Everyone loves the home run. With the loud crack of the bat, the distance traveled by the bat flip. It is one of the most exciting moments in the sport.
There might not be anyone in baseball better at hitting home runs right now than Aaron Judge. The Yankees slugger’s power display in 2022 has forced his name into the conversation for the single-season record.
Sixteen players in MLB history have hit four home runs in a game to share the record. Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Alex Rodriguez, and Albert Pujols make up the top five on the career home run list, but none of them hit four in a game (though Pujols still could).
No one has hit four home runs in a game since 2017, when the Reds’ Scooter Gennett did it against the Cardinals on June 6 and the Diamondbacks’ J.D. Martinez hit four against the Dodgers on Sept. 4. Before that, the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton against the Orioles on May 8, 2012, was the most recent.
The only player to hit four home runs in a game and rank in the top 25 on the all-time home run list is Willie Mays, who reached the milestone on April 30, 1961, for the Giants against the Braves (he ranks sixth all-time in home runs), and Mike Schmidt, who launched four for the Phillies against the Cubs on April 17, 1976.
Bonds was always a standout home run hitter. In the first seven years of his career, he launched 176 home runs in 1,010 games for the Pirates. After he reached San Francisco in 1993, his power hitting skyrocketed.
Of course, many believe that rise was accomplished through the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Though he was never suspended for using steroids, it is widely suspected that he used them during his career. Bonds has denied using PEDs.
That suspicion was at its strongest in 2001 when, at 36, Bonds shattered the single-season home run record, crushing his 71st home run to surpass Mark McGwire’s 70 from 1998. He went on to finish the year with 73. McGwire has admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs.
McGwire and Sammy Sosa both chased the single-season record in 1998. For 36 years, Roger Maris’ record of 61 home runs in a season had gone untouched, but McGwire and Sosa went back and forth in their pursuit of baseball history.
McGwire was first to pass Maris, and he finished the year on top with his 70. Sosa, who has also denied using PEDs, finished the season with 66.
Bonds also leads the career list. Of course, this also comes with a virtual asterisk as people believe he used PEDs.Bonds surpassed Aaron in 2007 with his 756th home run. Here’s how Duane Kuiper called the historic moment before Bonds, Aaron had held the record since April 8, 1974, when he hit his 715th home run, surpassing Ruth, who hit 714.
Aaron finished his career with 755 home runs. He never had a season with more than 47 home runs, and only six times in his 23-year career did he hit as many as 40 long balls, but he was highly consistent, averaging 32 per season.
MLB home run record-holders by season
Before Ruth came along, there was a regular change at the top. No one was a prodigious power hitter like Ruth was. In baseball’s first professional season, 1871, three players tied with four home runs. The first player to reach 100 career home runs was Harry Stovey, who hit 12 home runs in 1890 to get to 101 for his career. He finished his career with 122.
Roger Connor passed Stovey in 1985 when he hit eight to reach 126. By 1897, the final year of his big league career, he had a career record of 138. He never batted more than 17 in a season during his 18-year career and reached double digits just six times.
Then the Babe came along. Back-to-back seasons of 54 and 59 home runs in 1920 and 1921 pushed him past Connor. He was up to 162 by the end of ’21. No one has held the all-time home run record longer than Ruth, at 53 years. When Ruth retired after the 1935 season, his 714 home runs were 336 more than his teammate Lou Gehrig, who had the second-most home runs at the time. Gehrig finished his career with 493.
Aaron surpassed the Great Bambino in 1974 with No. 715. Aaron then held the record for 33 years until Bonds passed him with No. 756 in 2007.