (1927)      60 home runs in 540 at bats

Roger Maris (1961)   60 home runs in 581 at bats

Roger Maris (1961)   61 home runs in 590 at bats

POINT:  It took Roger Maris 41 MORE at-bats to hit 60 HRs than Ruth.

Commissioner Ford Frick, Ruth’s former ghostwriter, ruled that due to the expanded 162-game season, Maris’s record would not be considered legitimate if he did not break it within 154 games. Frick, a former sportswriter, had known and admired Ruth, and had worked with the Babe on various stories that appeared under Ruth’s byline.

In 1961, during their pursuit of Ruth’s record, the M&M Boys said:

  Mickey Mantle: “I think it’s right. Ruth set it in 154 games, and you should beat it in the same number of games. If I should break it in the 155th game, I wouldn’t want the record.”

   Roger Maris: “I think the Commissioner shouldn’t have made any 154-game ruling when he did. But if Mick breaks it, I hope he does it in 154. The same goes for me.”

In 1968, the Special Baseball Records committee ruled, according to the Macmillan baseball encyclopedia, that:

“…for all-time single season records, no asterisk or official sign shall be used to indicate the number of games scheduled.

And, twenty-three years later [1991] the major leagues’ Committee for Statistical Accuracy, chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent, acted on the home run record; the eight-man committee re-affirmed the ruling of the 1968 committee.

Thus, as far as MLB is concerned, officially…

the “number of games scheduled.” is not relevant to the single season record.

We are drawn to conclude that MLB officially recognizes Roger Maris as the Single Season record holder with 61 HRs in 1961.

Babe Ruth [Champ} 8,399 career at bats 1,330 career strikeouts

 

 

Roger Maris [Champ} 5,101 career at bats 733 career strikeouts
Hank Aaron  [Champ} 12,364 career at bats 1,383career strikeouts
Sammy Sosa [Chump] 8,813 career at bats 2,306 career strikeouts
Mark McGwire [Chump] 6,187 career at bats 1,596 career strikeouts

Yankee fans turned Maris into a villain, a usurper, an interloper:

 “The media and fans once decried Mantle for his perceived inferiority to predecessor Joe DiMaggio, but they came to Mantle’s side as Maris threatened the home run record. People figured that if Ruth’s record was to be passed, it was better for a homegrown Yankee veteran to do it rather than an import from the Kansas City Athletics (even if he was the defending AL MVP).

Nonetheless, Mantle suffered a hip abscess from a bad shot that got infected, and he was out of the race despite a career-high 54 homers.” [http://www.pinstripedbible.com/2012/9/26/3412900/this-day-in-yankees-history-roger-maris-home-run-record]

 “They acted as though I was doing something wrong, poisoning the record books or something. Do you know what I have to show for 61 home runs? Nothing. Exactly nothing.” [Maris speaking at the 1980 All-Star Game

In 2001, the film 61* about Maris and Mantle's pursuit of the major league's single season home run record was first broadcast. Many of the unpleasant aspects of Maris' season were addressed, including the hate mail, death threats, and his stress-induced hair loss.

In addition, the film delved into the relationship between Maris and Mantle, portraying them as friends more than rivals. Mantle was depicted defending Maris to the New York media, and Maris was shown trying to influence the hard-living Mantle to look after himself better. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Maris]

His fine defensive skills were often overlooked. He made a game-saving play in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 1962 World Series against the San Francisco Giants. With the Yankees leading 1-0 and Matty Alou on first, Willie Mays doubled toward the right-field line. Maris cut off the ball and made a strong throw to prevent Alou from scoring the tying run; the play set up Willie McCovey‘s series-ending line drive to second baseman Bobby Richardson, capping what would prove to be the final World Series victory for the “old” Yankees.

Although he batted .269 in 1961, Maris was a clutch hitter; he hit much better with runners on base (.303) than with the bases empty (.241), and he did even better with runners in scoring position (.328).Thus, we are left to conclude that, as of today, these are the record holders:

 Total Career Home Runs:  Hank Aaron [715]

 Single Season [154 games} Home Runs:  Babe Ruth [60]

 Single Season [162 games} Home Runs:  Roger Maris [61]

While fully recognizing the greatness of Roger Maris as an all-round player, using ABs as a criterion, we are drawn to the conclusion that Ruth has a slight statistical edge on Maris, since he hit his 60th HR in fewer ABs [41] than Maris.

We also conclude that, as long as he is the Single Season record holder for HRs, he deserves to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

And, since we are honoring The Bambino today, next time you are engaged in the debate about who was the “best baseball player in history,” after you note the proviso that it may well have been any number of Negro league players [EX: Josh Gibson, “The Black Babe Ruth”],

…go with Babe Ruth.

Let the seamheads react and bicker a while; then, hit them with this:

Ruth was not only one of the greatest hitters of all-time; he also, by sheer force of his ebullient personality and charisma, “saved baseball.”

Then, pause, and add:

Ruth also established himself as one of the premier left-handed pitchers in the game with the Boston Red Sox.

On July 11, 1914, at the tender age of 19, less than five months after leaving St. Mary’s Industrial School, Babe Ruth made his debut at Fenway Park: he pitched seven innings against Cleveland and received credit for a 4-3 win.

During his five full seasons with the Boston Red Sox, Babe Ruth won 20 games…TWICE!  Led the AL in ERA [1.75, 1916] and career ERA of 2.28; career winning % .671 [94-46]; career WHIP 1.16. 

Except for going 5-0 with the Yankees, his entire pitching record was with the Red Sox [1914-1919].

So, when they start arguing for any other player, ask them:

 “Was he a great hitter AND a great pitcher?”

Happy Birthday, Babe.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

 [*The American League expanded to 10 teams in the 1961 season; the schedule was lengthened to 162 games. The National League expanded to 10 teams in the 1962 and adopted the 162 game format.]

The Single-Season Home Run Kings
Ruth, Maris, McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds, 2d ed.
William F. McNeil
Print ISBN: 978-0-7864-1441-3
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-7864-8128-6
photos, tables, bibliography, index

ALEXANDER VASICH, born Oct 8, 1957, in Milwaukee. Joined the SABR in 1995.  In 1982 he formulated a mathematical way to compare Ruth to Maris. Society for American Baseball Research by Turner Publishing (Jun 23, 2000), pg. 209.

 

 

 


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Tags: Babe Ruth Hank Aaron Roger Maris

  • http://twitter.com/TheFansCommish Rick Swanson

    Maris had 58 after 152 games in 1961. You wrote 54 many times. Tracy Stallard not Racy. Great article though