Ruth led the majors in homers in 1926 with 47 but started his age-32 season with only one in his first 10 games. He recovered and ended June with 25, but that total was matched by 24-year-old teammate Lou Gehrig, kickstarting the first real home run race in baseball history. Gehrig ended July one up on Ruth, 35 to 34, and by the end of August it was Ruth 43, Gehrig 41. Both men homered on Sept. 2, with Gehrig going deep twice, leaving the standings at Ruth 44, Gehrig 43.
But starting with the second game of a doubleheader on Sept. 6, Gehrig went 19 games without a home run. Ruth during that time hit 12, leaving his newfound rival in the dust and getting him within striking distance of the standard. He matched his mark of 59 by hitting two against the Washington Senators on Sept. 29, leaving him two games to hit one more. The very next day, Ruth went deep against pitcher Tom Zachary, setting a new record for the fourth time since 1919. He had a chance to get to 61 and beyond on the last day of the season but went 0-for-3 on Oct. 1. Regardless, most people thought that record would never be broken. Exactly 34 years later to the day, it was.