Who are the MLB single-season homerun leaders?
The single season home run record is one of the most coveted stats in all of baseball, but its seeped in controversy thanks to the MLB’s steroid era.
There are few things more exciting in the world of sports than a home run. Whether you are a purist of the game or a casual fan who goes to the ball game for the for a little fresh air and some peanuts and cracker jacks. One thing is universal no matter the level of fandom. When you hear the crack of the bat, every person in the stadium jumps out of their seat and erupts as the ball clears the fence.
Some of the biggest names in the game were the league’s biggest hitters in history. Babe Ruth and Roger Maris laid the land for sluggers like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire. All of these heavy hitters are on the all time single season home run list, but who holds the record for the most homers in a season is up for debate.
The steroid era put an entire period of MLB history under a gray cloud of suspicion, and asterisk laden records. If you look at just the numbers Barry Bonds is the home run king, but if you exclude the steroid era, then that would crown Roger Maris as the king.
That’s why we’ve put Aaron Judge’s photo in this article. The new Bronx Bomber broke the single season homerun record in the “clean era” in 2022 with 62 homeruns. But, keep an eye out this year on Shohei Ohtani, who could come close to beating the record Judge broke last year.
Barry Bonds 1st: 73 (2001)*
The San Francisco Giants slugger took the sport by storm in 2001 after hitting 49 dingers in the previous campaign. Bonds exploded out of the gate in his historic season, hitting 28 homers in the first 50 games of the season.
What makes Bonds’ achievements even more impressive is that Bonds was walked a then-record 171 times that season. With three games left in the season Bonds tied Mark McGwire’s record of 70 home runs against the Houston Astros. He set the record a day later against the Los Angeles Dodgers, hitting two off of Chan Ho Park and got his final homer against Dennis Springer to end his season with an all time record of 73 home runs.
Mark McGwire 2nd: 70 (1998)* 4th: 65 (1999)*
Big Mac was the face of the new generation of home run hitters in the late 90s, and then became one of the faces of steroid era. He and Sammy Sosa captivated the nation in 1998, when the chase for Roger Maris’ 61 home runs entranced the MLB.
McGwire and Sosa’s battle hit a climax when the St. Louis slugger smacked his record 62nd home run of the season while playing Sammy Sosa’s Chicago Cubs on September 8th. Big Mac would go on to hit eight more home runs before the end of the season, shattering Maris’ record with 70 HRs. A mark that seemed unreachable, until Bonds broke it a few years later.
Sammy Sosa 3rd: 66 (1998)* 5th: 64 (2001)* 6th: 63 (1999)*
While Sammy Sosa was always right in the mix, he was constantly overshadowed by Mark McGwire. He was certainly the most consistent of any of the big hitters of the late 90′s. He surpassed Maris’ 61 home runs three different times, including the 1998 season in which he and McGwire were chasing the record. He ended that season with 66 dingers, but was outshined by Big Mac, who broke Maris’ record first and won then went on to win the head to head battle that year.
A year later he hit 63 home runs in another spectacular season, but fell well short of McGwire’s 70 set a year before. He have it one last go in 2001 when he hit 64 homers in what would be his last season contending for the single season record. Sosa was one of the the players who’s name was dragged most through the mud despite never having tested positive for PEDs. While was never caught using steroids, although it was largely suspected. What wasn’t suspected was Sosa using a corked bat, but in June of 2003 his bat broke in a game against Tampa Bay and the umpire tossed him out of the game once he took a look at the broken bat and saw cork on the inside. He was suspended for eight games as a result.
Aaron Judge 7th: 62 (2022)
On Oct. 4, 2022 Aaron Judge made history by hitting his 62nd homerun, a league record if we’re not counting the records above with asterisks next to them because of the help they had with steroids. Judge had an incredible season and almost won the triple crown, but fell short to Luis Arraez, who finished the season with a .316 average.
His 62nd homerun came in the first inning of game two in a doubleheader against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. He tagged a 1-1 slider from Texas right-hander Jess Tinoco into the bleachers in left centerfield.
Roger Maris 8th: 61 (1961)
If you are a purist who respects the game and the values of America’s past time, you might still consider the former Yankees slugger, Roger Maris as the all time greatest home run hitter in the game. Maris took advantage of the MLB extending it’s season to 162 games that same year. He hit 39 the year before, but exploded for 61 in what was a career year in homers (61) RBIs (141) and batting average (366.)
Babe Ruth 9th: 60 (1927), 10th: 59 (1921)
For four decades Babe was the home run king as he stared in the heart of the Murderer’s Row lineup for the Yankees in the 1920′s. He set the home run record in 1921 with 59 jacks. Eight years later Ruth eclipsed his own record hitting 60 HRs in a year where he hit .356 and was walked 137 times.
* the asterisk represents a home run record in the steroid era of Major League Baseball.