• The Marlins outfielder is making a run at some hallowed homer history. Track his progress up the single-season leaderboard here.
By Jay Jaffe
September 05, 2017

With an incredible flurry of home runs in the second half, Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton has been climbing baseball's single-season home run leaderboard. He has already authored just the 45th season of 50 or more dingers and the 27th of at least 53. With every home run he chases down another familiar name from the game's past, and he still has some giants—and one notable Giant—in front of him. Can he make it to 60 home runs ... or 62 ... or 70 ... or 73? Follow along here for the rest of the season to see how high Stanton can fly.

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For the first six years of his career, the aura of Giancarlo Stanton's mammoth home runs may have been more impressive than his actual output, as the Marlins' hulking slugger entered 2017 with a single-season-best of a relatively modest 37 home runs. It didn't appear this season would be much different when he opened the year with seven straight games without a home run and then had separate droughts of 11 and 14 games in the season's first three months. 

He did manage 21 home runs in that time, however, but starting with a two-homer outing on July 5, Stanton embarked on a torrid stretch in which he went deep 12 times in 17 games. In August another burst: 11 in 12 games, leaving him with 44 after 118 games and stirring talk that 60—and maybe even 70—was in play.

First, though, Stanton had to get to 50, which he did on Aug. 27, marking just the ninth time anyone had gotten to that number before Sept. 1. He has 59 through Sept. 29.

Ted Keith

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Ruth had already led the AL in home runs in 1918 (11) and '19 (29, a single-season record) while transitioning away from his primary role as one of the league's top lefty starters when Red Sox owner Harry Frazee infamously sold him to the Yankees for $100,000 in December 1919. After donning the pinstripes, he went homerless in April 1920 but he hit 12 in May. He bashed another 12 in June and then 13 in July, breaking his own single-season record on July 19 with number 30 off the White Sox's Dickie Kerr. After a relatively light, seven-homer August, Ruth closed with another 10 in September. No other player hit more than 19 that season, and only one team (the Phillies, with 64) had more than Ruth's 54.

After setting yet another record with 59 homers in 1921, Ruth averaged 39 homers over the next five seasons before hitting the mystical 60 in 1927. He looked as though he might go even higher in '28, as he followed a four-homer April with 15 in May and 11 apiece in June and July, giving him 41 through the Yankees' first 101 games, seven more than he'd hit in that span the year before. He slumped from Aug. 16 to Sept. 25, homering just five times in 35 games while batting a less-than-Ruthian .275/.416/.467, but closed with a flourish, homering four times in five games. He went on to make more home run history in New York's World Series sweep of the Cardinals: In Game 4 he duplicated his feat from Game 4 in 1926 to become the first and still only player with multiple three-home-run games in the Fall Classic.

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After serving more than 2 1/2 years in the Navy, Kiner debuted with the Pirates in 1946 and immediately established himself as one of the game's top sluggers, hitting 23 homers—remarkably, enough to lead the NL. He would do so for the next six seasons as well, with 51 in 1947, 40 in '48 and then a career-high 54 in '49, two short of Hack Wilson’s NL record, set in 1930. Kiner went yard just twice in Pittsburgh's first 16 games, then hit eight or nine homers in each of the next three months, giving him 27 in the team's first 97 games. He hit that many in just 55 games the rest of the way, including 16 in September, an NL record that has been matched (by Greg Vaughn in 1999 and Barry Bonds in 2001) but not surpassed.

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By 1961, the Mick already had a pair of MVP awards and 320 homers under his belt, having led the league four times, including a high of 52 in 1956 and 40 the year before. He jumped out to the league lead again with seven homers in 15 April games and still led after bashing another seven in May. But despite homering 11 times in June, he had been surpassed by hot-hitting teammate Roger Maris, who had homered just once in April but by the end of June led 27-25.

Aided by the league's addition of two expansion teams, the chase for Babe Ruth's single-season record was on, and the "M&M Boys" battled amicably, though Yankee fans had a clear preference for the homegrown Mantle. He trailed Maris, 40 to 39, by the end of July, a month that saw commissioner Ford Frick declare that Ruth's record would remain distinct unless surpassed within 154 games. Though still bashing at a prolific pace, Mantle trailed 56-53 through Sept. 10, but a right hip ailment and lingering cold, for which he received an injection—"amphetamines laced with vitamins, human placenta, and eel cells," according to biographer Jane Leavy—limited him to just one more homer the rest of the season; he developed an abscess that sidelined him for most of New York's World Series win over the Reds. Maris, of course, broke Ruth's record with 61.  

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Already “The Greatest Clutch Hitter in the History of the Boston Red Sox" based on his heroics in the 2004 postseason, the 30-year-old Ortiz provided some highlights during an otherwise forgettable season during which the injury-wracked Sox missed the postseason for the only time between 2003 and '09. Big Papi clubbed 10 homers in April and ranked third in the league in homers through the end of June, with 23. He started July with an eight-game, eight-homer binge and finished the month with 14, enough to give him a league-leading 37. With another 10 in August, he matched his career high, set the previous year, but an irregular heartbeat sidelined him for eight games at the end of the month and into September, and he added just one from that point through Sept. 16.

On Sept. 20 against the Twins—who had non-tendered him four years earlier—he tied Jimmie Foxx's franchise record of 50 homers, set in 1938, and the next day he surpassed with another pair against his old team. His 54 homers led the league, 10 more than runner-up Jermaine Dye of the White Sox.

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By 2007, Rodriguez had already topped 50 twice with the Rangers (52 in 2001, 57 in '02), led the league four times and pocketed two AL MVP awards. He had yet to become enmeshed in the performance-enhancing drug controversies that later tainted his career, but the ever-controversial slugger had hit "only" 35 in 2006, his lowest total since 1997. He bolted out of the gate in 2007, homering in his final plate appearance on Opening Day against the Devil Rays, and hitting a remarkable 12 in the season's first 15 games en route to a record-tying 14 for the month.

It took Rodriguez two months to double his total, but he entered the All-Star break with 30. In August he hit his 500th career home run and he started September with eight in eight games. Alas, a 13-game drought followed, but he added two in his final four games to finish with a league-high 54 en route to his third MVP award. After that season he oped out of his 10-year, $252 million contract to sign a 10-year, $275 million deal with the Yankees.

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Entering the 2010 season, the 29-year-old Bautista appeared to be little more than a well-traveled journeyman. He had played for five teams from 2004 to '09 and had hit just 54 homers in over 2,000 plate appearances. With the Blue Jays stuck in perpetual also-ran mode, few noticed that he had gone deep 10 times in September 2009, the payoff of his work with hitting coach Dwayne Murphy, who helped him harness his raw power by focusing on pulling the ball. Lousy showings in April and June blunted the impact of Bautista’s 11-game, eight-homer binge in May, but he finished the first half with 24 dingers, good enough to make his first All-Star team. From July 25 onward, he kept a torrid pace, homering 28 times in 64 games. That was enough to surpass George Bell's franchise record of 47, set in 1987, and to lead the league for the first of two times.

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In 1930 major league teams scored 5.55 runs per game, still the highest mark since 1900, and the entire National League hit .303/.360/.448. Wilson, a barrel-chested slugger who stood just 5'6", had already led the NL in homers three times from 1926 to '28 and in RBIs in '29 with an NL-record 159. He didn't hit his first homer of 1930 until the Cubs' seventh game of the year, and had a mere four in April, but he was nonetheless picking up ribbies with alarming frequency.

Through June, he was hitting .341/.444/.705 with 22 homers and 73 RBIs in 69 games, picked up 11 homers and 31 RBIs in July and then had his biggest month in August, with 13 home runs and 53 RBIs; he passed Klein's NL mark of 43 homers in late August and on Sept. 5, he broke his own RBI record. The next day Wilson began a 17-game, 10-homer flurry that carried him to an NL record that stood for 68 years; his RBI record of 190 (later revised to 191) still stands. 

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By 1997, "The Kid" had already topped 40 homers three times, with a high of 49 in 1996. He started the 1997 season by going deep in his first two plate appearances against and he hit had a three-homer game on April 25 against the Blue Jays. Through May, he had 24 in the Mariners' 54 games, a 72-homer pace, but added just eight over the next 50 games. A productive August that included a seven-homers-in-10-games spurt pushed him to 44 by month's end, and he added six more in the first six games of September. Even with a comparatively disappointing six homers across his final 18 games, his 56 for the season still ranked as the majors’ highest total in the AL since Maris.

Griffey looked as though he might surpass that total the following year. He hit 11 in April, and by June 11 he had 26, a 64-homer pace. He reached the All-Star break with 35 in 88 games, compared to 30 in 84 games the year before. A drought of just two homers in 27 games put him in the rearview mirror of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, whose chase of Maris's record came to dominate the sports world. Griffey looked like he might get to 61 as well when he hit two homers on Sept. 22 against the A's, giving him 55 with six games to play, but he added just one more. Still, his 56 were enough to lead the AL, though it was lost amid the Big Mac-Slammin' Sammy mania. 

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Through his age-32 season, "Gonzo" had hit a modest 164 homers, with a high of 31 in 2000, a year in which teams set a record with 1.17 homers per game. The Diamondbacks’ rightfielder quickly opened some eyes by homering five times in the 2001 season's first five games, finished April with an MLB-high 13 and still led with 20 in the team's first 40 games. But when he endured a 13-game drought in May, Barry Bonds—who homered 11 times in a 10-game span that month—passed Gonzalez like he was standing still. By the time he reached number 50, on Aug. 29 against the Giants, both Bonds and Sammy Sosa had beaten him to the milepost. Gonzalez finished the month with 51, and homered six times in the season's final 17 games.

His total of 57 was good for third in the league behind Bonds (73) and Sosa (64), but he got the real reward, driving in the World Series-winning run with a bases-loaded, ninth-inning single in Game 7 off the Yankees' Mariano Rivera.

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In 2001, his first year at the hitter-friendly Ballpark in Arlington, Rodriguez smashed 52 home runs, the most ever by a shortstop. The next year he set a new standard, helped in part by 12 apiece in July and August. A two-homer game on Sept. 5 against the Orioles carried him to 50, and by Sept. 14, the Rangers' 148th game, he had 55. That gave him a shot at Maris' AL record of 61, but Rodriguez could hit only two more, still a career high. In 2009, however, he admitted to having used PEDs during his three years in Texas from 2001 to '03, what he called his "loosey-goosey" period.

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"Double X" homered four times in the first five games of 1932, his age-24 season, and after a nine-game drought, added 13 in May and 12 apiece in June and July. He hit his 40th in the A's 96th game, putting him on a pace for 64, well ahead of Babe Ruth's 1927 pace; the Bambino didn't hit his 40th until the Yankees' 120th game. Foxx hit just seven in August, but still closed the month ahead of Ruth (48 homers in 131 games compared to the Babe's 43 in 127 games). But a slow spell—four homers in the first 15 games of September—cost him crucial ground, and even with six homers in the final eight games, he fell short of the record, though he's still the youngest player to hit more than 52 in a season.

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Greenberg entered the the July 6 All-Star Game with 22 homers but then added 15 more in his final 21 games of the month. He homered just once in the first 16 games of August, but thanks to another flurry, finished the month with 46 in the Tigers' 123 games, putting him ahead of Ruth (43 in 127 games).

While much of the country cheered him on, many did not want to see a Jew break Ruth's record, even with Adolf Hitler ramping up his persecution of Jews in Europe at the time. Greenberg overcame that bigotry off the field and fewer good pitches to hit on it—he drew 11 walks in an eight-game homerless span to start September—to reach 56 on Sept. 23 and 58 after hitting two on Sept. 27 (Game 150). Due to a tie, that left him with five games to reach Ruth, but he could manage no more than four singles and a double the rest of the way. Umpire George Moriarty called the season finale at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium in the seventh inning due to darkness, telling Greenberg, “I’m sorry, Hank, this is as far as I can go.” Replied an exhausted Greenberg, "That’s all right, George, this is as far as I can go too.”

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McGwire was the last remaining "Bash Brother" in Oakland when he led the AL with 52 homers in 1996. But with free agency looming and the A's in need of rebuilding, his time in Oakland was drawing to a close. He had 11 homers in April, eight in May and 10 in June, giving him 29 through the season's first 83 games, and he added another five by July 16. But with trade talk overshadowing his slugging, he didn't hit another homer in his final 12 games with the A's before being dealt to the Cardinals for a trio of forgettable righties.

Though reunited with former Oakland manager Tony La Russa, McGwire didn’t homer until his eighth game with his new team, but he finished August with 43 homers, and then launched 13 in an 18-game period from Aug. 28-Sept. 19, giving him 54 with eight games to play. With pitchers approaching him cautiously, he couldn’t quite reach Maris; he closed the season by walking five times and homering three times in his final nine plate appearances. His 58 homers remains the highest total for any player with multiple teams in a single season.

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After homering 22 times in 88 games en route to NL Rookie of the Year honors in 2005, Howard began 2006 with an Opening Day homer against the Cardinals, but he hit just five for the month. He reached 20 homers in the season's 57th game, had 28 through 81 games and after hitting three in a game against the Braves on Sept. 3, he had 52 in 136 games. Though he added four in the five games after that, pushing him to 56 in 141 games, he hit just two over the final 21 games. Still, his total of 58 stands as the highest since Barry Bonds' 73 in 2001. 

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Having already blown away his previous standard by hitting 54 homers in 1920, Ruth began the following season looking like he might again obliterate his record, bashing 12 homers and slugging .925 through New York's first 25 games. He had 15 through the end of May, and walloped 20 in a 35-game span from June 10 through July 18. He needed seven fewer games to reach 40 homers than the year before (99 versus 106), and 23 fewer to reach 50 (125 versus 148). He tied his own record with number 54 on Sept. 9 against the A's, the Yankees' 132nd game, but needed another six days to break it, going long off the St. Louis Browns' Bill Bayne. His pace slowed the rest of the way; he added four in the final 14 games, but the Yanks won their first pennant in franchise history before losing to the Giants-—with whom they shared the Polo Grounds—in the World Series.

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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.

Ted Keith