Albert Pujols enters the pantheon of the Gods with his 700th home run
Only the fourth player ever to break the 700 home run cieling, Albert Pujols joins Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, and Barry Bonds in baseballs highest tier
Albert Pujols has not hit a home run in six games. That may not seem like too much, but for a player sitting on 698 and averaging a home run every four games, it is an eternity. As the Cardinals moved into Chavez Ravine for their last series against the Dodgers this season, hopes were high that he would get at least one. La Maquina went one better.
In the third inning of the Cardinals 11-0 trouncing of Los Angeles, Dodgers southpaw Andrew Heaney went two strikes up and tried to blow a fastball past Pujols. Instead, the Dominican giant put it 434 feet into left-center field for number 699.
Coming up again the following inning, there was some fan speculation that Pujols would see nothing but fastballs. After all, he has earned that. Not to be spoon fed number 700, but for a pitcher to just give it to him straight. Phil Bickford had other ideas and threw a hanging slider that Albert slotted it 389 feet to left field for number 700.
Albert Pujols is now a member of baseball’s highest pantheon, one of only four players to ever break that 700-home-run ceiling. It is a rarified space home to home run king Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth, and now you can add the name of Albert Pujols, inscribed for eternity in the stone tablets of Cooperstown.
Albert Pujols, in going for two home runs in the same game, becomes the only player of the four to have ever hit numbers 699 and 700 on the same night. The 42-year-old’s baseball statistics are the stuff of legend, with 2,208 career RBIs, second all time behind Aaron’s 2,297, and having slapped 1,400 extra-base hits, a benchmark reached only by Aaron and Bonds.
Albert has never been a numbers man. He has made plain in many an interview that he cares more about the team winning than he does any individual achievement.
“Look, don’t get me wrong, I know what my place is in this game. But since Day One, when I made my debut, it was never about numbers, it was never about chasing numbers. It was always about winning championships and trying to get better in this game. And I had so many people that taught me the right way early in my career, and that’s how I’ve carried myself for 22 years that I’ve been in the big leagues. That’s why I really don’t focus on the numbers. I will, one day, but not right now.”
Another thing that Pujols has been adamant about is that this 2022 season will be his last. Fans and supporters like this writer would perhaps selfishly love to see him go on. Clearly he is still an offensive weapon and can offer quality play to the Cardinals for at least another season or two. But man to man, if anyone has earned the right to make up their own mind about when to call time on a stellar career it is Albert Pujols. He has nothing left to prove in baseball.
Initial reports said that the fan who caught the historic baseball wasn’t willing to give it up in trade for memorabilia. Pujols, who has famously given baseballs 697 and 698 to the fans who caught them, again said that he didn’t mind.
“Souvenirs are for the fans. If they wanna keep it, they can. At the end of the day, I don’t focus on material stuff. I think I have the bat, the uniform, helmet, things that are special to me. At the end of the day, I think that’s why the fans come here, to have a special moment of history. So if they wanna keep that baseball I don’t have any problem with that.”
A throwback to another time, another age, we are not likely to see another player of Albert Pujols caliber any time soon. And while we fans may want to keep the sun from setting on his magnificent career, at the end of the day it is Albert who must decide. And whatever he decides, we must count ourselves fortunate to have been alive at a time to witness it.