In case you missed it (like me), last week (on June 16, to be precise), Torii Hunter cranked home run number 300 to become the 136th member of that club. What was once a momentous feat now just attracts a kind of … ho hum … “Good for him!” type of recognition. Sort of like the attention paid to Ryan Howard‘s 300th at the end of last season (unless you missed that one too).
Once akin to a pitcher reaching 300 wins, 300 homers no longer has anything like that luster. After the jump, I’ll take a closer look at the 300 home run milestone, and preview a possible coming change in its significance.
Of course, the Bambino was the first player to reach the 300 plateau, connecting off Buster Ross of the Red Sox on Sep 8, 1925. Ruth would almost reach 700 homers before a second player joined him at the 300 level. That player was Ruth’s teammate Lou Gehrig, with his first homer of the 1934 season, on April 30th off Earl Whitehill of the Senators. Those two were followed in quick succession by Rogers Hornsby (1934), Jimmie Foxx (1935), Mel Ott (1937), Al Simmons (1939), Chuck Klein (1941) and Hank Greenberg (1946). All of these players were retired at the beginning of the 1948 season, the last time there were no active players in the 300 home run club.
I mentioned Ruth and Gehrig as the first teammates in the 300 home run club. The next pair were also Yankees, Joe DiMaggio and Johnny Mize from the 1949-51 world championship squads. The first NL tandem were Gil Hodges and Duke Snider on the 1958-61 Dodgers (and, very briefly, on the 1963 Mets). Yankees appeared as teammates again with the Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle pairing from 1960-63 (I suspect you could win a few bets by asking people which of those two got to 300 homers first – it was Berra in 1959, 11 months before Mantle). Other teammates from the 1960s were Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews (1963-66), Duke Snider and Willie Mays (1964, the first 400 HR teammates), Al Kaline and Eddie Mathews (1967-68), and Mickey Mantle and Rocky Colavito in 1968. The 9 active players at 300 at the end of 1968 matched the membership of the entire 300 HR club just twenty seasons earlier, as shown below.
With the second and subsequent expansion waves, membership in the 300 club started to ramp up, No longer significant to mention just two teammates. Instead, the first 3 teammate groups appeared, starting with the 1971 Cubs with Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ron Santo (notable in that all three had at that time played their entire careers for the Cubs). Next were the Tiger threesome in 1972-73 of Al Kaline, Norm Cash and Frank Howard. For the 1970s as a whole, there were 14 new club members, almost a 50% increase in total club membership from a decade earlier.
Things picked up in the 1980s and 1990s with 19 and 22 new 300 homer members, respectively. Notable trios in this period were Dwight Evans, Jim Rice and Don Baylor on the 1987 Red Sox; Dave Winfield, Dave Parker and Lance Parrish on the 1991 Angels; and 3 successive Oriole teams from 1998 to 2000. The 1998 Orioles were the first team with four 300 HR hitters with Cal Ripken, Harold Baines, Rafael Palmeiro and Joe Carter. The next two seasons, Palmeiro and Carter were gone, but Albert Belle was added to form a new threesome. The 2000 season was the first with two teams having three 300 HR hitters. In addition to the Orioles, Tampa Bay sported the trio of Jose Canseco, Fred McGriff and Greg Vaughn.
The real explosion, though, was yet to come, as shown in the chart below.
We’ve now had at least one new 300 home run club member every season for 21 straight years, easily besting the previous longest run of 11 seasons from 1957 to 1967. There have also been at least 16 active 300 homer hitters each season for the past 16 straight years, compared to the previous high of 13 in 1974. As with the earlier period, there are almost as many active club members at the end of this period as there were total members at the beginning. And, there has been at least one team with three 300 HR hitters in each of the past 10 seasons.
- 2003 Rangers: Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez
- 2004 Yankees: Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield. Ruben Sierra
- 2005 Yankees: Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Ruben Sierra, Jason Giambi
- 2006 Yankees: Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi
- 2006 Giants: Barry Bonds, Moises Alou, Steve Finley
- 2007 Mets: Carlos Delgado, Shawn Green, Moises Alou
- 2008 Dodgers: Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Manny Ramirez
- 2009 Astros: Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, Ivan Rodriguez
- 2010 White Sox: Andruw Jones, Paul Konerko, Manny Ramirez
- 2011 Yankees: Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones, Mark Teixeira
- 2012 Yankees: Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones, Mark Teixeira
But, all things, good or bad, do come to an end. At this juncture, absent fortuitous trades, a team in 2013 with three 300 HR hitters seems unlikely – Prince Fielder would have to go on quite a tear to join Cabrera and Hunter. That is symptomatic of a coming drought (relatively speaking) in new inductees into the 300 club. Take a look.
|18.||Raul Ibanez (18, 41)||288||L||HR Log|
|19.||Carlos Pena (13, 35)||285||L||HR Log|
|20.||Prince Fielder (9, 29)||272||L||HR Log|
|21.||Vernon Wells (15, 34)||269||R||HR Log|
|22.||Eric Chavez (16, 35)||255||L||HR Log|
|Derek Jeter (18, 39)||255||R||HR Log|
|24.||Matt Holliday (10, 33)||240||R||HR Log|
|25.||Adrian Gonzalez (10, 31)||223||L||HR Log|
|26.||Dan Uggla (8, 33)||222||R||HR Log|
|27.||Jason Bay (11, 34)||219||R||HR Log|
|28.||Nick Swisher (10, 32)||216||B||HR Log|
|David Wright (10, 30)||216||R||HR Log|
|30.||Travis Hafner (12, 36)||213||L||HR Log|
|31.||Ryan Braun (7, 29)||211||R||HR Log|
|Curtis Granderson (10, 32)||211||L||HR Log|
|33.||Adam LaRoche (10, 33)||208||L||HR Log|
|34.||Justin Morneau (11, 32)||207||L||HR Log|
|Chase Utley (11, 34)||207||L||HR Log|
|36.||Jose Bautista (10, 32)||199||R||HR Log|
|37.||Jimmy Rollins (14, 34)||197||B||HR Log|
|38.||Mark Reynolds (7, 29)||195||R||HR Log|
|39.||Robinson Cano (9, 30)||193||L||HR Log|
|40.||Michael Young (14, 36)||181||R||HR Log|
|41.||Edwin Encarnacion (9, 30)||180||R||HR Log|
Ibanez, Pena and Fielder will likely all reach 300 this year or next. Then Holliday in 2015 or 2016, and Wright and Braun in 2016 or 2017. Joey Bats, Double-E and Mark Reynolds will probably also get there in the 2016 to 2018 period.
But, we’re no longer adding 5, 6 or 7 new guys every year as has been common for the past decade. It’s certainly safe to say that the next 10 members of the 300 club will be a lot longer in coming than the last 10. In fact, we may, once again, start to take more notice of this venerable milestone.