Prior to 1984, only 14 major league sluggers hit more than 500 career homers. And from 1988 through 1995, nobody reached the legendary home run plateau. But when “Steady Eddie” Murray crashed through the 500 barrier in 1996 it signaled a second coming of aggressive new hitting stars.
Since then nine more “MLB Young Guns” (“Big Mac” Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, “Slammin” Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, “The Kid” Ken Griffey, Jr., “A-Rod” Alex Rodriguez, “Big Frank” Thomas, "The Thomenator" Jim Thome, and “Man-Ram” Manny Ramirez) have conquered the 500 home run mark…and gone on to pass their childhood heroes on the all-time list.
As reported in our January feature “Sheffield Stands at 499…With A Big Smile”, Gary Sheffield is expected to become the 25th member of The 500 Home Run Club® LLC soon after the 2009 season officially begins on April 6th.
And other MLB Young Guns continue to fire away. New York Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado has quietly climbed the home run ladder. Despite having played 16 seasons in the big leagues and ending the 2008 season with 469 career blasts, Delgado is not typically mentioned among the greatest sluggers of his generation.
Perhaps it’s because he played the first 12 years of his career north of the border in Toronto. But simple math reveals that Delgado, who hit 38 dingers in an inconsistent 2008 – and has hit 32 or more home runs in 10 of the last 11 seasons – needs only to continue hitting at his 31+ career clip in order to join the 500 Home Run Club®.
According to Delgado, he – and New York fans – won’t settle for anything less in 2009. "They [New Yorkers] don't settle for anything less than the best," Delgado said. "You've just got to bring your 'A' game for 162 games, pretty much, and deal with it." We’ll be watching too Carlos!
Another power hitter extraordinaire who many predict will one day join the MLB’s elite as a member of The 500 Home Run Club® is Ryan James Howard first baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies. One of the game's most feared sluggers, Howard won MLB “Rookie of the Year” honors in 2005 and National League MVP during his sophomore season by cranking out 58 “very” long balls in 2006.
But it wasn’t until he out-classed the competition by crushing a total of 23 home runs out of PNC Park over three rounds to win the CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby at the 2006 All-Star Game that the world took notice of this Philly phenom.
Ryan continued his torrid hitting the following year and on June 27, 2007 became the fastest player to reach 100 home runs in league history (100 homers in 325 games). He hit another 50 out during his next 170 games to shatter the record for fewest games to hit 150 home runs (495). Clearly the sky is the limit for Howard who is already being touted as the man who could eventually surpass Barry Bonds as the all-time Home Run leader. He certainly has the talent, but only time will tell if he has the longevity and consistency to be the best of the best.