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).