On October 5, 2001, San Francisco Giants’ left fielder Barry Bonds hit a 440′ home run over the right-center field fence at Pacific Park, San Francisco, off Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher Chan Ho Park, to beat the single-season home run record (70) set by St. Louis Cardinals’ first baseman Mark McGwire three seasons earlier. Two innings later, Bonds hit another, over the center field fence, off the same pitcher and, two days later, blistered a knuckleball from another Dodgers’ pitcher, Dennis Springer, over the right field fence to finish the season with a remarkable 73 home runs.
Of course, like McGwire, Bonds set the record during the so-called ‘steroid era’ and has repeatedly been denied entry to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, presumably because of his alleged association with performance-enhancing drugs in the latter part of his career. Controversial though his record may be, it should not be forgotten that, in 2001, Bonds played in 153 of 162 games, batting at third or fourth in the Giants’ lineup, and was walked a total of 177 times. Furthermore, the depth of the outfield at Pacific Park (now, of course, Oracle Park) makes it a pitcher-friendly ballpark, such that Bonds only hit one more home run at home than he did elsewhere.
Calls for Bonds’ record to be expunged from the record books will, no doubt, continue but, for as long as it remains, it seems unlikely to be broken. Since 2001, a player has hit more than 50 or more home runs in a season 12 times, but the closest anyone has come to beating Bonds’ record is 62. Indeed, that was the number recorded by New York Yankees’ outfielder Aaron Judge in 2022, thereby beating the American League single-season record set by former Yankees’ right fielder Roger Maris in 1961.