When Major League Baseball gets around to constructing a Mount Rushmore of home run hitters, set the bar at 700 homers and they can limit the profiles to four players.
There’s Barry Bonds (maybe with an asterisk for his up close and personal relationship to PEDs). There’s Babe Ruth, who was the first to reach that plateau and did it with cigars and beer.
And then there are two others who deserve larger images — Hank Aaron, who many believe is the true home run king, and Albert Pujols, the latest member of this exclusive club. They share another distinction. Their 700 home runs are included in over 3,000 career hits and that puts them in a category all their own. Ruth and Bonds were well short of that achievement.
Both Aaron and Pujols assembled their home run totals with remarkable, season after season consistency, Neither had a 50-home run season, something Bonds and Ruth managed almost routinely, But season after season of 40-plus homers added up to 700.
For Pujols the journey to that magic number included a remarkable run through his final season with the St. Louis Cardinals. At age 42, he put on a terrific show that concluded with his 699th and 700th home runs in the same game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Pujols was in a race against himself. He was 21 home runs short of the target when the 2022 season began and still 14 short when the season hit August. Then he went off on a tear that took him to the rarified neighborhood of 700 homers.
It was perfect that he reached 700 in Dodgers Stadium. Released by the Angels a season ago, Pujols’ zest for the game was restored when he signed with Los Angeles. It was poetic justice, however, when he signed on for one last season with St. Louis. It was with the Cardinals that he blossomed into one baseball’s most feared sluggers while his time with the Angels was mostly disappointing.
From 2001 through 2011 with the Cardinals, he averaged over 40 home runs a year. Then he left for Los Angeles and his production dropped dramatically. The suspicion was that he was done. He was, however, not quite done and he proved that when he returned to a final season in St. Louis.
The sad part of his milestone night was that the game broadcast was limited to the streaming audience on Apple-Plus television, another example of management squeezing every last penny out of their product. It did not, however, diminish from the achievement of one of the game’s greatest hitters. The Home Run Mount Rushmore will certify that fact.