As Aaron Judge struggled for nearly a week in 2022 to hit his 62nd home run, the most home runs of all time in the American League, baseball fans stayed glued to one at-bat after another in hopes of seeing the historic moment.
It happened previously when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were swinging for the National League and major-league records in 1998 and three year later when Barry Bonds surpassed Big Mac for the all-time mark.
It turns out, everybody digs the long ball. It’s also no surprise the highest paid players are all big-hitters who consistently hit home runs and RBIs and get fans to their feet.
The total being hit has soared over time, appropriately like a long ball traveling toward an outfield fence, and keeping the home run as one of the more celebrated statistics in sports history.
From Hank Aaron to Jim Thome and from Mickey Mantle to Ken Griffey Jr., which hitters have been going yard most often? We dive into the record books to explore the top MLB home run leaders in baseball history.
Single-Season Home Run Record
The list of leaders is not as embraced as it should be because the top six spots were secured by Bonds, McGwire and Sosa over a four-year span (1998 to 2001) that was at the height of a steroids-filled era in Major League Baseball. Since then, the validity of those home run totals have often been called into question.
McGwire was the first to surpass Roger Maris’ previous single-season record of 61 home runs in 1961, hitting his 62nd of the 1998 season on Sept. 8. The St. Louis Cardinal homered off Chicago Cubs right-hander Steve Trachsel with a low, searing line drive down Busch Stadium’s left field line.
McGwire wound up with a record 70 home runs that season, only to be surpassed by Bonds three years later. The San Francisco Giant slugged No. 71 to right-center of then-Pacific Bell Stadium off Los Angeles Dodgers righty Chan Ho Park on Oct. 5, 2001. He added two more in the Giants’ final regular-season series for 73.
While Maris hit his 61st homer on the final day of a 154-game schedule in 1961, Judge tied the fellow New York Yankee in the 155th game of the 162-game 2022 season and reached 62 in the 161st game. The different length in seasons is not an issue to Roger Maris Jr., who was in attendance when McGwire first passed his father and later Judge, and he says Judge’s 62 – not Bonds’ 73 – should be considered the major league record.
It is unlikely these numbers will be matched any time soon. The most by an active player entering the 2023 season is Miguel Cabrera with 507, followed by Nelson Cruz (459), Giancarlo Stanton (378) and Mike Trout (350).
Most Home Runs in a Career in MLB History
Although Bonds never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs or ever admitted to using them, consider the effect of his stained era on the three-highest home run totals in history:
Hank Aaron’s 755 and Babe Ruth 714 home runs are well-known numbers, ranking second and third, respectively.
Bonds’ 762? Not so much (seriously, just ask somebody to name Bonds’ career total).
Albert Pujol is the fourth and only other member of MLB’s 700-homer club, as he finished his career with 703. There are nine players with at least 600 and 28 with at least 500.
Most Home Runs in a Postseason in MLB History
With playoff rounds increasing over time, the postseason record books have been rewritten in recent decades by players getting more plate appearances.
Randy Arozarena set the single-postseason mark with 10 home runs over 20 games of the Tampa Bay Rays’ World Series runner-up finish in 2020.
Through the 2022 season, four players had hit at least 20 postseason home runs in a career. Manny Ramirez had the highest total with 29 followed by Jose Altuve (23), Bernie Williams (22) and Derek Jeter (20).
The most home runs in a postseason game is three, and it’s be accomplished 13 times. Ruth is the only player to swat a trio multiple times – in 1926 and ’28 postseason games against the St. Louis Cardinals – while another Yankee, Reggie Jackson, owns the most-memorable performance as he hit homers on three consecutive pitches faced in their 1977 World Series-clinching win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
What about at the team level?
Way back in 1884, the origins of the Cubs – the Colts, then the White Stockings – began a run of eight straight seasons in which they led the league in home runs.
Later, the Yankees did the same for six consecutive seasons (1936-41) in the American League.
Of course, that streak must have irked their old rivals so much that the Brooklyn Dodgers went on to post seven seasons in a row (1949-55) as the NL leader in round-trippers.
Today, it feels as though every team is banging home runs at a staggering level. Smaller parks, perhaps a smaller strike zone, juiced ball – juiced players, at one point – there could be many reasons the overall totals have elevated like a hanging Jamie Moyer cutter getting squared up. (Sorry Jamie, but you did surrender the most home runs in MLB history: 522)
Whose hitters have gone yard most often?
Most Team Home Runs in a Season
The place to be in the 2019 season was the seating beyond the outfield fences. The 30 Major League Baseball teams combined to belt the most home runs in history – 6,776, or 10% more than the next-highest season of 6,105 in 2017.
Four of the top five in the rankings also occurred that year: the Minnesota Twins slugging a single-season home run record of 307 to edge the Yankees (306), with the Houston Astros (288) third and the Los Angeles Dodgers (279) fourth. Each team surpassed the Yanks’ 267 homers in 2018.
The Twins had one fewer homer than the Yankees to begin the final day of 2019 regular season, but in a 5-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals, C.J. Cron, Jake Cave and Jason Castro (the team’s 307th overall) combined for three compared to Aaron Judge’s solo home run in the Yankees’ 6-1 loss to the Texas Rangers.
To say the Twins’ 307 homers were unexpected is an understatement after they only hit 166 a season earlier. But in 2019, five Twins slugged at least 30 – Nelson Cruz with 41, then Max Kepler (36), Miguel Sano (34), Eddie Rosario (32) and Mitch Garver (31). Meanwhile, the Yankees had an MLB-record 14 players reach double figures in home runs hit, led by Gleyber Torres (36) and Gary Sanchez (34).
But in 2023, the Atlanta Braves set an NL record and tied the Twins’ mark with 307 home runs. Marcell Ozuna reached 40 homers on the record-tying bomb. And the Braves had three hitters in its lineup with as many long balls: Matt Olson (54) and Ronald Acuna Jr. (41) being the others.
Most Team Home Runs in a Postseason
The 2020 Rays weren’t known as a great slugging team, but they took advantage of an extended postseason following a 60-game schedule and belted 34 home runs (20 games) on the way to the World Series. The Dodgers, who won that World Series, hit 30 that postseason (18 games).
In a more traditional playoff format, the 2017 Astros (18 games) and the 2002 Giants (17 games) hold the mark with 27 apiece.
Most Team Home Runs in a World Series
You guessed it, it’s that 2017 Astros team that was the subject of baseball’s biggest cheating scandal in years when it was exposed a couple seasons later. World Series MVP George Springer led the way with five of Houston’s 15 home runs in a seven-game series win over the Dodgers.
That 2002 Giants team that featured another controversial figure in Barry Bonds is second on the all-time list with the 14 they crushed in a seven-game series loss to the Anaheim Angels. Bonds hit four home runs and Jeff Kent added three for San Francisco in the series.
Research support provided by Josiah Sukumaran of Stats Perform.
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