To a casual observer the entrance of four new 500 Home Run Club®, members in little more than one year could suggest that the landmark achievement has lost its exclusivity or is not as big of an achievement as it has been in the past. This is absolutely untrue.
Just ask Ken Griffey Jr. who has 605 career dingers (and counting), so he has some credibility here. “I hear a lot about [how] the pitchers [aren’t as dominant as in the past] and the parks [have been built/modified to increase the number of home runs], “but you still have to hit the ball, hit it hard and hit it far,” according to Junior.
“Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks (who amassed 512 career homers) said today’s athletes are better conditioned, better trained and have a lot more talent than when I played the game. There’s a lot more depth with all of the teams in the major leagues, and there are a lot of great young players that are doing it every day on the field. I enjoy watching these tremendous players and figure in another 10 years you’ll have thirty players that hit over 500 home runs or more.”
“Iron Mike” Schmidt (who finished with 548 career blasts) believes that the game, and today’s players, have changed – and not for the better. “Harder balls, maple bats, small parks, small strike zones, fewer inside pitches, elbow pads, and yes, bigger biceps, all combined to increase home run totals, and thus lessen the appreciation of Barry Bonds' achievements,” Schmidt said. “More than 100 of the balls Hank hit to outfield warning tracks during his career would be home runs today. This is not Barry's fault. Barry understands that comparison, but what can he do — ask baseball to make Hank's mark 925?”
“Slammin” Sammy Sosa said “Hitting number 500 was truly special for me, and I was also very pleased to go where no Latin American ballplayer had ever gone before. That's something that I never will forget." Sosa has nothing but respect for his fellow players past, present and future. “I’ve worked so hard all my life to be who I am, but I'm not going to be the only one," Sosa said. "I know there's more Latin players coming after me who will also make history with their bats.”
“Big Frank” Thomas, who hit his 500th home run on June 28, 2007 couldn’t agree more. In an interview after the record-setting occasion, Thomas shook his head in amazement when he talked about joining the likes of his childhood heroes and lifelong role models, such as Ernie Banks, Willie Mays, Reggie Jackson, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Harmon Killebrew.
"It's an unbelievable class of talent," he said. "I saw a lot of them play. I have the utmost respect, and I'm very happy to be here because it takes a long time to hit 500 home runs and I think I've paid my dues long enough through numerous injuries.
Thomas became one of baseball's biggest stars in the 1990s, playing for the Chicago White Sox. He was given the nickname "The Big Hurt" for his unique ability to 'put a hurtin' on a baseball.” Regarded by many as one of the best pure hitters in baseball history, Thomas is the only player in major league history to have seven consecutive seasons of a .300 average, and at least 100 walks, 100 runs, 100 runs batted in, and 20 home runs (from 1991 to 1997).
As “A-Rod” Alex Rodriguez (537+), who is currently 12th all-time after passing Mickey Mantle's 536 on July 12, 2008, proclaims that hitting 500 homers is a big landmark. "I had to really focus when I got close to 500," said Rodriguez. "Just put all the distractions and things that can go on in a box and concentrate on the most important thing...winning. Hitting home runs is definitely more satisfying when we win a game," he said.
“Big Jim” Thome (524+) thinks that, despite having so many active players reaching and/or nearing the 500 home run mark, it is still an amazing achievement. "I know how hard it was to get to that point,'' he said. “I know how much work you have to put in -- in good and bad times. People are always going to have their opinions. If you look at the guys who've done it, it's not an easy number to get to. It's definitely kind of neat because you know what good players the 500 Home Run Club members are. Just being in an elite club like is an honor in itself."
“The Man” Manny Ramírez (507+) in his inevitable style which has his coaches and players oft explaining that his exotic behavior is just "Manny Being Manny" downplayed this growing home run tally, saying "I don't worry about my numbers. If you start thinking too much about this or that and you start putting too much pressure on yourself, you can make yourself crazy. You only live one time, so you want to make sure you go out there and play hard and have fun. That's what it's all about."