50+ Homeruns in a Season: By Decade
Giancarlo: 54 and counting.
Giancarlo Stanton's pursuit of 60+ homeruns had me looking at the 50+ club all over again.
When I was growing up, it was a magical number that nobody could touch. Killebrew kept hitting 49. Hank Aaron's high was 48. The last guy to do it was Willie Mays in '65, and it seemed like no one would ever do it again—particularly when the Major League high in 1974 was Mike Schmidt's 36. But then George Foster did it in '77 (an expansion year) and ... that was it. Until Cecil Fielder in 1990. For a quarter-century, it was just one guy: George Foster.
Then suddenly it seemed like any old player could do it. By decade:
- 1920s (4): Babe Ruth (4)
- 1930s (4): Hack Wilson, Jimmie Foxx (2), Hank Greenberg
- 1940s (3): Ralph Kiner (2), Johnny Mize
- 1950s (2): Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle
- 1960s (3): Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Willie Mays
- 1970s (1): George Foster
- 1980s (0):
- 1990s (12): Cecil Fielder, Albert Belle, Mark McGwire (4), Brady Anderson, Ken Griffey Jr. (2), Sammy Sosa (2), Greg Vaughn
- 2000s (12): Sammy Sosa (2), Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez (3), Luis Gonzalez, Jim Thome, Andruw Jones, David Ortiz, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder
- 2010s (3): Jose Bautista, Chris Davis, Giancarlo Stanton
You know what's fascinating? The first eight guys to hit 50+ HRs in a season—all of whom did it before the leagues expanded in 1961—are in the Hall of Fame: Ruth, Hack Wilson, Foxx, Greenberg, Kiner, Mize, Mays, Mantle.
Since then, 29 other players have hit 50+ HRs in a season. You know how many of those 29 are in the Hall of Fame? One. Ken Griffey Jr.
Either they're career stats weren't good enough (Maris, Foster), or they're tainted by PEDs (McGwire, Bonds), or both (Greg Vaughn).
Other points of interest:
- The fewest career HRs were a 50-HR guy? No surprise: Brady Anderson with 210. A quarter of the homers in his 15-year career were in 1996. His next-highest single-season total is 24 in 1999.
- The Fielders bookended the great flurry of 50+ HR seasons: Cecil began it in 1990, Prince, his son, kinda/sorta ended it in 2007.
- The Fielders retired with the exact same number of career HRs: 319.
- Mickey Mantle is the only homegrown Yankee to hit 50+ HRs. The other three (Ruth, Maris, A-Rod) were acquired via trade.
Ironically, I now view the 50+ HR season the exact opposite of the way I did as a kid. I don't want to see them. I certainly don't want to see a string of them. I'll worry it's the bullshit of the '90s and '00s all over again.