One Hit (Type) Wonder

Mark McGwire briefly was feted baseball’s Home Run King, destroying the single-season record of 61 by hitting 70 in 1998. His mark would stand for just three years, after which Barry Bonds sent 73 baseballs beyond MLB fences. Yet by at least one measure McGwire still holds a longball record: He hit home runs at a faster pace over the course of a career than anyone else. It’s not even close.

PlayerRankPlate Appearances per HRCareer HRs
Mark McGwire113.1583
Babe Ruth214.9714
Giancarlo Stanton*316.1347
Sammy Sosa416.2609
Juan Gonzalez516.5434
Barry Bonds616.5762
Dave Kingman716.8442
Jim Thome816.9612
Kyle Schwarber* 916.9153
Omitted from the rankings above are current players with just a few years of stats and less than 2,000 plate appearances in the record books. These include Fernando Tatis, Jr., Pete Alonso, Aaron Judge, and Joey Gallo. (*) indicates an active player through the end of the 2021 season.

Big Mac’s propensity to hit almost nothing but home runs lent itself to other statistical extremes. Of the 1,167 times he scored in his career, more than half were the result of his own home runs. He was a slow runner, belting only 6 triples over the course of his career and legging out only 1 after turning 24. In 2001, his final season, 52% of the hits in his .187 batting average were home runs (29). That batting average in 2001 is interesting for another reason: If McGwire’s home runs are excluded from his hit and at bat totals his career average would have been .187.

Like a lot of big names from the 90s, McGwire is deeply enmeshed in the baseball’s PED legacy. Long denying he used prohibited substances, he gradually opened up and admitted PED usage in 2010. In interviews he has claimed he could have still hit 70 without chemical enhancement, though the claim appears laughable.

Adding McGwire to the Refractor Set

In person this a sharp card with only the L/R centering keeping it from making the highest grade. McGwire does not appear to be among the more condition sensitive refractors out there, as 184 of the 236 known graded examples are rated 9 or above. The 1998 home run chase likey fueled a large percentage of the outstanding population to be graded earlier in PSA’s history, leaving fewer raw examples out there. I added it to the collection in a non-eBay auction earlier this year. The original plan was to wait until later, but after displaying my Canseco card I knew I needed to add the second bash brother.