...but had to wait until ‘09 to hit the one that really mattered
On September 8, 2008, Detroit Tiger DH Gary Sheffield hit career home run No. 496, which also happened to be the 250,000th regular season home run in Major League Baseball history (source: Baseball-Reference.com). It took 133 years for thousands of major leaguers to crank out a quarter of a million long balls, but the final two came off Sheffield’s bat in two consecutive innings. After knocking out baseball’s 249,999th home run in his previous at bat, the “Swinging Sheff” repeated the feat by cranking a grand slam off Oakland A’s starter Gio Gonzalez. http://bit.ly/Sheffield250000HR
The Tigers needed his five RBIs to win the game, but afterward Gary ran
out of steam between then and the end of the 2008 season, stalling just
one shy of joining the exclusive 500 Home Run Club®. He ended the year
parked at 499.
As it turned out, he never hit another
round-tripper for the Tigers, who cut him during the last week of
training camp. But he was snapped up just days before the start of the
2009 season to play in the NY Mets’ beautiful new Citi Field. Then on
Friday, April 17, after nearly seven months of waiting, the 9-time
All-Star launched a full count pitch off of Milwaukee Brewers’ reliever
Mitch Stetter an estimated 385 feet to become the 25th member of The 500
Home Run Club®.
“I realized that I was not longer the marquee
guy [who could] demand a position. So, I was more than happy to come
off the bench in clutch situations, and try to get a big hit for my new
team. Number 500 was a pretty big one for me and the Mets!”
happens for a reason," Sheffield reflected. "There's a reason why I
hit 19 home runs instead of 20 [in 2008]," Sheffield said. "I could have
hit it then [with Detroit], but there was a reason why I was released
so I could come here and do it on the biggest stage.”
helping his new team beat the Brewers 5-4 Sheffield was most excited
about joining another new “team” of baseball’s greatest all-time
sluggers. “Just to join that 500 Home Run Club, you know. Now I can
say I'm in the club…it's like getting your degree. Nobody can never take
that away from you," he said with a mega-watt smile.
was hit out in typical Sheffield fashion - a bullet to the left field
seats at beautiful new Citi Field. Sheff pumped both arms in the air as
he approached first and rounded the bases as cameras flashed all over
the ballpark. He touched home plate and pointed to the sky with both
arms before being mobbed by his New York teammates.
At 40 years,
143 days, Sheffield was the fourth-oldest player to hit 500 behind
Willie McCovey (40 years, 171 days), Eddie Murray (40, 194), and Ted
Williams (41, 291). The latest to join the club, he followed less than a
year behind the 24th member Manny Ramirez -- and three others Jim
Thome, Alex Rodriguez and Frank Thomas who passed the 500 dinger plateau
in the previous two seasons, a flurry never before seen in MLB history.
Although still officially listed as a free agent, it’s
questionable whether Gary Sheffield will return to add to his career
total of 509 homers, which places him at 24th all-time between Eddie
Murray (504) and Mel Ott (511). But even if he never knocks another, he
will always be remembered as the player who hit the 250,000th home run
in the history of Major League Baseball.