Albert Pujols of the Cardinals makes history with home run No. 700

The Mt. Rushmore of the Major League sluggers got a fourth chiseled face—this one with a dark, clean-cropped beard, a seemingly permanent frown, and a gold chain around his neck—when Albert Pujols hit the 700th home run of his Hall-of-Fame career during the 11 -0 Cardinals win at Dodger Stadium on Friday night.

The stout St. Louis Cardinals star, who spent most of the past decade with the Angels, sent his milestone blast into left field in the fourth inning against Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford to join Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron ( 755) and Babe. Ruth (714) as the only player in Major League history to hit 700 home runs.

“It’s pretty special,” Pujols said of joining the 700 Club. “If it’s really going to hit me, it’s when I’m done at the end of the season and retired, and a month or two after that I can look at numbers.

“Don’t get me wrong, I know where I am in the game, but from day one it was never about the numbers. It was always about winning championships and getting better at this game.”

Pujols entered the game with two home runs shy of 700. He launched No. 699, a two-run blast that went 434 feet into the left field pavilion off Dodgers lefthander Andrew Heaney in the third inning.

Number 700 came an inning later when Pujols drove a 389-foot triple into the left field seats, the night reminiscent of the game in which he hit the 499th and 500th home run of his career for the Angels in Washington on April. 22, 2014.

Pujols, who homered to 455 different pitchers, circled the bases, pointed his index fingers at the sky and clapped his hands as he crossed home plate, the theme of “The Natural” playing on the public address system.

He was harassed by teammates for the dugout. Fans among a crowd of 50,041 who came to adore him during his five-month stint with the Dodgers last season chanted his name and demanded a curtain, and when Pujols did, he received a thunderous ovation.

“It’s a number that Babe and Hank established a long time ago, a number of longevity, of stability, of greatness,” said former Cardinals and Oakland Athletics slugger Mark McGwire, who hit 583 home runs, of Pujol’s entry into the exclusive 700 Club. “But I’m not surprised at all.

“Listen, if he hadn’t had those few years in Anaheim where he basically lost his legs, with his knee and foot injuries, we’d be talking 800 home runs, not 700. I have no doubt he would have been crushed by Barry’s record.”

Pujols’ attack at 700 was eclipsed by New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge’s pursuit of a Triple Crown and Roger Maris’ single-season American League home run record of 61. But it captivated St. Louis fans, who rose with clever phones positioned to record all of the 42-year-old’s at-bats at Busch Stadium and players throughout the game.

But it captivated fans of St. Louis, who got up with smartphones positioned to record all of the 42-year-old’s at-bats at Busch Stadium and players throughout the game.

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

“It’s crazy. When he was here and passed all the big names, sometimes you had to pinch yourself to see it. Seven hundred is a lot of home runs. But the way Albert works, the time he puts in, the preparation, the dedication … you just can’t bet against him.”

Pujols, surrounded by his five children at a post-game press conference, said the Cardinals had not yet picked up the 700th home run ball.

“Souvenirs are for fans,” said Pujols. “If they want to give it back, fine, but in the end I don’t focus on material things. I have bat, the uniform, things that are special. If they want to keep that baseball, I have no problem with it.”

Asked what he will say to Bickford on Saturday, who delivered the breaking ball that Pujols hit for No. 700, Pujols said, “I’ll tell him, thanks for putting up that slider.”

Pujols’ climb to 700 towards the end of his 22nd and final season continued a late career renaissance that began after the aging and oft-injured first baseman was released by the Angels in May 2021, with the team failing to playoff game over the expiration of Pujols’s 10-year $240 million contract.

Pujols, who hit 667 home runs at the time, signed with the Dodgers, hitting .254 with a .759 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 12 homers and 38 RBIs in 85 games as a valuable reserve, including a .953 OPS against lefties , a five-month period that Pujols says contributed to his decision to play for another year.

St. Louis Cardinals designee Albert Pujols waves to the fans as he is honored.

St. Louis Cardinals designee Albert Pujols acknowledges the crowd at Dodger Stadium after hitting his 700th home run.

(Ashley Landis/Associated Press)

“To have my family in town and do it here at Dodger Stadium, where my enjoyment of this game came back in the postseason last year and was at this clubhouse, was great,” said Pujols. “It was pretty special doing it here with the Dodgers fans.”

Pujols signed a $2.5 million one-year deal last March to return to St. Louis, where he was baseball’s most feared right-handed batter in the first 11 years of his career, hitting .328 with a 1.037 OPS, 445 homers and 1,329 RBIs, winning three National League most valuable player awards and two World Series titles.

Nicknamed “The Machine” for his consistent production over the first decade of his career, Pujols was more of a spare this season, relegated to a platoon-designated hitter and pinch-hitter role, with most of his starts coming against left-handers.

His slow start to 2022 gave little indication that he would hit the 21 home runs it would take to reach the 700 – Pujols hit .189 on July 4 with a .601 OPS, four home runs and 17 RBIs.

But a minor mechanical adjustment in his swing to eliminate any movement in his hands and produce a shortcut to the ball in early July and a surprise run to the semifinals of the home run derby at Dodger Stadium on July 18 helped a second half of to provide fuel. golf.

St. Louis Cardinals designated batter Albert Pujols hits a home run.

(Ashley Landis/Associated Press)

Albert Pujols hits his 700th career homerun in the fourth inning on Friday.

Albert Pujols hits his 700th career homerun in the fourth inning on Friday.

(Ashley Landis/Associated Press)

Pujols hit .315 with a 1,052 OPS, 12 home runs and 29 RBIs in 38 from August 10 through Thursday. He had an OPS of 1,224 in August, the best in baseball among players with 65 at bats or more. He hit five home runs in a five game period from August 14-20.

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

“But to say you thought this would happen? I mean, I’d be lying to you if I said I thought it would happen.”

Schumaker, 42, is the same age as Pujols, a former utility man who played with Pujols in St. Louis from 2005-2011 and retired in 2015. Seven years later, Pujols is still crushing home runs, and Schumaker is five years into his coaching career.

“It’s great,” says Schumaker. “There aren’t many 40-year-olds playing the game, and I think you could talk to 35-year-olds in the league who feel terrible. [physically], Turn right? But I don’t think this is more surprising.”

Schumaker recalled a recent conversation he had with Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, 35, an NL MVP candidate who went into the weekend series against the Dodgers averaging .321, 1.003 OPS, 35 home runs and 112 RBI’s.

Goldy said he hit his 300th home run [this season]and he’s still 400 home runs away [from Pujols]Schumaker said. “And he’s a pretty good player, right? That puts Albert in perspective. He’s just on a different level.”

Few talent judges thought that Pujol’s All-Star, let alone Hall-of-Fame, had potential. Born in the Dominican Republic who moved to Missouri as a teenager, Pujols was a 13th round pick — and 402nd overall selection — of the Cardinals from Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City, Mo. in 1999.

But Pujols crushed minor league pitching in 2000 and hit the ball with such authority in his first big league camp in 2001 that McGwire told an ESPN reporter that spring that Pujols “goes to the Hall of Fame without a doubt.”

More than two decades later, Pujols is fourth on baseball’s all-time list, despite never hitting 50 home runs in a season. He is third in RBI’s (2,010), fifth in doubles (685), 10th in hits (3,377) and 12th in runs (1,906). Heaney and Bickford became the 454th and 455th pitchers to give up homeruns to Pujols.

“The work ethic I saw the first day I looked at him [in 2001] never gave up,” McGwire said. “And think of the hundreds of millions of dollars he’s made, and it never affected the way he ran his business. I really hope the media, baseball fans, really understand the magnificence that we’ve had in front of us.”

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

“You don’t think of someone hitting 700 home runs as a complete player, but it was him,” McGwire said. “We are actually witnessing another Hank Aaron, a line-drive hitter with gap-to-gap power who also never hit 50 home runs in a season.

“There’s a reason Albert should be a unanimous Hall-of-Fame roster. If not, there’s something wrong with the system.”

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