Baseball enthusiasts love to watch a silky smooth double-play, an amazing diving catch in the outfield, or a throw with pin-point accuracy to pick off a player at second base. Nothing, however, is more exciting to most fans than to hear that crisp crack of a bat and see a home run.
Home runs have been called dingers, taters, goners, blasts, bombs, long balls, four baggers, and more. My favorite player of my-time, Chipper Jones, had his own lexicon of terms for home runs, often uttering "yicketty" for a homer, and "mammo" for a big bomb.
Whatever the terminology, fans love the long ball. Let's take a closer look at the home run - specifically the Top 10 Home Run Hitters All-Time in Major League Baseball.
10. Frank Robinson - 586 Blasts
Although Frank Robinson closed out his storied career with the Orioles, Dodgers, Angels, and Indians from 1966 to 1976, he is most remembered for his decade with the Cincinnati Reds.
In addition to his 586 career home runs, Robinson was a feared baserunner, and has a number of other noteable accolades. In his rookie season in 1956, Frank hit 38 homers, not only tying the rookie record for homers, but taking home Rookie of the Year honors.
In 1966, Robinson took home the Triple Crown, leading the league in home runs, batting average, and runs batted in. Robinson was the first MLB player in the history of the game to win an MVP in both the AL and NL. Frank was also a 12-time All-Star (winning an AS MVP in 1971) and MVP honors in a World Series in 1966. If you are not familiar with Robinson's astounding career, take a peek at his awards and honors, via Baseball Reference.
After his playing career, Frank Robinson became a manager, first with the Indians as a player-manager, and then also managing the Giants, Orioles, Expos and Nationals. Robinson was the first African-American to manage an MLB Club, and took home the Manager of the Year honor in 1989.
9. Sammy Sosa - 609 Bombs
Opinions on Sammy Sosa may forever be colored by his association with the Steroid Era of the 1990s and early 2000s. Be that as it may, Sosa's 609 homers earn him a spot in the Top 10.
Sammy was born in 1968 in the Dominican Republic, specifically in the city of San Pedro de Macoris. San Pedro de Macoris is well-known for producing top quality baseball players, and Sosa stood out among the crowd in his early playing days. Sosa was catching the eyes of scouts as early as 12 years old.
Per Baseball Reference, Sosa began his MLB career in 1989 and was traded between three different clubs, but it was when he joined the Chicago Cubs in 1992 that he began to blossom as a power hitter. Starting in 1995 and going on for a decade with the Cubs, Sosa averaged almost 48 homers in that span from 1995 until 2004.
Sosa is specifically remembered for his 1998 race with Mark McGuire to beat the single-season home run record set by Roger Maris of 61 home runs in 1961. Both McGuire and Sosa beat Maris' record that year, but McGuire out-distanced Sosa with a 70 homer season. McGuire, by the way, is 11th in most home runs all-time with 583.
8. Jim Thome - 612 Dingers
While Jim Thome may not be a name as well-known as others on this list, Jim was an outstanding player, and a workhorse with 22 years in Major League Baseball. Jim spent most of his career with Cleveland, but the latter half of his career with several clubs.
Thome never won a league MVP award, but was in the conversation nine different times as well as being an All-Star five times. From 1996 to 2004, Thome averaged almost 41 homers through that span and belted a career-high 52 homers in 2002. That same year, Jim led the league in both slugging (.677) and OPS (1.122).
Jim was a fan-favorite, and a clubhouse favorite as well. He always took extra time with fans and maintained that child-like love for the game of baseball throughout his career.
Jim once said, "I sign every autograph I can for kids because I remember myself at that age. I think it's ridiculous that some guys won't sign for a kid." I think that quote alone sums up what a fantastic player and ambassador Thome was for the game of baseball.
7. Ken Griffey Jr. – 630 Four-Baggers
Much like Thome, Ken Griffey Jr's 22-year career was phenomenal the first half of that span, but not as outstanding in the 2nd half.
According to stats from Baseball Reference, in 1993 and 1994, Ken had 40+ homer seasons, a small hiccup in 1995 off that trend, and then from 1996 to 2000, Griffey Jr. averaged 50 four-baggers and 137 RBIs. He did that while also slugging .604 with a .290 BA.
Ken Griffey Jr. may be higher on this list (possibly much higher) except for the fact that he only hit more than 30 homers twice in the next nine seasons after 2000. He was an All-Star twice in that span, and did some solid work, but nothing like the first half of his career.
Still, Griffey Jr. finished with 630 homers, but also was an All-Star a total of 13 times, was in the MVP conversation 10 times - winning it in 1997, won nine Gold Glove Awards and seven Silver Slugger Awards. Hitting those four baggers wasn't Griffey's only strength.
6. Albert Pujols – 656 Long Balls
Pujols may not be the center of baseball talk these days, but he has quietly managed to hit an average of 24 home runs and 94 RBI the last four years (2016-2019, ages 37 to 40). If Pujols could somehow manage those same numbers another four years, which is unlikely, he could finish in the top three on this list at some point.
When Pujols might retire is a central question among baseball fans. One thing to remember is that Albert has dealt with a number of injuries (and surgeries to correct) in recent years, but is reportedly healthy for the 2020 season. Sure, Albert will have to share playing time with some younger players, but he is signed through the 2021 season. He's also owed $29 million for 2020 and $30 million for 2021. I would think that is a great incentive to keep on top of your game.
In addition to Albert's current stat of 656 Long Balls, he has 3,202 hits and was the first player to reach at least 650 homers and 650 doubles. The first twelve years of Pujols' now 19-year career are chock full of accolades.
Pujols was Rookie of the Year in 2001, then went on to win three MVP Awards. He's been an All-Star 10 times, won a Silver Slugger six times, and won a Gold Glove twice.
If anyone can reach up into that homer stratosphere alongside the likes of Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, it's Albert Pujols.
5. Willie Mays – 660 Taters
Not many players have numbers that eclipse that of Willie Mays. While best known for his amazing over-the-shoulder catch in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series, few hitters have ever been better than The Say Hey Kid.
Willie was an All-Star an unbelievable 20 out of his 22 years playing, a league MVP twice, and won 12 Gold Gloves. If the Silver Slugger award had begun before 1980, there is no telling how many of those awards Mays would have won.
According to Baseball Reference, Willie Mays finished his storied 22-year career not only with 660 homers, but also had a career slash line of .302/.384/.557 and an OPS of .941. Those numbers are smoking over that career span!
Mays was one of the best all-around players who ever picked up a glove or a bat, and was also dangerous on the base paths. He swiped 338 bases and led the league four seasons in a row from 1956 through 1959.
I consider myself fortunate to have witnessed Willie Mays play before he retired, and his stellar career has been the spark for many younger players for generations.
4. Alex Rodriguez – 696 Yickettys
With any discussion about Alex Rodriguez, it's always easy to get sidetracked into opinions about the controversy that has surrounded him. If you can set aside the doubt and focus on the numbers alone, however, you'll be amazed at what A-Rod was able to achieve in his 22-year career.
Alex didn't exactly set baseball on fire when he joined the Seattle Mariners as a rookie in 1994 (or 1995), but he saw limited action in those seasons. In 1996, A-Rod was 2nd in league MVP voting and an All-Star selection in just his 3rd year. That's not surprising when you realize Rodriguez homered 36 times with 123 RBI. He also led the American League with 141 runs, 54 doubles, and a .358 BA.
Since we're talking yicketty's here, Alex either led the league or led Major League Baseball in home runs five years during his career (2001-2003, 2005 and 2007). In fact, from 1996 until 2010, Alex averaged an amazing 40 home runs over that span, and had highs of 52, 54, and 57 homers.
Like Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez won the coveted league MVP award three times in his career. He was also an All-Star 14 times, a Silver Slugger 10 times, and won two Gold Gloves.
There may always be some controversy and endless arguments about Alex Rodriguez and the scandals he was mired in during his career, but he's been honored to serve as a broadcaster for both Fox and ESPN and will be eligible for the Hall of Fame induction in 2021. Whether he makes it shouldn't, in my opinion, be based on the scandals, but more on his overall career.
3. Babe Ruth – 714 Goners
What can I say about the Sultan of Swat that hasn't already been said? He was such a prolific power hitter in his era that the one nickname I mentioned already wasn't enough to encompass his prowess with the pine. He was known as The Great Bambino, The Caliph of Clout, The Behemoth of Bust, and several other monikers.
It's the numbers, however, that tell the tale better than the nicknames. Many baseball enthusiasts ask whether or not Babe Ruth, who began his career in the dead ball era, would be as powerful a hitter in today's game. While that question is impossible to answer, we can look at some comparisons at least. Hank Aaron, as an example, had over 12,000 At-bats to gather his 755 home runs. Barry Bonds had almost 10,000 At-bats to gather his 762 homers. Babe Ruth had just over 8,000 At-bats and still hit 714 homers.
Baseball Reference shows that Babe Ruth led the majors a dozen times in a fourteen-year stretch. With a lifetime .690 SLG and a jaw-dropping 1.164 lifetime OPS, I'm thinking The Sultan of Swat would do just fine in the modern game.
2. Hank Aaron – 755 Moon Shots
Going purely by the numbers, and with no asterisks attached to my list, I can't put Hank Aaron as the #1 on this list. In my opinion, however, Hammerin' Hank currently holds the record for the most home runs. (I'll get into that more later).
The great thing about Hank Aaron was his humility and how he quietly took the home run record from Babe Ruth on April 8, 1974. Aaron accomplished that amid tremendous racism as he approached Babe Ruth's record.
Aaron was not a power hitter in the traditional sense. He wasn't known for putting balls into the stratosphere, but he was a strong batter, managing to hit a lot of balls out of the friendly confines of Milwaukee and Atlanta at the time. Perhaps Aaron's number one attribute was his consistency.
Hank was an All-Star selection an amazing 21 years out of his 23-year career. He was also in the MVP conversation 19 seasons of his career, winning the trophy in 1957. Aaron holds the all-time career record for RBIs with 2,297 as well as the Total Bases career record of 6856. As you can see, there's a reason they call Henry Louis Aaron Hammerin' Hank.
1. Barry Bonds – 762 Times Gone Yard
There has been so much speculation about Barry Bonds in the Steroid Era, that Barry has still not been inducted in the Hall of Fame. It's for that reason alone that Hank Aaron is, for me, the home run king. Still, Bonds was a Hall-of-Fame-caliber hitter long before the steroid talk.
Not only does Barry Bonds hold the all-time record for 762 times Going Yard, but he also is the all-time leader in walks with 2,558, the most homers in a single season with 73, and the most intentional walks with 668.
Like many on this list, Bonds' awards and honors take up a whole page. Bonds was an All-Star 13 times, a Silver Slugger a dozen times, and won a league MVP award an unbelievable seven times!
After seven years with Pittsburgh in Bonds' career, he began play with the San Francisco Giants, and in his first years with the Giants he slashed an incredible .336/.458/.677 with a cool 1.136 OPS. No other player in baseball came close to his numbers for the next decade of Bonds' career.
At age 39, Barry was able to hit 45 homers with a nice .362 BA, walk 232 times, and get on base an incredible 61%. While many think Steroids were largely at play in that kind of performance, it's hard to deny the natural talent Bonds had throughout the majority of his career.