Home Runs by Decades

This article was written by Eddie Gold

This article was published in the 1980 Baseball Research Journal


George Herman Ruth in his heyday was known as the Sultan of Swat. If the Babe were around today, he might be the Shah of Slam or possibly the Ayatollah of Assault. Anyway, when it comes to Home Runs by Decades, the Ruth is mighty and still prevails.

Ruth hit 467 of his 714 homers during the 1920s, easily the top mark for any decade. He outdistanced runner-up Rogers Hornsby in the 1920s by 217 homers. In contrast, Hank Aaron, the all-time home run leader with 755, was never the top man in any decade. He came close in the 1960s, finishing second to Harmon Killebrew, 393 to 375. Roger Mans, whose 61 homers in 1961 topped Ruth’s season total by an asterisk, could do no better than 14th place in the 1960s with his 217 total.

The all-time leaders by decades are Harry Stovey (1880s), Hugh Duffy (l890s), Harry Davis (1900s), Gavvy Cravath (1910s), Ruth (1920s), Jimmie Foxx (1930s), Ted Williams (1940s), Duke Snider (1950s), Killebrew (1960s), and Willie Stargell (1970s). The tightest race was in the recently concluded decade where Stargell had 296, Reggie Jackson 292, and Johnny Bench 290. Rounding out the top ten were Bobby Bonds 280, Lee May 270, Dave Kingman and Graig Nettles 252, Mike Schmidt (who has the best start for the 1980s) 235, Tony Perez 226, and Reggie Smith 225.

Harry Stovey hit 91 roundtrippers in the 1880s with a season high of 19 for Philadelphia of the American Association in 1889. But home runs weren’t his big schtick. He was the first player to wear sliding pads and is best known for his base stealing.

Hugh Duffy, with 85 fourbaggers in the 1890s, edged Ed Delahanty by six. His best season was in 1894 when he hit 18, to go with a record .438 batting average. Roger Connor, the 19th century’s top slugger with 138 home runs, could do no better than sixth in the 1880s and fifth in the 1890s.

The 1900s were the heyday of the dead-ball era, and Davis’ 67 homers were the best of a poor bunch. The A’s first baseman enjoyed his best season in 1906 when he hit a dozen fourbaggers.

The teens produced the first one-two homer punch, Cravath and Fred Luderus of the Philadelphia Phihies. Cravath hit 116 of his 119 career total, while Luderus hit 83 of his 84 lifetime homers. Luckily for Cravath and Luderus, Ruth was still a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox. The Babe was switched to the outfield in 1919 and hit a record 29 homers. But his total for that decade was only 49, placing him 11th.

Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees the following season and averaged 46.7 homers during the Roaring Twenties. The only other slugger to average more than 40 homers was Foxx the following decade with a 41.5 mark. Ruth played only a half decade during the 1930s, but still managed to finish eighth with 198 homers to Foxx’ 415.

Home run production tumbled during the war-torn 1940s as Ted Williams led with 234 despite spending one/third of the decade in military service. In fact, seven of the top ten served in the armed forces.

Williams hit 227 homers the following decade, only seven fewer than in the 1940s, but couldn’t break into the top ten. The Brooklyn Dodgers’ duo of Snider (326) and Gil Hodges (310) finished one-two during the 1950s. Roy Campanella hit 211 to give the Dodgers three 200-plus homer hitters, but Campy could place only 14th in that competitive decade.

There were 18 players with 200 or more homers during the 1960s, with five — Killebrew, Aaron, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson and Willie McCovey — reaching 300. The Chicago Cubs had three stars with 200 homers in that decade, the well-bunched trio of Ernie Banks, 269, Ron Santo, 253, and Billy Williams, 249.

Seven players appeared in the top ten for successive decades. They were Connor and Sam Thompson in the 1880s and 1890s, Ruth and Lou Gehrig in the l920s and 1930s, and Mays, Banks and Mantle in the l950s and l960s.

Following is the list for the top ten in each decade. It includes homers for that decade, lifetime homers and percentage of career homers for that 10-year span:

 

HOME RUN LEADERS BY DECADES

 

 

(1880-1889)

 

 

(1890-1899)

 

 

HR

Career

Pct.

 

HR

Career

Pct.

Harry Stovey

91

124

73

Hugh Duffy

85

107

79

Dan Brouthers

77

108

71

Ed Delahanty

79

100

79

Fred Pfeffer

71

95

75

Mike Tiernan

76

106

72

Jerry Denny

70

74

95

Sam Thompson

75

126

60

Cap Anson

67

96

90

Roger Connor

72

138

52

Roger Connor

66

138

48

Herman Long

72

92

78

John Reilly

60

70

94

Bill Joyce

70

70

100

Ned Williamson

60

64

94

John Clements

66

77

86

George A. Wood

56

68

82

Bobby Lowe

64

71

90

Sam Thompson

51

126

40

Jake Beckley

63

87

72

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(1900-1909)

 

 

(1910-1919)

 

 

HR

Career

Pct.

 

HR

Career

Pct.

Harry Davis

67

75

89

Gavvy Cravath

116

119

98

Charles Hickman

58

59

98

Fred Luderus

83

84

99

Sam Crawford

56

96

58

Frank Schulte

77

94

82

Buck Freeman

54

82

66

Frank Baker

76

96

79

Socks Seybold

51

51

100

Larry Doyle

64

74

87

Honus Wagner

51

101

51

Sherry Magee

61

83

74

Nap Lajoie

47

81

58

H.Zimmerman

58

58

100

Cy Seymour

43

52

83

Fred Merkle

56

60

93

Hobe Ferris

40

40

100

Vic Saier

55

55

100

Mike Donlin

39

51

77

Owen Wilson

53

60

88

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(1920-1929)

 

 

(1930-1939)

 

 

HR

Career

Pct.

 

HR

Career

Pct.

Babe Ruth

467

714

65

Jimmie Foxx

415

534

78

Rogers Hornsby

250

301

83

Lou Gehrig

347

493

70

CyWilliams

202

251

81

Mel Ott

308

511

60

Ken Williams

190

196

97

Wally Berger

241

242

99

Jim Bottomley

146

219

67

Chuck Klein

238

300

79

Lou Gehrig

146

493

30

Earl Averill

218

238

92

Bob Meusel

146

156

94

Hank Greenberg

206

331

62

Harry Heilmann

142

183

78

Babe Ruth

198

714

28

Hack Wilson

137

244

56

Al Simmons

190

307

62

George Kelly

134

148

91

Bob Johnson

186

288

65

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(1940-1949)

 

 

(1950-1959)

 

 

HR

Career

Pct.

 

HR

Career

Pct.

Ted Williams

234

521

45

Duke Snider

326

407

80

Johnny Mize

217

359

60

Gil Hodges

310

370

84

Bill Nicholson

211

235

90

Eddie Mathews

299

512

58

Rudy York

189

277

68

Mickey Mantle

280

536

52

Joe Gordon

181

153

72

Stan Musial

266

475

56

Joe DiMaggio

180

361

50

Yogi Berra

256

358

72

Vern Stephens

177

247

72

Willie Mays

250

660

38

Charlie Keller

173

189

92

Ted Kluszewski

239

279

86

Ralph Kiner

168

369

46

Gus Zernial

232

237

98

Bobby Doerr

164

223

74

Ernie Banks

228

512

45

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(1960-1969)

 

 

(1970-1979)

 

 

HR

Career

Pct.

 

HR

Career

Pct.

Harm Killebrew

393

573

69

Willie Stargell

296

461

64

Hank Aaron

375

755

50

Reggie Jackson

292

369

79

Willie Mays

360

660

53

Johnny Bench

290

332

87

Funk Robinson

316

588

54

Bobby Bonds

280

321

87

Willie McCovey

300

520

58

Lee May

270

344

79

Frank Howard

290

382

76

Dave Kingman

252

252

100

Norm Cash

278

377

74

Graig Nettles

252

264

95

Ernie Banks

269

512

53

Mike Schmidt

235

235

100

Mickey Mantle

256

536

48

Tony Perez

226

323

70

Orlando Cepeda

254

379

67

Reggie Smith

225

280

80

*Assisted by John Tattersall

 

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