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61, 70, or 73, what’s the real Single Season Home Run Record?

Over the last month and a half Miami Marlins Giancarlo Stanton has been on a tear and more often then not the media has asked him how many Home Runs he would like to hit by the end of the year. He said he would like to get 62 or better which left some confused at first. He clarified his response by basically saying that he considers Roger Maris’ 61 Home Runs the single season Home Run Record. This has a lot of people talking and basically stirs up the steroid talks again. Each player had different stories, different situations and different approaches. One thing I’ve come to a conclusion on in my life is you cannot change or alter history to your own liking but for the purposes of this topic lets examine Roger Maris, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds.

In 1961, Roger Maris was coming off an MVP season and was looking to be a huge part of the Yankees success again. He and Mickey Mantle were known as the M and M Boys but had vastly different personalities. Mantle was loved by New York and many saw him to be the life of the party. Maris was a country boy who enjoyed the private life and didn’t want to be bombarded. The media was always critical of Maris and the fans adored the history Babe Ruth left behind. There were many times Maris was threatened, harassed and at one point stopped talking to the media. The 1961 season saw an increase in games from 154 to 162. Fearing the home run record would be broken Commissioner Ford Frick made all the records separate which at the time was meant to protect Ruth’s legacy. In 1991, the records no longer were separate and Maris was officially the single season home run record holder. Unfortunately, Maris had already passed and never knew he owned the record all to himself.

Seven years later in 1998, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa did battle to become the new home run king. Prior to 1998, baseball had went on strike four years earlier.  A lot of people turned away from baseball and stopped watching due to their unhappiness of a player lockout. It was the battle between McGwire and Sosa that re-ignited life into baseball no matter what the cost or circumstances. I can tell you as a 13 year old watching I loved every minute of it because I grew up watching baseball. After that year McGwire had another season with 60 or more home runs and Sosa had two. Years later both admitted to steroid use which ultimately tarnished their legacies and made it more difficult to get themselves in the Hall of Fame.

It only took three years for McGwire’s record to be broken and the man to it was Barry Bonds. Prior to the 2001 season, the highest home run total Bonds had was 49 home runs in a season. That is a huge difference compared to McGwire’s highest prior to 1998. McGwire’s highest total was 58 and that was the year he played in both the American League and National League. Some could say that Maris also had a huge difference in his high total prior to 1961. His highest total prior to breaking the record was 39 home runs in 1960. The year Bonds hit 73 was a tough year in sports and the country. The sports world had lost the legendary Dale Earnhardt and our country suffered the attacks of 9/11. Watching Bonds do his thing was inspirational at the time and he lifted the spirit of sports fans around the country. Unfortunately this legendary feat was followed by allegations, criminal trials and even saw Bonds own trainer take the fall to protect him. Bonds along with McGwire and other steroid users were no longer considered heroes and deserving of such feats. Bonds and McGwire both went on to be hitting coaches for Major League teams and have made a positive impact for their respective clubs.

I find it ironic Stanton has made these comments considering that Bonds is the Miami Marlins hitting coach. Stanton says he grew up wanting to be like the guys who played the game cleanly. At the end of the day as much as I respect was Stanton is doing you CANNOT change history or undo it just because you don’t like the way it was created. Barry Bonds is the single season home run record holder with 73 home runs and until someone hits 74 then it should stay that there. Their should be no asterisk, no separation of records and no rewritten history. I do challenge Stanton, Aaron Judge or any other player to break the record without steroid use so the debate can be laid to rest once and fore all. Until that time Barry Bonds is the home run king!


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