Mike Hessman is best known as a modern-day Crash Davis — and like the fictional character from the classic film Bull Durham, he spent many years closing in on the all-time career home run record in Minor League Baseball.
The 37-year-old Toledo Mud Hens first baseman cracked his 433rd career home run on August 3, 2015 — a go-ahead grand slam in the seventh inning off Lehigh Valley’s Dustin McGowan. Hessman passed Buzz Arlett atop the all-time list for U.S. minor leaguers. Arlett was a Pacific Coast League legend who was once named as the greatest minor-league player in baseball history in a survey of SABR members.
You can view Hessman’s career statistics in the SABR Minor League Database, which has been licensed to Baseball-Reference.com. Hessman began his professional career in 1996, when he was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the 15th round of the amateur draft. He reached the major leagues in 2003, and hit .188 with 14 home runs in 109 games over parts of five seasons with the Braves, Detroit Tigers, and New York Mets.
For the record, four other minor-league players from the Mexican League have also hit more home runs than Arlett. The Mexican League joined Organized Baseball in 1955, but it is not part of the U.S.-based affiliated minor-league system. Hector Espino holds the all-time minor-league record in North America with 484 home runs; he surpassed Arlett during the 1977 season.
A comprehensive list of minor-league home run records can be found in Going for the Fences: The Minor League Home Run Record Book, edited by the late SABR founding member Bob McConnell and published by SABR in 2009. (Click the link to download the free PDF e-book.) In Going for the Fences, McConnell painstakingly compiled statistics, facts, and stories about home run records in the minor leagues from the 19th century through 2008 — the only reference work dedicated to minor-league home runs. Records in more than 50 categories are listed, and helpful annotation throughout enables the researcher or casual fan to place these statistics in context.
To purchase a paperback version of Going for the Fences, click here to visit Createspace.com. SABR members, visit our Research Resources page for a coupon code to get a 50% discount on the paperback edition at Createspace.
Originally published: August 3, 2015. Last Updated: August 3, 2015.