Chicks dig it. The most-casual baseball fan keeps track of it. The biggest baseball fan gets excited about it. The attraction we have towards the homerun comes from the astonishment of watching a ball carry distances that no one ever thought possible. We were enamored with the Homerun Race of 1998, Barry Bond’s pursuit for the record9, and continue to research homeruns such as Bobby Thomson’s in 1951 and Bill Mazeroski’s in 1960.
Those last two homeruns are probably the most famous in the history of baseball. Thomson’s came in a one game playoff for the pennant and does count towards his career total10. Mazeroski’s does not.
You may know that Bill Mazeroski is in the Hall of Fame, but do you know his stats? He was a career .260 hitter with his highest season average being .283 in his rookie year. He averaged 10 homeruns a season, 64 RBIs, 22 doubles, and 151 hits. His on-base percentage was .299.
I decided to choose a random player, one that jumped into my head, who I believed had close to the same amount of seasons played as Mazeroski. The player I chose has a .274 career average with an average of 17 homeruns, 85 RBIs, 26 doubles, and 157 hits per season while playing (arguably) the most demanding defensive position.
The random player is current Texas Rangers’ catcher Bengie Molina. Is Bengie Molina a Hall of Famer to you?
Even though the postseason homeruns are not counted into a player’s career total, the still land players into the Hall of Fame. When you take into account the player’s postseason homeruns as well as their RBIs, runs, and total bases, baseball changes up even more.
I was rather surprised when I looked at the all-time homerun leaderboard and saw Jim Thome’s name inked in at number eight ahead of guys like Frank Robinson, Mark McGwire, and Mickey Mantle. At the age of 39, Thome has 589 homeruns in the regular season. He is eleven homeruns from being only the eighth player in baseball history to collect 600. This offseason, Jim Thome is a free agent and will be looking for a place that wants him to slug eleven more homeruns; that is, if there is such a place11.
With his 17 career postseason homeruns, Thome really has collected 606 homeruns. The historic number 600 came on July 3rd at Target Field when went 3-4 with a double and homerun number 599, as well.
Thome is practically in the Hall of Fame as it stands, but Fred McGriff is still struggling to get in. As mentioned in part one, McGriff should have 2,500 hits based upon his postseason numbers. Likewise, he should have 503 homeruns with number 500 coming on June 5th, 2003 in Los Angeles against the Royals12. The Crime Dog only received 21.5% of the votes for the Hall of Fame in 2010. The only player eligible for the Hall of Fame with 500+ homeruns and 2,500+ hits that is not currently in Cooperstown is Mark McGwire for obvious reasons.
With ball-hawking, the hobby of catching as many baseballs at a MLB stadium during batting practice and the game itself, sweeping the nation, the value of homerun balls come into question. What if the ball you own is a milestone homerun and its value is hundreds of dollars? What if the ball you have that you think is some random homerun is actually a milestone shot because of postseason numbers?
I asked the man who has made ballhawking famous, Zack Hample. The thirty-three year old New Yorker has caught 4,662 major league baseballs since 1993. Within that four-thousand total, Hample has thirteen game homerun balls. He has written two books, How to Snag a Major League Baseball and Watching Baseball Smarter, and has his third, The Baseball: Stunts, Scandals, and Secrets Beneath the Stitches, will be published next March.
“In recent seasons, I’ve been thinking a lot about catching milestone balls at games, but never considered factoring in the postseason. Now I wish I’d been at Yankee Stadium for Derek Jeter’s so-called 3,000th hit. That said, I don’t think that postseason stats should officially be combined with regular-season stats. When I’m comparing players and looking at stats, I want there to be an even playing field. Everyone plays 162 games, or at least has the opportunity to play 162 games if they’re healthy. That’s the measuring stick. Period. I think it’s a fascinating side note to consider the bonus stats from the postseason, but in my opinion, that should remain its own separate category. Of course, I do count postseason balls in my own collection and combine them with my regular stats, but the world of ballhawking follows its own rules.”
Designer Marc Ecko made a big stink when he bought the rights to Barry Bonds’ record breaking 756th homerun and allowed people to vote on whether he should: (a) bestow intact to Cooperstown, (b) permanently brand the ball with an asterisk before sending it to Cooperstown, or (c) launch it into space forever. 34% of people voted for option A, 19% for option C, and 47% for option B.
In reality, Ecko did not have Bonds’ record breaking ball. The real record breaker should be Bonds’ 762nd homerun, second on July 19, 2007 at Wrigley Field. Who has that ball? We may never know. How much is that ball worth? Probably nothing spectacular since baseball does not recognize the combination of postseason and regular season stats.
Barry Bonds probably benefits the most13 from combining postseason numbers with his regular season stats. He becomes the fourth player all time with 6,000+ total bases, joining Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, and Willie Mays. He and Lou Gehrig also become the fourth and fifth players to collect 2,000+ RBIs, joining Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, and Cap Anson. Bonds would also move past Ty Cobb for second all time in runs scored14.
9 – No matter if you liked Bonds or not, you know that you were interested in his final push. I still remember where I was when he passed Babe Ruth and also when he became the leader.
10 – Yeah … I’ll talk about that later.
11 – Baltimore and New York (AL) strike me as two places that could go after him and have stadiums that cater to Thome’s left handed power.
12 – In adding the postseason homeruns, Lou Gehrig lands in the 500 homerun club, as well.
13 – This could be reason enough to be against the idea.
14 – Cap Anson would also collect his 2,000th run scored and Ty Cobb would become only the fourth player all time with 900+ stolen bases15.
15 – In case you haven’t noticed, I have ran out of jokes. And yes, I just footnoted a footnote.