Barry Bonds, 73, 2001
Bonds entered the 2001 season with 494 home runs in 15 seasons, an average of 33 per year. He had led the league in homers just once, with 46 in 1993, his first year in San Francisco, and was coming off a career-high 49 in 2000 at age 35. Still, few could have predicted what Bonds would do in '01, or over the next four years for that matter, each of which ended with him winning the NL MVP award.
He sandwiched a pair of 11-homer months in April and June around a 17-homer May that gave him an incredible 39 entering July. By Aug. 11 he had reached a new personal best of 50 and the homers just kept coming: 57 by Sept. 1, No. 60 on Sept. 6, and a three-homer game on Sept. 9 that enabled him to catch and pass Roger Maris and left him with 63. Baseball paused for a week after the 9/11 attacks, but once play resumed Bonds kept up his pursuit of Mark McGwire's three-year-old record. On Sept. 24 he passed Sammy Sosa to move into second place with No. 67, giving him 11 games to catch McGwire's mark of 70. He caught Big Mac on Oct. 4 in Houston and the next day, back in San Francisco, he set a new record with No. 71 off the Dodgers' Chan Ho Park. He added another that night and finally landed on 73 with one last blast on the final day of the season.
Bonds would never hit more than 46 again as teams walked him with such frequency that he would end his career as the all-time leader in that category. Of course he also finished as the career home run king, ending up with 762, a number that like his single-season total—like it or not—may never be broken.