Few baseball fans would deny that there’s nothing more exciting in Major League Baseball (MLB) than when sluggers chase records. In the latest example of this phenomenon, Yankees power hitter Aaron Judge set pulses racing in 2022 as he took his game to the next level and broke the 60-home run barrier. Judge’s season brings to light the many more exciting seasons throughout the years.
So today we’ll look at the greatest home run seasons in MLB history. These athletes took baseball by storm in their pursuit of excellence. Yes, we’ve included alleged or proven steroid cheats but marked their records with an asterisk. Check out the list of the greatest home run seasons in MLB history below.
Prince Fielder – 50
Fielder was one of the top MLB sluggers of his era. In 2007, he broke the 50 home run barrier for the only time in his career in a record-breaking year. He set a new Brewers home run record and became the youngest star to hit 50 home runs in a single season. This was a remarkable achievement but Fielder had a personal motivation.
He had a terrible relationship with his father Cecil, who was also a member of the 50 home runs club. Fielder wanted to eclipse Cecil’s record of 51 but he didn’t reach his target. Nonetheless, it remains a Milwaukee record, and only Christian Yelich came close to emulating his success (via CBS Sports).
Sosa appears multiple times on this list because he was one of the top MLB sluggers of his era. However, that was also the height of the Steroid Era and the chief reason why he’ll probably never make the Hall of Fame. In 2000, Sosa hit 50 home runs for the third time in his controversial but legendary career (via NBC Sports).
This is the lowest total of his four entries but the only time he led the league in home runs. Ironically it wasn’t his best individual season that won him the Babe Ruth Home Run Award. Nonetheless, it was an excellent achievement even if there will always be an asterisk next to his name and accolades.
Vaughn is far from the most famous of the MLB sluggers on this list but he was a very good player. He won his sole Silver Slugger award in 1998 during his best season with the Reds. Vaughn also played for Milwaukee as well as Cincinnati. The Sacramento native lived in the shadow of Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire.
However, he broke out at the age of 33 in the most unlikely manner. Vaughn also played at the height of the steroid era so that’s why there is an asterisk beside his name. Strangely, he had such a great season because he was a veteran at this point. But that’s why he didn’t get a place in Cooperstown (via Bleacher Report).
We can’t call this a breakout year because Anderson never hit these lofty heights again. He regularly hit between 20 and 30 home runs per season but only achieved the half-century milestone once. This came in 1996 for the Baltimore Orioles when he briefly reached new heights (via Yardbreaker).
Anderson achieved the unique accolade of becoming the first player to hit 50 home runs and steal 50 bases. He spent the overwhelming bulk of his career in Baltimore and entered the franchise’s Hall of Fame. Anderson was a three-time All-Star but was alleged to have used steroids.
Belle hit his 50th home run of 1995 against the Kansas City Royals. It was the culmination of a career-high year for the Cleveland star. This also made him the first player to achieve 50 homers and 50 doubles in the same season. Belle also hit an incredible 13 home runs in 16 games (via BroBible)
His exclusion from the Hall of Fame may seem strange but baseball writers hated him. He was a prickly character and even threw balls at media members. Furthermore, he had legal problems and abused alcohol so his outside shot became insurmountable. It’s a shame because he had a good career and was one of the top sluggers in the 1990s.
The Korean War put Mays’ career on hold but he exploded into life when he returned. First, he hit 41 home runs in 1954 and won the NL MVP award. But he went even further the following year when he hit another 10 to take his season total to a superb 51 (via MLB.com).
There’s no denying that Mays was one of the best sluggers of his day. The then-24-year-old posted superb statistics compared to his rivals but he didn’t win a consecutive MVP award. This was controversial at the time but he was happy to help the Giants win another pennant.
The Fielders are the only father-and-son duo on this list but unfortunately don’t like each other much. Cecil holds the bragging rights over his son because he hit more home runs in a single season. 1990 was his best year as he smashed 51 homers for the Detroit Tigers. It was an extraordinary year for him after his return from Japan.
Fielder was excellent for Detroit but he was unable to change the franchise’s fortunes. He also led the American League in RBIs with 132 and maintained a slugging percentage at .592. One of the most exciting aspects of Fielder’s game was his ferocious power (via Boston.com).
2005 was a breakout year for Jones as he hit 51 home runs for the Braves. Some people think that it’s crazy that he isn’t in the Hall of Fame because of his 400 home runs and 10 Golden Gloves. However, his .254 average counts against him as do his links to potential PED use.
Jones never failed a drug test but most analysts agreed that he benefited from PEDs. Nonetheless, he brought immense joy to Atlanta in one of the best individual seasons in franchise history. Furthermore, Jones finished second in the NL MVP award race to Albert Pujols after a great year (via Sports Illustrated).
Foster had an extraordinary 1977 season with the Cincinnati Reds. He was one of their greatest-ever sluggers and proved this by hitting 52 home runs. This made him the first player in franchise history to beat the 50 homer mark. Furthermore, he won the NL MVP award for his efforts.
He had a slugging percentage of .645 and hit .317. Foster was also the first player to hit 50 home runs since Willie Mays in 1962. Many people forget about him even though he spent 18 years in the league. The Reds inducted him into their Hall of Fame but he remains outside of Cooperstown (via Baseball Egg).
McGwire appears multiple times on this list and regularly hit over 50 home runs per season. However, the first time he slugged past this landmark was his lowest total. He hit 53 homers in 1996 during a brilliant individual season with Oakland. This also meant that he led the Majors with the most home runs (via The Guardian).
The media described him as the “new look McGwire” because of his physical improvement. Everybody knows the source of his sudden evolution but they didn’t know that he was about to go on a rampage. This was the beginning of McGwire’s rise, but his career exploded when he moved to the Cardinals.
Mantle won the first of his three AL MVP awards in 1956 after a very productive season for the Yankees. He hit 52 home runs as he maintained a batting average of .353. One of the most interesting aspects of Mantle’s style was his penchant for switch-hitting (via Bleacher Report).
He had a fantastic season as he won the Triple Crown and proved that he was the best player in baseball. Mantle also won another of seven World Series rings that year. Nobody could stop the 20-time All-Star as he proved that he was one of the best sluggers in the sport.
Mays won his second NL MVP award in 1962 after a fantastic individual year. He hit 52 home runs with a .317 percentage and slugged .645. The San Francisco star was one of the best sluggers of his generation and a player that others feared (via StatMuse).
This was also the last time that a player hit over 50 home runs until George Foster in 1977. It proves how difficult it was to achieve this feat and also illustrates the craziness of the Steroid Era. There’s a reason why these players became American icons and remain crucial parts of the nation’s folklore.
Judge became the first rookie to hit over 50 home runs during his brilliant debut season with the Yankees. New York fans knew that they had a star on their hands but they didn’t realize how good he was. Pete Alonso broke his rookie record but this was still a magnificent achievement.
The former Fresno State star is also one of the sport’s most dangerous sluggers. He regularly hit balls at record speeds as he smashed homers in every direction. Meanwhile, the signs were there that he would continue to develop. Fans witnessed that in 2022 as he took the league by storm (via NBC Sports).
Many people forget about Thome’s’ excellence in 2002 because Alex Rodriguez hit 57 home runs. But Thome was also fantastic but did everything without using performance-enhancing drugs. Very few players escaped accusation during the Steroid Era but Thome was one of the few.
That’s why he’s in the Hall of Fame but most of his generation didn’t get a place. Thome didn’t even lead MLB in home runs this year but he proved that he was one of the NL’s top sluggers. He was phenomenal for the Indians in 2002 and played well for multiple other franchises (via Canton Rep).
It’s not easy being the New York Mets because they exist in the Yankees’ shadow. However, Alonso is one of the league’s best players. He announced his arrival as one of the best rookie sluggers in baseball when he smashed 53 home runs. This was also a rookie record as he wrote his name in the history books.
Furthermore, Alonso broke the Mets’ home run record in the process. The franchise’s fans loved him even more because Aaron Judge held the previous rookie record. The Mets rarely beat the Yankees in any aspect but they did here. Alonso had a sophomore slump but bounced back in style in 2022 (via North Jersey).
Only the best sluggers are capable of hitting 50 home runs or more. Many of them only achieve this feat once in their career. Davis is one of these players as he smashed 53 homers in 2013. This made him the second Orioles player in history to beat the half-century mark (via Baltimore Magazine).
He also won the Silver Slugger Award as he beat his fellow first baseman with his cool consistency. However, Davis has an asterisk beside his name because he failed a drug test in 2014. He previously had a therapeutic use exemption for Adderal but failed to renew this. Unfortunately, this puts a stain on his legacy.
Ortiz had the season of his life in 2006 as he hit a career-high total of 54 home runs. This was the only time “Big Papi” achieved 50 or more homers but he was one of the decade’s greatest homers. The three-time World Series champion remains a Red Sox favorite because of his consistency (via Boston.com).
The 10-time All-Star also won a ludicrous seven Silver Slugger awards during his brilliant career. However, there’s an asterisk next to his name because of a 2003 controversy. Allegedly, Ortiz was one of about 100 MLB players who tested positive for PEDs but the league agreed not to punish them.
Ruth set the standards for the rest of baseball by breaking past 50 home runs for the first time. He slugged 54 in 1920 as he showed the sport how to play. It was a remarkable achievement but Ruth went even further over the next few years. He didn’t stop there as his game continued to develop.
Before 1920, Ruth held the home run record with 29. But then the live ball era began and new possibilities opened up for the Yankees star. In the end, Ruth was operating in a different arena from his rivals because he went past 50 three times before anybody else achieved it (via Bleacher Report).
Few players have broken past the 50 home run mark since 2010. Baseball became a more pitcher-friendly game over the past few years. In 2010, Bautista hit 54 homers during his time with the Blue Jays. This was one of the best seasons of his career and he won a bunch of accolades.
Unsurprisingly he won the Silver Slugger award and broke multiple franchise records. Bautista showed that he was one of MLB’s best sluggers as he led the league in home runs for three consecutive seasons. Furthermore, he earned the first of his six All-Star appearances after his improvement (via Deadspin).
A-Rod won another AL MVP award in 2007 after another scorching season. This was a brilliant year for Rodriguez as he maintained a .645 slugging percentage and won the Silver Slugger Award. Strangely, it was also the only time he won the latter and an MVP award in the same season (via MLB.com).
Unfortunately, we must take all of Rodriguez’s achievements with a pinch of salt because of the Biogenesis scandal. Many of the most exciting sluggers tainted their names through drug scandals. It’s a shame that we’re including Rodriguez on this list because he was brilliant at his best.
Griffey Jr. hit 56 home runs for back-to-back seasons with the first coming in 1997. They came toward the end of his time in Seattle where he evolved into one of the league’s most effective players. He won the MVP award because he was magnificent and achieved all of the first-place votes.
One of the most noteworthy aspects of Griffey’s career was that nobody accused him of PED use. He is one of a few players from his era who achieved great things without using steroids. This is remarkable because he played during the most infamous era in the sport’s history (via The Athletic).
Griffey Jr. hit 56 homers for the second consecutive season in 1998 as he proved his status as one of MLB’s best sluggers. The Pennsylvania native trailed Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa but did it without the help of chemicals. He won another of his 10 Golden Glove awards this year (via Sports Illustrated).
Furthermore, he claimed a Silver Slugger award for his brilliance too. Sometimes it’s wild to imagine what a clean player would achieve if they did use steroids. Griffey pushed the likes of Sosa and McGwire close but couldn’t eclipse them. At least he has the moral high ground and a place in the Hall of Fame.
Gonzalez had an excellent 2001 season but he didn’t come close to Barry Bonds who stole his thunder with 73 home runs. Meanwhile, he was one behind Ryan Howard as he had a breakout year. This put him in the NL MVP conversation and earned him another All-Star appearance.
One of the most electrifying parts of the season was when he hit nine homers in 10 games. Gonzalez was one of the top sluggers of the day but there are questions about his explosion. He received accusations of PED use but he furiously denied them during a press conference (via Bleacher Report).
This is A-Rod’s final entry on this list from the most productive year of his career. He led his fellow sluggers with a staggering 57 home runs as he showed his brilliance. Yes, he was probably on the juice but the reality is that so was nearly everybody else in the Majors.
He achieved this in 2002 during his stay with the Rangers. Rodriguez won the Golden Glove and Babe Ruth awards for his excellence. He also set multiple franchise records and became one of the most desired players in MLB. He closed in on Roger Maris’s record but didn’t quite get there (via NPR).
McGwire hit more than 50 home runs for four consecutive seasons. However, 1997 had an interesting footnote because he achieved this while playing for two different teams. First, McGwire played for the Oakland A’s and hit 34 homers. Then the Athletics traded him to the Cardinals and he wrapped up his year with another 24.
We know all about his admitted PED use but it was still a staggering achievement. Remember, all of the steroids in the world don’t change a person’s mentality. McGwire was one of the most ruthless sluggers ever and some fans think that he should be in the Hall of Fame (via Bleacher Report).
One of the best things that we can say about Howard’s career is that he had no links to steroids. But he came frighteningly close to Roger Maris’s record without chemical assistance. His sophomore year came in 2006 when he exploded into life with 58 home runs.
Howard was a homer machine as he set records everywhere he went. Nobody reached the 100 and 200 home run milestones faster than the “Big Piece.” Meanwhile, he remains one of the Phillies’ greatest-ever players and set many long-standing franchise records (via Audacy).
Ruth had a habit of hitting over 50 home runs per season. He did it in his two years with the Yankees as he showed why he’s one of baseball’s hardest-hitting sluggers. Furthermore, he broke his record as he demonstrated his skills in front of the world (via The Guardian).
It’s no surprise that the Yankees became the most dominant force in baseball because Ruth was a special talent. It’s incredible to think that he started life as a pitcher but developed into an elite hitter. They turned Yankee Stadium into a fortress as Ruth showed his talents.
Stanton put together one of the greatest seasons in living memory when he hit 59 homers in 2017. This was his final year with the Marlins but he departed from Miami with a bang. The best aspect of his achievement was that he didn’t take PEDs as far as we know (via Sportsnet).
Furthermore, Stanton was the first NL player since 2007 to hit 50 home runs. Stanton also raised his batting average by 22 points and smashed balls as if they offended him. Miami fans applauded him at the end of his final game because they knew that they witnessed brilliance.
Nobody knew that Ruth set a record that would stand for over 30 years when he hit his 60th home run in 1927. It wasn’t until 1961 that Roger Maris finally eclipsed him. Ruth came close to this tally on several occasions but finally hit it as part of the Yankees’ Murderer’s Row.
Unsurprisingly this was one of the most impressive individual seasons he posted. With a slugging percentage of .772, Ruth set the standard for the rest of the league to follow. There’s a reason why he entered American folklore and became one of the nation’s heroes of the 20th century (via History).
Judge was phenomenal in 2022 as he equalized Roger Maris’s long-standing record. This put him behind just Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Barry Bonds in the record books. But the difference between Judge and these men is that he hasn’t been involved in any drug controversy (via People).
Roger Maris Jr. even called for MLB to rewrite the record books. The baseball legend’s son thinks that baseball shouldn’t recognize the Steroid Era. There’s no doubt that Judge is one of the sport’s greatest-ever sluggers because he’s consistently brilliant. Fans witness history every time they attend Yankees Stadium and watch him play.
Maris broke Ruth’s record in 1961 when he became the first player to hit 61 homers. We should note that the American League expanded the schedule this year for the first time. This meant that he played eight more games than Ruth so he had more opportunities to break the record (via The Atlantic).
Nonetheless, he remains one of baseball’s greatest sluggers and this was a legendary season. This is still an AL record but it was controversial because he hit his last homer in the final game of the year. That’s why many diehards think that Ruth’s achievement was more impressive than Maris’.
It would be very easy for us to ignore the final six entries on this list because they all have an asterisk beside them. That’s because they all took place during the height of the Steroid Era. Most MLB fans believe that Roger Maris’s record is the only one that matters because he didn’t cheat.
Sosa hit 63 home runs in 1999 as he battled Mark McGwire. He played in every game of the season but he failed to overhaul his rival. It was a remarkable year but everybody knows what was going on. The thing is that it was very entertaining so some fans miss this period (via Baseball Almanac).
In 1999, Sosa tried to overcome Barry Bonds and break all of MLB’s records. But he fell short for the second time despite hitting a ridiculous 64 home runs. The pair were two of baseball’s top sluggers but everybody knew that they used artificial means to improve their performances.
Bonds had an unbelievable season despite Sosa’s brilliance. This era divides fans because some people think that baseball was never more entertaining. Others think that it ruined the sport because it gave casuals a false impression of how it works (via Fansided).
McGwire didn’t hit 70 home runs again in his career after an electrifying 1998 season. But he came close in 1999 as he demonstrated frightening consistency. Yes, we’ll mention again that he used PEDs but his accuracy remains impressive. This time he hit over 50 home runs for the fourth consecutive season.
The Cardinals star ensured his place in the history books by smashing 135 homers in two seasons. That’s a ludicrous achievement even if he cheated. It will be fascinating to see if a modern player can use sports science to eclipse these steroid-assisted records or if they’re insurmountable (via Defector).
Sosa hit his highest tally in 1998 as he desperately chased Mark McGwire. The pair shattered Roger Matis’s total of 61 home runs but they used PEDs to gain an edge. Nonetheless, this was one of the most exciting periods of baseball history. Some fans still look back at this era with fondness as baseball’s sluggers went head to head.
McGwire was the winner in 1998 but Sosa gave him a race to remember. Sosa’s contribution made this a thrilling competition between two men at the top of their game. Many people don’t think it matters that they took steroids because they believe many baseball players still do (via NPR).
Baseball was in a confusing spot in 1998 after the MLB strike. Perhaps that’s why so many people invested their hope in McGwire and Sosa as they chased Roger Maris’s record. Finally, McGwire eclipsed the Yankees’ legend as he became the first first-baseman to hit 70 home runs (via Forbes).
Everybody knows that “Big Mac” was using PEDs to gain an edge. But unlike some of his rivals, McGwire openly admits that he took PEDs. It’s important to remember this era because many fans grew up watching these players. However, an asterisk remains beside all of their achievements.
It says a lot that the MLB Commissioner didn’t attend the game when Bonds set a new home run record. His 2001 season remains the stuff of notoriety because of his alleged PED use. Bonds never failed a drug test but he became a central figure in the ensuing scandals.
That’s why the former Giants star will never make the Hall of Fame despite his stunning achievement. Some would say that it was impressive regardless of whether he used steroids or not. Finally, Bonds retired with a record of 762 home runs but only broke the 50-mark once (via Record Online).