Tracking the Big Cat’s trail to the Hall of Fame

From SABR member Jeff Cochran at on June 28, 2013:

Johnny Mize set the record. He set it fair and square. In 1940 he hit 43 home runs, a St. Louis Cardinals record that would stand until 1998. Mark McGwire moved past Mize and others that year as he set a major league season record of 70 home runs. The powerful bat of McGwire brought great excitement to the game. Baseball was again taking center stage in the world of sports. Since then, however, a realization has set in. McGwire and other players, including Barry Bonds, now baseball’s all time home run ”king,” allegedly enhanced their hitting skills with andro, steroids and the like. Within the last few years, many achievements have been regarded with suspicion.

Johnny Mize was a powerfully built man, known as “The Big Cat.” Whether in the mid-’30s, when he made his debut in the majors or in the game of today, one senses Mize would be a dominant player. It’s not clear if he could have hit 43 or even 70 home runs if competing against current ballplayers. But that’s not the point. Baseball has certain tangibles and intangibles that make each era unique. Travel since the game went coast to coast has been tough on players.

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Originally published: June 29, 2013. Last Updated: June 29, 2013.