When Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs back in 1927, setting a season record that would stand for more than 30 years, how many of those homers did he hit in games that the Yankees lost? A grand total of nine. The other 51 homers were all hit in Yankee wins. Indeed, Ruth was merely tied for fourth in the majors in 1927 for home runs hit in team losses, behind Cy Williams (17), Hack Wilson (13) and Ken Williams (10), and tied with Babe Herman. You’ll find more information on such “futile homers” (homers hit in team losses) after the jump.
Here’s the all-time career top 10 for homers hit in regular season team losses. In parentheses, I’ve indicated where each player sits on the overall career regular season home run list:
1. Barry Bonds 269 (also #1 on the overall career homer list)
2. Sammy Sosa 244 (#8 on the overall career homer list)
3. Hank Aaron 242 (#2 on the overall career homer list)
T4. Ken Griffey, Jr. (#6 overall) and A-Rod (#5 overall), 228 each
6. Rafael Palmeiro 220 (#12 overall)
7. Ernie Banks 203 (tied for #21 overall)
T8. Willie Mays (#4 overall) and Mark McGwire (#10 overall) 202
10. Frank Thomas 198 (tied for #18 overall)
Babe Ruth is 14th on the career list of “futile homers”, with 181.
How about the highest single-season totals for “futile homers”? Here’s a list of the top seasons for that category. This time the number in parentheses will be the hitter’s overall home run total for that season:
1. Mark McGwire 1999, 39 homers in team losses (out of 65 total homers)
2. Sammy Sosa 2001, 32 homers in team losses (out of 64 total homers)
T3. Sammy Sosa in both 1998 and 1999, 28 homers in team losses in each season (out of 66 in 1998 and 63 in 1999)
5. Alex Rodriguez 2002, 28 homers in team losses (out of 57 total homers)
6. Chuck Klein 1930, 27 homers in team losses (out of 40 total homers)
After those six seasons, next on that list come five player-seasons of 26 such “futile homers”: Ralph Kiner’s 1949, Barry Bonds’ 2001, the first Frank Thomas’s 1962 (with the 120-loss Mets), Dave Kingman’s 1979 and Brady Anderson’s 1996.
Ed Delahanty and Bob Horner get special “futile homer” awards as the only men to hit four homers in a major league loss. And Johnny Mize deserves a prize (as Dr. Seuss would surely insist), having hit three homers in a team loss four different times in his career. No other player (since 1916, at least) has hit three homers in a loss more than twice in a career, although Miguel Cabrera has already done it twice, and to say he remains active is an understatement.
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