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In Major League Baseball, the 50 home run club is an informal term applied to the group of players who have hit 50 or more home runs in a single season. The 50 Home Run Club was "founded" by Babe Ruth in 1920. At the time, he became the first player to hit not only 50 home runs in a season, but 40 and 30 as well, breaking his own single season record of 29 from the 1919 season.

Mentioned less frequently are the 60 Home Run Club and the 70 Home Run Club, which have five and two members respectively. These "clubs" have become more populated since the 1998 season, which saw membership in the 60 Home Run Club double. That year, Mark McGwire became the founding member of the 70 Home Run Club when he set a new single-season record. He has since been surpassed by Barry Bonds, the only other member of the 70 Home Run Club.

The ClubEdit

As of the 2008 season, 25 players have hit 50-or-more home runs in a single season, a total of 41 times.

Player HR Team Season Pos Career HoF
Babe Ruth 54 NYY 1920^ OF 714 1936
Babe Ruth (2) 59 NYY 1921^ OF 714 1936
Babe Ruth(3) 60 NYY 1927^ OF 714 1936
Babe Ruth (4) 54 NYY 1928 OF 714 1936
Hack Wilson 56 CHC 1930 OF 244 1979
Jimmie Foxx 58‡ PHA 1932 1B/3B 534 1951
Jimmie Foxx (2) 50 BOS 1938 1B 534 1951
Hank Greenberg 58‡ DET 1938 1B 331 1956
Johnny Mize 51 NYG 1947 1B 359 1981
Ralph Kiner 51 PIT 1947 OF 369 1975
Ralph Kiner (2) 54‡ PIT 1949 OF 369 1975
Willie Mays 51 NYG 1955 OF 660 1979
Mickey Mantle 52 NYY 1956 CF 536 1974
Mickey Mantle (2) 54 NYY 1961 CF 536 1974
Roger Maris 61‡ NYY 1961^ OF 275
Willie Mays (2) 52 SFG 1965 OF 660 1979
George Foster 52‡ CIN 1977 OF 348
Cecil Fielder 51 DET 1990 1B/DH 319
Albert Belle 50 CLE 1995 LF 381
Brady Anderson 50‡ BAL 1996 CF 210
Mark McGwire 52 OAK 1996 1B/DH 583
Ken Griffey, Jr. 56‡ SEA 1997 OF 630
Mark McGwire (2) 58 OAK/STL 1997 1B 583
Greg Vaughn 50‡ SDP 1998 LF/DH 355
Ken Griffey, Jr. (2) 56‡ SEA 1998 OF 630
Sammy Sosa 66‡ CHC 1998 OF 609
Mark McGwire (3) 70‡ STL 1998^ 1B 583
Sammy Sosa (2) 63 CHC 1999 OF 609
Mark McGwire (4) 65 STL 1999 1B 583
Sammy Sosa (3) 50 CHC 2000 OF 609
Alex Rodriguez52 TEX 2001 SS 563
Luis Gonzalez 57‡ ARI 2001 LF 354
Sammy Sosa (4) 64 CHC 2001 RF 609
Barry Bonds 73SFG 2001 LF 762
Jim Thome52‡ CLE 2002 1B/DH 541
Alex Rodriguez† (2) 57‡ TEX 2002 SS 563
Andruw Jones51‡ ATL 2005 CF 388
Ryan Howard58‡ PHI 2006 1B 222
David Ortiz54‡ BOS 2006 DH/1B 289
Alex Rodriguez† (3) 54 NYY 2007 3B 563
Prince Fielder50‡ MIL 2007 1B 168

† indicates an active player.
‡ indicates a franchise record.
^ indicates previous single-season record.

  • Current single-season record in boldface.
  • Career home run totals are as of through 2008.

The 60 home run tierEdit

As of the 2008 season, five players have hit 60 or more home runs in a single season, a total of eight times:[1]

Player HR Team Season Pos Career HoF
Babe Ruth 60 NYY 1927^ OF 714 1936
Roger Maris 61‡ NYY 1961^ OF 275
Sammy Sosa 66‡ CHC 1998 OF 609
Mark McGwire 70 STL 1998^ 1B 583
Sammy Sosa (2) 63 CHC 1999 OF 609
Mark McGwire (2) 65 STL 1999 1B 583
Sammy Sosa (3) 64 CHC 2001 RF 609
Barry Bonds 73SFG 2001 LF 762

The 70 home run tierEdit

As of the 2010 season, only two players have hit 70 or more home runs in a single season, a total of two times:[1]

Player HR Team Season Pos Career
Mark McGwire 70‡ STL 1998^ 1B 583
Barry Bonds 73SFG 2001 LF 762

Notes on the ClubEdit

Steroids and the ClubEdit

Since the start of the live-ball era in the 1920s, the only decade which did not see a 50-homer season was the 1980s. Only one player — George Foster in 1977 — had a 50-homer season in the quarter-century between 1965 and 1990. Before 1990, only eleven players had hit 50 or more homers in a season, a total of 18 times in 70 years; only two of them — Ruth and Maris — had hit 60 or more. Since 1994, a period that has been called "the steroids era" by Dan Patrick[2] and Neil Hayes[3], thirteen more players have joined the Club by hitting 50-or-more home runs 21 times.

Three players — Sosa, McGwire and Bonds — have hit 60 or more homers a total of six times, and two of them have broken the 70 home run plateau. The eight seasons from 1995 through 2002 mark the longest stretch of consecutive seasons with at least one batter hitting 50-or-more home runs; ten batters combined to hit a total of 1,051 home runs, reaching the 50 home run plateau 18 times. The second-longest stretch was the three seasons from 2005 through 2007 (Rodriguez, Jones, Howard and Ortiz, and Prince Fielder).

Four notable members who joined this list since 1990 — Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire — have been embroiled in the ongoing steroids controversy[4][5][6]. This brings into question the legitimacy of their numbers [7]. Bonds is the only member of the club named in Senator Mitchell's report on steroids in Major League Baseball. On January 11th, 2010, Mark McGuire admitted to the Associated Press that he used steroids for almost a decade of his career, including the year he broke Roger Maris' single-season home run record in 1998.[8] Rodriguez and Sosa were both among the 104 who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. David Ortiz also tested positive but doesn't know what he tested positive for and claims to have been careless with the substances he was taking at the time.

Career yearsEdit

Fifteen of the 24 club members have hit 50+ homers only once in their careers. Of them, Brady Anderson's 1996 performance was the greatest statistical deviation from his career numbers; `96 season was the only time in his career that he hit even 25 homers, and was one of only three seasons in which he hit as many as 20. Anderson's career home run total of 210 is the lowest of all retired members of the 50-homer club.

Bonds's record-breaking 2001 season was the only year in which Bonds hit 50 or more homers; similarly, Roger Maris's record-breaking 1961 season was the only year in which Maris hit 40 or more homers. Luis Gonzalez with 57 homers in 2001 had never hit more than 31 and the most he hit was 28 after 2001. Anderson and Gonzalez' single year accomplishments also fuel the steroid controversy. With his 51 homers in 1990, Cecil Fielder holds the single-season record for home runs without a stolen base.

Cross-membershipEdit

Ten members of the club are also members of the 500 home run club (Rodriguez, Bonds, Ruth, Mays, Sosa, Griffey, McGwire, Mantle, Foxx, and Thome), while Bonds, Ruth, Mays, Sosa and Griffey are five of the six members of the 600-homer club. Conversely, three retired members of the club have hit less than 300 career home runs: Anderson with 210, Wilson with 244, and Maris with 275. Hank Aaron, with the second most career home runs (755), is not a member of the 50 home run club, never having hit more than 47 home runs in a single season.

Ten players have won their League's Most Valuable Player award during the season in which they hit 50-or-more home runs: Foxx (1938), Mantle (1956), Maris (1961), Mays (1965), Foster (1977), Griffey (1997), Sosa (1998), Bonds (2001), Howard (2006), and Rodriguez (2007). No pair of MVP award winners have ever hit 50-or-more home runs in the same season, nor have consecutive MVPs in the same League. As no rookie has ever hit 50 home runs, no 50-home-run-hitter has ever won the Rookie of the Year award; the closest any rookie has come to hitting 50 was in 1987, when McGwire hit 49 (and was named AL Rookie of the Year).

Mickey Mantle is the only batter ever to have claimed a Triple Crown during his 50-home-run season, having led the American League with a .353 batting average and 130 RBI in 1956. That season, Mantle also claimed the rarer Major League Triple Crown, having led both leagues in all three statistical categories.

Four batters have hit 50-or-more home runs for a team that went on to win a world championship in the same season: Babe Ruth's New York Yankees won in 1927 and 1928, Mickey Mantle's Yankees won in 1956, while Mantle and Roger Maris's Yankees won in 1961, and Luis Gonzalez's Arizona Diamondbacks won in 2001. Albert Belle went to the World Series immediately following his 50-home run-season, though the Cleveland Indians lost to the Atlanta Braves in 1995.

Belle is also the only member of the Club to have hit 50-or-more doubles in the same season, creating a unique 50-50 Club by leading the American League (along with Edgar Martinez) with 52 doubles along with his 50 home runs in 1995.

Home run frequencyEdit

Ruth was the first batter to average fewer than nine at-bats per home run over a season, hitting his 54 home runs of the 1920 season in 457 at-bats for an average of 8.463. Seventy-eight years later, McGwire became the first batter to average fewer than eight AB/HR, hitting his 70 home runs of the 1998 season in 509 at-bats for an average of 7.2714. Three years later, Bonds became the first batter to average fewer than seven AB/HR, setting the Major League record by hitting his 73 home runs of the 2001 season in 476 at-bats for an average of 6.5205.

Ruth, McGwire and Bonds are the only batters in history to average fewer than nine AB/HR over a season, having done so nine times:

Nine or fewer at-bats per home run
Batter Season HR AB AB/HR
Babe Ruth 1920 54 457 8.4630
Babe Ruth 1927 60 540 9.0000
Mark McGwire 1996 52 423 8.1346
Mark McGwire 1998 70 509 7.2714
Mark McGwire 1999 65 521 8.0154
Barry Bonds 2001 73 476 6.5205
Barry Bonds 2002 46 403 8.7610
Barry Bonds 2003 45 390 8.6670
Barry Bonds 2004 45 373 8.2890

Multiple seasonsEdit

Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Babe Ruth share the record for most 50+ homer seasons, with four each:

Batters with four 50-home-run seasons
Batter HR Seasons Team(s)
Babe Ruth 54
59
60
54
1920
1921
1927
1928
New York Yankees
Mark McGwire 52
58
70
65
1996
1997
1998
1999
Oakland Athletics
Athletics/Cardinals
St. Louis Cardinals
Sammy Sosa 66
63
50
64
1998
1999
2000
2001
Chicago Cubs

Additionally, all three players recorded a season in which they hit 49 home runs (Ruth in 1930; McGwire in 1987; Sosa in 2002), each falling one home run short of becoming the first player with five 50+ home run seasons. McGwire's 49 home run season was also his rookie season, and remains the rookie record, causing him to come up one longball shy of becoming the first rookie to hit 50 or more home runs. Sosa's 49-home-run season followed on the heels of his third 60 home run season, causing him to come up one longball shy of also becoming the first batter to hit 50-or-more home runs in five consecutive seasons.

McGwire also holds the record for most home runs in two consecutive seasons with 135 (70 in 1998, 65 in 1999), as well as the record for home runs in three (193 from 1997-99) and four consecutive seasons (245 from 1996-99). Sosa holds the record for most home runs in five consecutive seasons, with 292 from 1998 to 2002.

Babe Ruth was the first player to hit 50 or more home runs in two consecutive seasons, 1920 and 1921; Ruth later hit 50 or more homers in consecutive seasons again, in 1927 and 1928, after which the feat wouldn't be repeated for nearly 70 years. McGwire was the first player to hit 50 or more home runs in three consecutive seasons (1996, 1997 and 1998), as well as the first player to do so in four consecutive seasons (1996-1999), while Sosa was the first player to hit 50 or more home runs in four consecutive seasons in the National League, from 1998 to 2001.

Sosa was also the first batter to hit 60 or more home runs in two consecutive seasons (1998 and 1999); he beat McGwire to the accomplishment by eight days, having hit his 60th home run of the 1999 season on September 18 before McGwire hit his 60th on the 26th. Sosa became the first player to hit 60 or more home runs three times (1998, 1999 and 2001), and yet he ironically did not lead the National League in homers in any of those three seasons: he was second to McGwire in both '98 and '99, and was second to Bonds in his record-breaking '01 season. Sosa's 50-homer season in 2000, as well as his 49-homer season in 2002, did lead the National League.

The ten year span between Willie Mays's 51-homer season in 1955 and his 52-homer season in 1965 marks the longest stretch of time between 50-plus home run seasons by a single player Major League history.

International membershipEdit

Sosa, born in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, was the first batter from outside of the United States to hit 50-or-more home runs in a season. A total of three batters in the club have been born outside of the U.S.:

50 home run hitters born outside the United States
Batter Born HR Year
Sammy Sosa Dominican Republic 66
63
50
64
1998
1999
2000
2001
Andruw Jones Curaçao 51 2005
David Ortiz Dominican Republic 54 2006

Membership by positionEdit

Johnny Mize was the first infielder to hit 50-or-more home runs in a season; Alex Rodriguez is the first shortstop to record a 50-home-run season; Cecil Fielder is the first designated hitter to join the club, seventeen years after the creation of the position. To date, no second baseman, catcher or pitcher has hit 50-or-more home runs in a year:

Positions without a 50 home run hitter
Pos Record Batter(s) Year
2b 42 Rogers Hornsby
Davey Johnson
1922
1973
c 43 Javy Lopez 2003
p 9 Wes Ferrell 1931

Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx are the only members of the Club to have served as pitchers in a Major League game. Ruth leads all members of the Club with 94 career wins as a pitcher.

Ruth pitched four innings of one game in which he recorded a win as pitcher during the 1920 season in which he hit 54 home runs. He also pitched nine innings over two games, both of which he won as pitcher, during the 1921 season in which he hit 59 home runs.

Jimmie Foxx pitched one inning in relief in 1939, a season during which he hit an American League leading 35 home runs. He also pitched 22.2 innings over nine games in 1945, collecting one win during a season in which he hit seven home runs.

Cross-league membershipEdit

McGwire is the only player to hit 50-or-more homers in a season during which he played for more than one team, having been traded from the Oakland Athletics to the St. Louis Cardinals on 31 July 1997; he is also the only player to accomplish the feat in a season during which he played in both leagues. He, Jimmie Foxx, and Alex Rodriguez are the only players to have hit 50 homers in a season for more than one team:

Batters with a 50-home run season with more than one team
Batter Team HR Year Team HR Year
Jimmie Foxx Philadelphia Athletics 58 1932 Boston Red Sox 50 1938
Mark McGwire Oakland Athletics & St. Louis Cardinals 58 1997
Oakland Athletics 52 1996 St. Louis Cardinals 70
65
1998
1999
Alex Rodriguez Texas Rangers 52
57
2001
2002
New York Yankees 54 2007

Franchises by seasonsEdit

The New York Yankees hold the record with eight 50+ home run seasons:

New York Yankees 50 home run seasons
Player HR Season(s)
Babe Ruth 54
59
60
54
1920
1921
1927
1928^
Mickey Mantle 52
54
1956
1961
Roger Maris 61 1961
Alex Rodriguez 54 2007

Seasons by franchiseEdit

The New York Yankees also hold the record with four different 50+ home run hitters:

Membership by team
Franchise Members Seasons Years
New York Yankees (4) Babe Ruth
Mickey Mantle
Roger Maris
Alex Rodriguez
1920, 1921, 1927, 1928
1956, 1961
1961
2007
8
New York/San Francisco Giants (3) Johnny Mize
Willie Mays
Barry Bonds
1947
1955, 1965
2001
4
Chicago Cubs (2) Hack Wilson
Sammy Sosa
1930
1998, 1999, 2000, 2001
5
Philadelphia/Kansas City/
Oakland Athletics (2)
Jimmie Foxx
Mark McGwire
1932
1996
2
Boston Red Sox (2) Jimmie Foxx
David Ortiz
1938
2006
2
Detroit Tigers (2) Hank Greenberg
Cecil Fielder
1938
1990
2
Cleveland Indians (2) Albert Belle
Jim Thome
1995
2002
2
Pittsburgh Pirates (1) Ralph Kiner 1947, 1949 2
Seattle Mariners (1) Ken Griffey, Jr. 1997, 1998 2
St. Louis Cardinals (1) Mark McGwire 1998, 1999 2
Texas Rangers (1) Alex Rodriguez 2001, 2002 2
Cincinnati Reds (1) George Foster 1977 1
Baltimore Orioles (1) Brady Anderson 1996 1
San Diego Padres (1) Greg Vaughn 1998 1
Arizona Diamondbacks (1) Luis Gonzalez 2001 1
Atlanta Braves (1) Andruw Jones 2005 1
Philadelphia Phillies (1) Ryan Howard 2006 1
Milwaukee Brewers (1) Prince Fielder 2007 1

Batters by seasonEdit

The 1938 season was the first in which two players — Foxx and Greenberg — each hit 50 or more homers. Over the next half century, two players hit 50-or-more home runs in the same season four more times: Mize and Kiner in 1947, Mantle and Maris in 1961, Anderson and McGwire in 1996, and Griffey and McGwire in 1997.

The 1998 season was the first in which two players — Sosa and McGwire — each hit 60 or more homers. Over the next three years, two players hit 60-or-more home runs in the same season twice more: Sosa and McGwire again in 1999, and Sosa and Bonds in 2001.

The 1998 and 2001 seasons share the record for the most players in a year to hit 50-or-more homers, with four batters each:

Seasons with four 50+ home run hitters
1998 2001
Batter HR Batter HR
Greg Vaughn 50 Alex Rodriguez 52
Ken Griffey, Jr. 56 Luis Gonzalez 57
Sammy Sosa 66 Sammy Sosa 64
Mark McGwire 70 Barry Bonds 73

Age and familyEdit

Prince Fielder is the youngest player to reach the mark, hitting his 50th home run of the 2007 season at the age of 23; along with Cecil Fielder, the two are the only father-son duo to each hit 50 home runs in a season. Bonds is the oldest player to reach the mark, hitting his single-season record 73 home runs at the age of 37; along with Willie Mays, the two are the only godfather-godson duo to each hit 50 home runs in a season.

Father-and-son home run hitters
Family Father High HR Year Son High HR Year
Fielder Cecil 51 1990 Prince 50 2007
Griffey Ken Sr. 21 1986 Ken Jr. 56 1997, 1998
Bonds Bobby 39 1973 Barry 73 2001

Franchise by ageEdit

The Arizona Diamondbacks were the youngest team to have a player hit 50-or-more home runs; they had been a National League franchise for only four years when Gonzalez hit 57 in 2001. Of the teams that have had a 50+ home run season, the Braves took the longest to have a player achieve the feat, at 130 years before Jones hit 51 in 2005; of American League teams with a 50+ home run season, the Baltimore Orioles took the longest at 96 years before Anderson hit 50 in 1996.

Twelve teams have never had a player hit 50-or-more home runs in a season:

Major League teams without a 50 home run season
Team Age Record Batter Year
Los Angeles Dodgers 118 yrs 49 Shawn Green 2001
Chicago White Sox 108 yrs 49 Albert Belle 1998
Minnesota Twins 108 yrs 49 Harmon Killebrew 1964
1969
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 48 yrs 47 Troy Glaus 2000
Houston Astros 47 yrs 47 Jeff Bagwell 2000
New York Mets 47 yrs 41 Todd Hundley
Carlos Beltran
1996
2006
Kansas City Royals 40 yrs 36 Steve Balboni 1985
Washington Nationals 40 yrs 46 Alfonso Soriano 2006
Toronto Blue Jays 32 yrs 47 George Bell 1987
Colorado Rockies 16 yrs 49 Larry Walker
Todd Helton
1997
2001
Florida Marlins 16 yrs 42 Gary Sheffield 1996
Tampa Bay Rays 11 yrs 46 Carlos Peña 2007

The All-Star BreakEdit

Thirteen 50-home run seasons by ten batters, including three 60-home run seasons and both 70-home run seasons, have come as a result of a batter hitting 30-or-more home runs prior to the All-Star Break:

50 home run seasons with 30 before All-Star Break
Batter Year HR Pre Post
Roger Maris 1961 61 33 28
Brady Anderson 1996 50 30 20
Mark McGwire 1997 58 31 27
Ken Griffey, Jr. 1997 56 30 26
Mark McGwire (2) 1998 70 37 33
Ken Griffey, Jr. (2) 1998 56 35 21
Sammy Sosa 1998 66 33 33
Greg Vaughn 1998 50 30 20
Sammy Sosa (2) 1999 63 32 31
Barry Bonds 2001 73 39 34
Luis Gonzalez 2001 57 35 22
David Ortiz 2006 54 31 23
Alex Rodriguez 2007 54 30 24

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Single-Season Leaders & Records for Home Runs. Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference, Inc. (2007-10-28). Retrieved on 2007-11-03.
  2. "Baseball, Steroids and the Truth," Dan Patrick, 3 June 2002
  3. "Steroids era has distorted baseball numbers," Neil Hayes, 1 Aug 2005
  4. "Excuse Me for Asking," Rick Reilly, 2 July 2002
  5. "What Bonds told BALCO grand jury," Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, 3 Dec 2004
  6. "McGwire mum on steroids in hearing," Ted Barrett, 17 March 2005
  7. "Congressional Hearing May Leave 'Unwritten Asterisk' in Public's Mind," Thomas Heath, 18 March 2005
  8. "[1]," Associated Press, 11 Jan 2010

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