A-Rod's torrid April ranks among best months ever
Posted: Wednesday April 25, 2007 1:05PM; Updated: Wednesday April 25, 2007 6:56PM
Players, in their wildest fantasies, wouldn't dream about getting in the kind of groove that Alex Rodriguez is in right now. It's nearly unfathomable. The best players in the world would be happy with half of what A-Rod's doing this April.
Historically speaking, these are some noteworthy numbers that A-Rod is putting up. Eighty years ago, Babe Ruth cranked 17 home runs in September for the Yankees, setting a record for home runs in a month. Ten years after that, a 23-year-old converted catcher for the Tigers, Rudy York, topped that with two homers on the last day of August, giving him 18. That still stands as a record for that month.
There have been better months by hitters since Ruth and York went wild -- Barry Bonds had a couple of them in one year -- but A-Rod's dreamy April certainly jumps into the conversation. Of all the best months by a hitter in Major League history (and, yeah, I realize that a month is kind of an arbitrary measure, but it's what we have), we're looking at a Top 10 in A-Rod's April. Maybe a Top 5. Historically speaking.
Rodriguez took an 0-for-3 Tuesday against the Devil Rays, his first game this year without a hit. But it's important to note that on the following list of historically significant and all-around awesome months, A-Rod's is the only one that isn't yet finished. He still has five games to go ...
10 (tie). Ruth, New York Yankees, September 1927 and York, Detroit Tigers, August 1937
It's difficult getting box scores and breakdowns of games 70 and 80 years ago, but here's what we have, thanks to the kick-base site Retrosheet.org: The Babe set a record with 17 homers that September, during which the Yanks went 20-7. That was the year, of course, that Ruth cranked 60 home runs, a record that would stand until 1961. The Bambino hit .356 with an OPS of 1.258, an amazing number, especially considering that no one knew what the heck OPS was in '27.
York broke Ruth's record for home runs in a month a decade later when he hit 18 in August in 31 Tigers' games (they played six doubleheaders). He knocked out two on the last day of the month in a game in which he drove in seven runs. York, a seven-time All-Star who finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting twice in his career, hit .307 that year, with a career-best 35 homers and 103 RBIs.
Nothing was easy for Maris as he chased down the Babe and his more popular teammate, Mickey Mantle, in the summer of '61. But it might have looked easy in June. Starting all 32 games for the Yanks, Maris cranked 15 of his eventual record 61 homers (a mark that would last until 1998), drove in 35 runs (he'd wind up with 142) and struck out, amazingly, only nine times in 144 plate appearances.
Maris had, arguably, a better month in July, when he hit .330. But his home run outburst in June -- at one stretch, he went yard in four straight games, two in Tiger Stadium and two in Kansas City's Municipal Stadium -- launched him on his way past Ruth.
In the summer of '98, Sosa was the happy one, the chest thumping, finger kissing, camera mugging comic foil to the dour Mark McGwire. Both of them were going after Maris and a place in baseball history. This was, remember, long before the Steroid Era in baseball was officially identified.
Sosa made his move in June by smashing 20 home runs -- still the record for homers in any month -- and driving in 40 runs. Slammin' Sammy was an all-or-nothing guy that month, striking out 27 times with a relatively low .331 on-base percentage. But by the time June ended, he already had 33 homers, four behind McGwire, and a place in America's heart. Sosa ended the year with 66 home runs.
The Kid -- that's what he was known as back then -- has never been a particularly hot starter, but he set an April record for home runs that year in one of the best months and, eventually, one of the best years of his career. The hot April led to a sizzling summer that culminated in an American League MVP award.
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