posted on Mar, 5 2006 @ 02:05 AM
One of the feats which Steroid Ball and HGH Ball have really trivialized is the formerly great feat of hitting 50 HR's in one season.
Prior to World War Two, there were only 4 players who had ever done it. The only National Leaguer, notorious alcoholic HACK WILSON, hit 56 HR's in
1930, the greatest year for hitters prior to the 1990's, and the same year in which he drove in 191 runs--a still-standing record which I doubt I'll
live to see broken.
In the American League, JIMMIE FOXX hit 58 HR's in 1932 and 50 HR's in 1938, the same year that HANK GREENBERG hit 58. And, of course, BABE RUTH did
the deed... FOUR times, in fact, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921, 60 in 1927 and 54 in 1928.
So, prior to WWII, the Babe had exactly 1/2 of the eight 50-HR seasons which the four guys named above had put up to that point in MLB history.
Then, in the 10-year span from 1947-1956, the list doubled to 8 members. In 1947, JOHNNY MIZE and RALPH KINER both hit 51 HR's. (Kiner would
also hit 54 in 1949.) In 1955, WILLIE MAYS hit 51 HR's. And in 1956, MICKEY MANTLE hit 52 HR's. (Both repeated the feat, with Mantle hitting 54 in
expansion year 1961 and Mays hitting 52 in 1965.)
The list stood at 8 for five years, then ROGER MARIS joined his famous teammate in 1961, but outdid him by 7, hitting his famous 61* HR's. A long 16
years later, GEORGE FOSTER brought the list to ten members, hitting 52 HR's for the Reds.
Then came the 1980's. Dave Kingman hit the bejesus out of the ball (when he hit it), but never hit 50. Mike Schmidt won the HR crown almost annually
in the NL, and was every bit as great as his HR crowns make him look, but he couldn't hit 50 under the prevailing conditions of play, either. By the
final year of the decade, a lot of articles had been written and a lot of comments made by fans to the effect that the 50-HR club was perhaps frozen
for all time.
Yeah, right! Ha ha ha.
In 1990, pretty much from out of nowhere, CECIL FIELDER up and hit 51 home runs. And in the 14 seasons which have been played since 1990, another
ELEVEN players have hit 50 or more HR's at least once, with Sammy Sosa hitting 50 once and over SIXTY three times, though he never won the
crown with his over-sixty seasons, a ludicrous comment on the times.
So the once-sacred 50 HR club, which as recently as 1989 had only 5 members in the AL and 5 members in the NL, now has a total of 22
Of these 22 guys, however, FOUR have also managed something else in their careers: having at least one season in which they hit 50 or more
The titanic HANK GREENBERG (a good 6'7", despite what the MLB record books say about his being "six-four") not only had a 58-HR season in 1938, but
also hit 50 doubles in 1940 and a whopping 63 doubles in 1934. I'd have liked to see that, because he was famously slow and clumsy, being one of the
most uncoordinated players in MLB history, and having enormous feet.
Also, Alex Rodriguez not only hit 57 HR's in 2002 and 52 in 2001, but also hit 54 doubles in 1996.
BUT: There is one man who not only put up a 50-HR season and a 50-double season, but did it IN THE SAME SEASON. This occurred in the
NAME THE PLAYER.