Pomrenke: Mike Hessman and the evolution of the minor-league home run record

From SABR member Jacob Pomrenke at The National Pastime Museum on October 2, 2015:

With great fanfare, Mike Hessman of the Toledo Mud Hens hit his 433rd career minor league home run on August 3, 2015, a towering grand slam that moved him past Pacific Coast League (PCL) legend Buzz Arlett on the all-time leaderboard of Minor League Baseball.

Hessman’s feat brought to mind the fictional character Crash Davis from Bull Durham, whose home run exploits in the minors were not so celebrated. In the film, only a handful of people were even aware that Crash was approaching the all-time career record. “I wonder if someone should let The Sporting News know,” super-fan Annie Savoy had said. But the real Sporting News and many other news outlets were well aware of Hessman’s record-breaking 433rd homer, and his achievement was deservedly feted throughout the baseball world.

As Hessman chased and then surpassed Arlett’s mark, it was quietly noted that a few other minor leaguers had hit more than 432 homers, led by the late Héctor Espino, the greatest player in Mexican League (LMB) history, who hit 484 home runs during his illustrious career from 1960 to 1984.

But it’s hard to compare the three home run champions and harder still to claim they’re all on the same page of the same record book. Neither Arlett’s Pacific Coast League nor Espino’s Mexican League bears much resemblance to the modern International League where Hessman has hit most of his home runs since his professional career began in 1996. And while Espino does have more home runs to his credit, it’s fair to call Hessman the home run king of the minor leagues as we know them today.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/mike-hessman-and-evolution-minor-league-home-run-record

Originally published: October 5, 2015. Last Updated: October 5, 2015.