Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Half a Loaf Means Little in Hr Derby

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Half a Loaf Means Little in Hr Derby

Article excerpt

If you envisioned an all-out assault on the single-season home-run record this season of baseball muscle at bat, hold the phone, friend.

As Casey Stengel would say, let's look it up. Or give Baseball Digest credit for putting things in perspective in its August issue.

I just finished studying the Post-Dispatch's list of .300 hitters at the halfway mark in 1996 - 50 in the American League, 25 in the National - and had figured that maybe this season would approximate that hittingest year.

That would be 1930, a year the league batting average was .303, and the pennant-winning Cardinals scored 1004 runs, about 6.5 a game.

Sure, the game now is somewhat different, meaning most of the hitters are huskier and swing lighter bats, creating a swifter, more striking force. After all, that's one of the main reasons they strike out more than hitters who made contact with heavier bats, often with a choked grip up the handle.

So I didn't expect anyone to hit .400 as Bill Terry did in '30, leading the National with .40l, and it was highly unlikely any also-ran would hit .393 like Babe Herman or .386 like Chuck Klein or .383 like Lefty O'Doul. But power - ah, hah - that would be a different thing.

Back there when the jackrabbit ball quivered, the Chicago Cubs' sawed off center-field slugger, Hack Wilson, did hit a league record 56 homers and drive in 190 runs, one that widens modern-day hitters more than any offensive accomplishment.

But only Philadelphia's Klein with 40, Boston Braves' rookie Wally Berger with 38 and Cubs' catcher Gabby Hartnett with 37 and Brooklyn's Babe Herman with 35 were above what amounts to home-run leadership at the halfway mark now.

Really, only 10 topped 20 in homers then, even though 17 National Leaguers drove in more than 100 runs. Now, cripes, with 81 games to go, l3 American League hitters already had 20 or more home runs and the National had nine.

So the expectation would be a mass assault on Babe Ruth's 60 in 1927 or, because of the 162-game schedule, Roger Maris' 6l in '61. But, then, along came Baseball Digest with a list of hitters who had 30 or more homers by the All-Star break. …

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