Albert Pujols was the most recent member of the 500 Home Run Club, becoming the 26th player to reach the milestone.
Going into the 1970s only 8 players had accomplished the feat – Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Eddie Matthews, Mickey Mantle, and Hank Aaron. 4 more players, all eventual Hall of Famers, joined the 500 HR club during the decade.
“Mr Cub” Ernie Banks was the first player to reach the plateau in the ’70s, on May 12, 1970 at his hometown Wrigley Field in Chicago. Banks retired after the 1971 season with 512 home runs, and played his entire career as a Cub. He still holds team records for games played (2,528), at-bats (9,421), extra-base hits (1,009), and total bases (4,706). The shortstop/first baseman was a 14 time All-Star and 2-time Most Valuable Player.
On August 10, 1971 Harmon Killebrew became the 10th member of the 500 HR club with a first inning bomb in Minnesota off Baltimore’s Mike Cuellar, then added a second homer off Cuellar later in the game. Killebrew played for the Washington Senators, who later moved to Minnesota as the Twins, and one year for Kansas City. When he retired in 1975, his 573 career home runs was the most in American League by a right handed hitter and second in the AL overall to Babe Ruth. Killebrew led the league in homers 6 times and was the 1969 AL Most Valuable Player.
Later that same year, on September 13, Frank Robinson hit his 500th as a member of the Baltimore Orioles. He retired in 1976 with 586 home runs, 4th at the time behind only Ruth, Aaron, and Mays. Robbie has done it all in the major leagues, capturing the Rookie of the Year Award in 1956, NL Gold Glove Award in 1958, NL MVP in 1961, and a 1966 season with Baltimore where he won the Triple Crown, AL MVP, and World Series MVP. He was also the 1971 All-Star Game MVP, 1989 Manager of the Year, and won over 1,000 games as a manager.
The Giants’ Willie ‘Stretch’ McCovey became the last man to join the 500 homer club in the 1970s when he went deep against the Braves in Atlanta Fulton County Stadium on June 30, 1978. McCovey retired in 1980 with home runs in 4 different decades, 521 overall, and led the National League 3 times. He was a 6-time All-Star, 1959 Rookie of the Year, 1969 NL Most Valuable Player, and 1978 Comeback Player of the Year.
Joe Gersbeck is a baseball historian and lifetime fan/student of the game who lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons. His website is http://www.1970sBaseball.com and his book, 1970s Baseball: A History and Analysis of the Decade’s Best Seasons, Teams, and Players is available on Amazon, B&N, and iBooks: