Albert Pujols of the Cardinals makes history with the home run n. 700

Major league sluggers’ Mt. Rushmore got a chiseled fourth face – this one with a dark, neatly trimmed beard, a seemingly permanent frown and a gold chain around his neck – when Albert Pujols hit his Hall’s 700th home run. -of- Career of fame at Dodger Stadium on Friday night.

The stout St. Louis Cardinals star, who has spent most of the last decade with the Angels, sent his milestone left in the fourth inning against Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford to join Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) is the only player in major league history to score 700 home runs.

Pujols entered the game with two homers under 700. He pitched the no. 699, a two-run blast that traveled 434 feet in the left court pavilion, off Dodgers southpaw Andrew Heaney in the third inning.

No. 700 came one inning later, when Pujols led a 389-foot three-run shot on the left-court seats, the night reminiscent of the game in which he scored the 499th and 500th homer of his career for the Angels at Washington on April 22, 2014

Pujols circled the bases, pointed both index fingers at the sky and clapped his hands as he crossed home plate, the theme of “The Natural” sounding on the public amplification system.

Pujols was attacked by teammates in front of the bench. Fans in a crowd of 50,041 who came to worship him during his five-month stint with the Dodgers last season chanted his name and demanded a curtain call, and when Pujols complied, he received a thunderous ovation. .

“It’s a number that Babe and Hank carried back in time, when, a number of longevity, stability, greatness,” said former Cardinals and Oakland Athletics slugger Mark McGwire, who hit 583 career homers, speaking of Pujols who joined the exclusive 700 Club. “But I’m not surprised at all.

“Look, if he hadn’t spent those few years in Anaheim where he practically lost his legs, with knee and foot injuries, we’d be talking about 800 homers, not 700. I have no doubt he would have blown Barry’s record off. “

Pujols ‘assault on 700 was overshadowed by New York Yankees hitter Aaron Judge’s search for a Triple Crown and Roger Maris’ record of 61 home runs in a single American League season. But it captivated St. Louis fans, who stood up intelligently. Phones positioned to catch all the 42-year-old’s bats at Busch Stadium and players throughout the game.

“Every night, you want to check the score on the box and when he hits a home run, everyone talks about it,” said Angels center winger Mike Trout, who played more than nine years with the Pujols in Anaheim.

“It’s crazy. When he was here and passed all the big names, sometimes you had to pinch yourself just to be able to watch him. Eighteenth century is a lot of homers. But the way Albert works, the time he devotes, the preparation, dedication … you can’t bet against him. “

If Pujols felt some pressure or was too caught up in anticipation of hitting No. 700, he wasn’t seen before Friday night’s game.

“It’s just another number,” Pujols said. “If it happens, it happens; if it doesn’t, then great. I think at the end of the day, I know what I’ve accomplished in this game, no matter what the numbers are.”

Pujols’ rise to 700 towards the end of his 22nd and final season continued a late career resurgence that began after the elderly and often injured first base was released by the Angels in May 2021 with the team failing to make it. win a playoff match on Pujols’ $ 240 million ten-year contract.

Pujols, with 667 homers at the time, signed with the Dodgers and hit .254 with a percentage of .759 based more hits, 12 homers and 38 RBI in 85 games as a valuable reserve, including a .953 OPS against lefties, a five-month period which Pujols says contributed to his decision to play another year.

St. Louis Cardinals Designated Hitter Albert Pujols greets fans as he is honored.

St. Louis Cardinals Designated Hitter Albert Pujols recognizes the crowd at Dodger Stadium after scoring his 700th home run.

(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

“The love of the game hasn’t faded, but being back in the postseason with an amazing organization was really special,” said Pujols. “I thought about retirement last year, but it made me change my mind.”

Pujols signed a one-year $ 2.5 million deal last March to return to St. Louis, where he was baseball’s most feared right hitter in the first 11 years of his career, beating .328 with 1,037 OPS, 445 homers and 1,329 RBI, winning three prizes for the most valuable players in the National League and two World Series titles.

Dubbed “The Machine” due to his steady production in the first decade of his career, Pujols has been more of a spare this season, relegated to a platoon-designated hitter and pinch hitter role, with most of his starts against left-handed.

His slow start in 2022 gave little indication that he would hit the 21 homers needed to reach 700: Pujols was hitting .189 with a .601 OPS, four homers and 17 RBI on July 4th.

But a slight mechanical adjustment in his swing to eliminate some movement in his hands and produce a shorter path to the ball in early July and a surprising run to the home derby semifinals at Dodger Stadium on July 18 helped fuel. a second time sway.

St. Louis Cardinals Designated Hitter Albert Pujols hits a home run.

(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Albert Pujols scores his 700th career home run in the fourth inning on Friday.

Albert Pujols scores his 700th career home run in the fourth inning on Friday.

(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Pujols hit .315 with 1,052 OPS, 12 homers and 29 RBI in 38 from August 10 through Thursday. He had 1,224 OPS in August, the best in baseball among players with 65 plaque appearances or more. He hit five homers over a five-game spell from August 14-20.

“I think he was more special to me because it seemed like people almost forgot about him in Anaheim,” said Cardinals coach Skip Schumaker. “And then he had that second half recovering last year and it was fantastic.

“But say what you thought would happen? I mean, I’d lie to you if I said I thought it was going to happen. “

Schumaker, 42, is the same age as Pujols, a former utilitarian who played with Pujols in St. Louis from 2005 to 2011 and retired in 2015. Seven years later, Pujols is still hitting home runs and Schumaker is five years old in the his coaching career.

“It’s unbelievable,” Schumaker said. “There aren’t many 40-year-olds playing and I think you could talk to some 35-year-olds in the league who feel terrible [physically], Right? But I don’t think any of this is more surprising. “

Schumaker recalled a recent conversation he had with Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, 35, an NL MVP candidate who entered the weekend series against the Dodgers with an average of .321, 1,003 OPS, 35 homers and 112 RBI.

“Goldy was saying she had reached her 300th career homer [this season]and he’s still 400 homers away [from Pujols]Schumaker said. “And he’s a pretty good player, right? This puts Albert in perspective. He is just on another level. “

Few talent evaluators thought Pujols had All-Star potential, let alone Hall of Fame. Originally from the Dominican Republic and moved to Missouri as a teenager, Pujols was a pick in the 13th round – and 402nd overall selection – of the Cardinals at Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City, Mo. in 1999.

But Pujols smashed minor league throws in 2000 and hit the ball with such authority on his first pitch in a big league in 2001 that McGwire told an ESPN reporter that spring that Pujols “is going into the Hall of Fame,” no doubt”.

More than two decades later, Pujols is fourth on baseball’s all-time home run list despite never scoring 50 homers in a season. He is third in RBI (2010), fifth in doubles (685), 10th in hits (3.377) and 12th in run (1.906).

“The work ethic I saw the first day I saw it [in 2001] he never gave up, “McGwire said.” And think of the hundreds of millions of dollars he made, and it never affected the way he did his business. I really hope the media, baseball fans, understand truly the greatness we had in front of us “.

It wasn’t a long power trip for Pujols, an 11-time All-Star. He has taken more walks than strikeouts in 10 seasons and never hit more than 93 times in a year. He won a batting title with an average of .359 in 2003. He has won two Gold Glove Awards. He stole 16 bases in 2005 and 2009 and 14 in 2010.

“You don’t think of someone who hit 700 homers as a complete player, but he was,” McGwire said. “We’re basically seeing another Hank Aaron, a line-drive hitter with gap-to-gap power who has never hit 50 homers in a season.

“There is a reason Albert should be a unanimous selection for the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. If he’s not, there’s something wrong with the system. “