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The best home RUn hitTer in History

Updated on May 26, 2012

The better, not the most

Is there really any such thing as a ‘greatest’ ever? In the realm of sports discourse, ‘the greatest’ arguments are neverending, there is no consensus; even if there were, said validates nothing - who is qualified to be the final arbiter, mob rule or individual opines?


Instead, look at opportunities.

Rather than player ‘x’ vs player ‘y’, or this era vs that, or this player’s “yeah but” vs another’s “yeah but”, consider a common denominator - opportunities - as the true measure. Things being relatively ‘relative’, it is result that prevails as the basis for rationale.

The findings: even ‘with’ steroids (if you believe he partook), Barry Bonds wasn't the home run hitter Babe Ruth was, nor was Hank Aaron for that matter. When each player had an equal # of opportunities, Ruth clearly was the best. At 8399 at bats (opportunities) end of his career, Ruth had 714 home runs… in the same # of at bats, Bonds had only 619 (or 95 less) while Aaron had only 493. Similar # of opportunities each player, Ruth also had more hits, doubles, rbis, walks, intentional walks, a higher batting average, a higher slugging %, a higher OBP, a... well, you get the idea.

Ruth never faced players of color? Ruth never used steroids - each argument a wash. Ruth never faced modern AL pitchers? Bonds never faced the likes of a Koufax, Carlton, Gibson, Seaver, Drysdale & many more. Likewise, Bonds never faced the great pitchers of Ruth's time, just as Ruth never faced the aforementioned pitchers or those more modern.

Too, this talk about PEDS (performance enhancement drugs/steroids etc.) vs players of color argument: steroids affect results. Case segregation era, some 'assume' great players of a league non-MLB would remain great when/if they had faced MLB players. Would they? If the argument be that such players inclusion MLB would have lessened the stats of those players already in MLB then, the converse must also be true - those non-MLB players would be less impressive in results too - mediocre perhaps after facing a steady diet of MLB player(s) regularly, the process gives a truer gauge of non-MLB players abilities, and vice versa.

The most prolific home run hitter (as in ‘most’ home runs) ever? That’d be Sadaharu Oh - his ‘Japanese league’ non-MLB venue being his cross to bear, Ruth segregation era & Bonds the PED era suspicion. Ditto for others like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa etc. who played during the same PED era as Bonds. 'Best' hr hitter ever? Babe Ruth, who had an better at bat to home run ratio than Bonds and Aaron (McGwire had a slightly better ratio than Ruth, yet finished a distant 131 hrs behind Ruth and retired a physically broken player, running on fumes.)

Total home runs and ratio per at bats considered, Ruth is the greatest in MLB history, the opportunities given a Bonds saw him merely continue running past the finish line of a race Ruth had already won many years before, despite fewer at bats/opportunities.

In context, is longevity a plus or a minus? Bonds needed an extra 836 at bats - or 9235 at bats - to even 'tie' Ruth at 714 hrs. Finally, on his 837th extra at bat - the equivalent some two years more of opportunities - Bonds hit his 715th, on at bat 9236... that is with or without PEDS, depending on what you choose to believe.

Aaron had only 493 hrs at the time he had batted 8399 times - that Hank finished his career only 41 home runs (755) ahead of Ruth despite 3965 more at bats career, reinforces Babe Ruth's greatness.

Too, Roger Maris got 590 at bats in 1961 when he hit (in the minds of many) the still to date single season record of 61 home runs. When Ruth hit 60 in 1927, he needed only 537 at bats (he ended the year with 540 at bats), the upshot being Maris got an extra 50 at bats (opportunities) beyond to manage a single home run more than Ruth. Maris did not hit his 60th until his 566th at bat and his 61st on at bat 588; the NY Yankees also played 163 games in 1961 and not 162 (in Ruth's day, it was 155 games.)
This is why at bats matter more so than games (a player can be put in as a pinch-runner, a defensive replacement etc., thus # of games is less relevant a measure.)

In conclusion, this is how you determine greatness, and why the 'best' home run hitter is superior to 'most’ home runs hit.

* DISCLAIMER * [ I am not/was never a fan any teams the aforementioned players played for ]

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    • Bon Mot profile image

      Bon Mot 5 years ago from Here and Now


      Yes, Kiner (though far behind in total hrs) was definitely one of the best, his ending 14.1 ratio at bats to hr belied the fact he played in monstrous Forbes Field, where many fly balls/high drives flew deep only to die short of hr. I have more respect for him - another the 'legit' - than the latter day frauds.

    • profile image

      Robert C. Wakefield 5 years ago

      What about the Pirate's great Ralph Kiner? Though he had only 369 career HR's , I believe at one time he had an at bat ratio to HR"s second to the Babe. Kiner was a WWII vet and had his career cut short due to injury. Unfortunately he played for a weak team and was "walked" many times.

    • billd01603 profile image

      billd01603 5 years ago from Worcester

      That why baseball is such a great sport. You can debate all day. Good Hubh. Voted up.