I will be tracking young Reds slugger Jay Bruce’s progress up the ladder of baseball’s most prolific home run hitters. Obviously he has a long way to go before he will start passing Aaron, Ruth and Mays but he has already passed several Hall of Famers. Jay Bruce arrived in the majors at a very young age and started hitting a lot of home runs while most of his classmates were still working their way through the minors. This gives him a nice head start on the home run charts and gives him a chance to rack up some impressive totals before he hangs up his cleats.
My goal is to fill this project with lots of forgotten feats, legendary lore, obscure trivia, biographical sketches, vintage pictures, fascinating statistics and anything else I can excavate from the vaults of history regarding home runs and the players that hit them over the last 143 years of baseball seasons come and gone.
I encourage each of you to contribute as well. If you know any anecdotes regarding the players and feats we will encounter it would be great if you could share them here in the comments section below each post. If you have any photos of Jay Bruce or the other players involved please send them to me (nddoran at yahoo dot com) or post them here. If you would like to do some research or develop your own interesting contributions then by all means feel free to join in the fun. I am always looking for contributors to this site.
This project will be a lot of work for me and I will do my best to keep up with it throughout the season. It should be lots of fun too.
OK. Let’s get started…
Jay Bruce began this 2012 season sitting on exactly 100 home runs, which tied him with 7 other players for 772nd place on the all-time list of the game’s best home run hitters.
Other players with exactly 100 career home runs:
Bruce Bochte — 1974-1986 Angels, Indians, Mariners, A’s. Bochte boycotted the entire 1983 season as a personal protest over rising player salaries. He believed that money was destroying the game he loved. Bochte is now an avowed agnostic and an ecologist who is working to “save the Mother Earth from humankind’s destructive ways.” Dusty Baker is the only person from his baseball career that Bochte maintains contact with. Makes sense.
Augie Galan — 1934-49, 5 teams. Galan was the first player in baseball history to hit a home run from both sides of the plate in a game. He made the All Star team 3 times, led the league in Stolen Bases twice and in Runs once. In 1935 he got 748 plate appearances and never grounded into a double play — although he did hit into a triple play. It took him 16 years and 5937 ABs to hit the same number of homers that Jay Bruce hit in 5 years and 1851 ABs.
John Kruk — 1986-95 Padres, Phillies, White Sox. Kruk made the All Star team in 1991, 1992 and 1993. In his 1993 appearance at the Midsummer Classic, he had a memorable at bat when he flailed wildly at 98 mile per hour fastballs from Seattle Mariners pitcher Randy Johnson. In October 1987, Kruk lived in a house in New England with two roomates: Roy Plummer, who was a high school friend, and Jay Hafer, who was an acquaintance of Plummer’s. They socialized and partied together, with Plummer almost always picking up the check. Kruk didn’t know it, but Plummer was funding the group’s lifestyle by committing armed robberies and Hafer was his getaway driver. The FBI told Kruk of his roommates’ criminal activities during spring training in 1988, confronting him before batting practice with a photograph of Plummer taken during a bank robbery. According to the FBI, Plummer believed that Kruk had turned him in to the police, and Kruk lived in fear of reprisal until Plummer was arrested seven months later. Kruk has stated that stress from the episode harmed his performance that season. In 1995, in a game at Baltimore’s Camden Yards stadium, Kruk singled then announced his retirement while standing on first base, taking himself out of the game never to play again.
Jay Bruce is currently #129 on the list of active players for career home runs. He has a good chance of breaking into the top 100 this season. Currently Troy Tulowitzki and Mike Napoli are tied at #99 with 122 home runs. Jay will likely have to hit at least 25-30 homers to break into the Top 100 club because some of the 28 active hitters ahead of him will be cranking balls over the walls nearly as fast as Jay.
Every single one of the hitters ahead of Bruce on the list are older than his age of 25 years. The closest younger player to Jay is Justin Upton, who despite being 5 months younger actually reached the majors earlier and has 2402 plate appearances to Jay’s 2080 PAs, which is an extra half season’s worth of chances to hit home runs. Upton currently has 91 home runs and is in 851st place.
There are not any other young sluggers close enough to threaten to pass Bruce this year or next. Giancarlo Stanton is 22 years old and has hit 56 homers in his first two seasons, so he could pose a threat down the road. Maybe Bryce Harper could catch Bruce eventually because he is expected to reach the majors this season at the age of 19. Scouts say he has tremendous power and it would not be surprising to see him hit a lot of home runs very quickly.
Only two other Cincinnati Reds reached the 100 homer mark faster than Jay Bruce and both of them are Hall of Famers. One was Johnny Bench and the other was Frank Robinson.
15,898 men have come to the plate at least once in the major leagues since 1869. Of those only 7261 have actually hit a home run. So Jay Bruce has already passed 15,127 players, 6490 of which have hit at least one home run. So if you look at it that way Bruce is a lot closer to the top of the list than he is to the bottom! More than half of the men that have played in the big leagues never hit a single home run in their entire careers. That is amazing even when you realize that many of them were pitchers and may not have gotten too many at-bats in the designated hitter era.
Dave Eggler was the player who had the most plate appearances in the major leagues without ever hitting a single home run. He batted 2594 times and never circled the bases — not even an inside-the-park home run. He played from 1871-85 and had a career batting average of .274 which is actually pretty good. His OBP was only .288 because he took a meager 49 walks over that 14 year period. He was never hit by a pitch in his entire career.
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