Aaron endured extensive racism on his way to becoming one of baseball’s greatest players. He became of baseball’s most exclusive club when he smashed his 500th in 1968. Then, in 1974, he passed Babe Ruth to beat the all-time record. Of course, Barry Bonds eventually overtook Aaron, but that came with a giant asterisk. Aaron’s personal achievements were more impressive because there was no hint of wrongdoing.
His consistency was unbelievable because he hit at least 20 homers in 20 of his 22 seasons (via The Seattle Times). A 25-time All-Star, Aaron also won the World Series in 1957 with the Braves. As well as passing home run records, Aaron also received more mail than anybody except U.S. politicians. Fans loved and hated him in equal measure because of who he represented. However, he had the last laugh in the end.
Mays had a magnificent career in San Francisco and was a 12-time Gold Glove winner. His total of 660 home runs is a testament to his abilities. In 1965, he landed his 500th but showed no signs of slowing down. That same season he had a career-best 52 home runs. However, this was a renaissance of sorts because it came 10 years after his previous record of 51 home runs.
Meanwhile, Mays lands this high because of his cultural status as one of baseball’s greatest-ever players. The 24-time All-Star (via Desert Sun) retired with a .302 batting average. He also won a single World Series with the Giants and led the NL in stolen bases on four occasions. Also, Mays paved the way for black baseball players after reintegration. Because of this, he’s one of the most important players in the sport’s history.
It’s a toss-up between Ruth and Mays for the top spot, but we went with the former. Ruth was one of baseball’s first power hitters even though he began life as a pitcher. His 22-year career was one of the greatest ever because he set so many records. He hit a total of 714 home runs (via How They Play) before his retirement. However, this total came before re-integration so that should be taken into consideration.
Ruth split his career between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. In 1927, Ruth hit a stunning 60 home runs in his most prolific season. Furthermore, he was one of the sport’s first major superstars. He became a celebrity and a cultural icon over time. He won three World Series and led the league in home runs on 12 occasions. Ruth retains his mystique because of his consistent brilliance.