There’s no denying that in the history of baseball, the most home runs in a single season has always been one of the most coveted records. We all know there has been a little controversy over a few players who have made a run at hitting the most homers in a season.
But home runs are still a big deal, especially with Pete Alonso and Aaron Judge recently setting records for the most home runs in a season by a rookie. But rookie records aside, let’s take a closer look at the single-season home run record.
Most home runs in a season
While some fans want to put asterisks next to players who hit some of the most home runs in a season, we’re not going to do that. While we promise we can’t mention if a player had a little outside help or not, we will at least respect and acknowledge the accomplishments of every player as we count down a top-11 list of the most homers in a season.
11. Giancarlo Stanton, 59 (2017)
In what would become his final season with the Marlins, Giancarlo Stanton put together one of the great power displays in nearly 20 years, and surely one of the best power displays not aided by PEDs in decades.
Despite being just the sixth player to reach 50 home runs before the end of August, Stanton topped out at 59 homers. However, he did win MVP honors before being traded to the Yankees that offseason.
10. Babe Ruth, 59 (1921)
The 1921 season was Babe Ruth’s second with the Yankees and his second hitting over 50 home runs. He set the previous single-season record in 1920 with 54 home runs.
Ruth had little problem surpassing that mark with 59 homers in 1921. Perhaps the most impressive part is that he hit .376 in 1920 and .378 in 1921, so he was able to hit for both power and average.
9. Babe Ruth, 60 (1927)
The 1927 season was the primary year of the famous Murderers’ Row lineup the Yankees were known for during the 1920s. Obviously, Babe Ruth was a big part of that and had one of the best seasons of his career, batting .356 and hitting 60 homers, which became the new single-season record, breaking the previous record he set six years earlier.
Without question, Ruth’s home run total was aided by all of the great hitters around him. The Yankees would win 110 games that year and sweep the Pirates in the World Series. But despite his record-setting home run total, Ruth wasn’t MVP, losing out to teammate Lou Gehrig.
8. Roger Maris, 61 (1961)
For a long time, it was Roger Maris who held the record for most homers in a season, hitting 61 during the 1961 season. There is a slight asterisk to this record because 1961 was the first year the American League expanded the schedule to 162 games whereas they only played 154 games in Ruth’s era.
After 154 games, Maris stood at 59 home runs, leaving some to believe Ruth was still the rightful holder. However, with the extended schedule, Maris would get to 61 homers, passing Ruth. Over time, that little technicality was forgotten with Maris being accepted as the home run king, at least until 1998.
7. Aaron Judge, 62 (2022)
Some fans believe that with his 62nd home run late in the 2022 season, Judge earned himself the right to call himself the single-season home run king.
The only players who have hit more homers are those who are known users of steroids or other PEDs. While that’s not what the record books will state, Judge did surpass Yankee legend Roger Maris for the franchise record and the American League record, which is worth something.
It’s also worth noting that Judge was far more than a power hitter who carried the Yankees throughout much of the 2022 season. In addition to his 62 home runs, he also led the American League in RBIs (tying Pete Alonso for the MLB lead), and finished second in the American League batting title race to Luis Arraez (who hit just eight home runs). With just a few more hits during the season and Judge could have won the Triple Crown while also mashing 62 homers.
6. Sammy Sosa, 63 (1999)
Oddly enough, Sosa’s 50 home runs in 2000 were finally enough to lead the league. Nevertheless, his 63 long balls during the 1999 season marked his first appearance on the list of the most homers in a single season.
5. Sammy Sosa, 64 (2001)
As we’ll see, Sammy Sosa’s 64 home runs in 2001 were only his second-highest total. His 64 home runs that year weren’t even the most in the majors that season, as he finished behind Barry Bonds.
However, the 2001 season did make Sosa the first player to ever hit at least 60 home runs in three different seasons. He also led the majors in runs and RBIs that year while posting career-highs in most offensive categories.
4. Mark McGwire, 65 (1999)
Of course, 1998 was the year of the home run, but in 1999, Mark McGwire proved that his record-setting season the previous year wasn’t a fluke.
Needless to say, he was still getting help from PEDs in 1999 when he smashed 65 home runs. Naturally, that was enough to lead the majors in homers while also being the fourth consecutive year that McGwire hit at least 50 home runs.
3. Sammy Sosa, 66 (1998)
We know that Sammy Sosa broke Maris’ record of 61 home runs in a single season without ever actually holding the record. We also know that he was getting synthetic help to hit home runs just like McGwire during the magical summer of 1998.
But it’s impossible to think about the 1998 home run race without acknowledging Sosa’s role. Keep in mind that his 66 home runs won him MVP honors after he helped carry the Cubs to the playoffs.
In fact, he would have been a unanimous MVP if not for two St. Louis writers who voted for McGwire. In the end, McGwire is the one who won the home run race and owned the record briefly, but Sosa was an integral part of what happened that season.
2. Mark McGwire, 70 (1998)
Even if he was aided by PEDs, Mark McGwire breaking Maris’ record for most homers in a season was a great thing for baseball during the 1998 season. The game was still in a dark place following the strike a few years prior and needed something like this to win back fans. While he and Sosa went back and forth all summer, McGwire held a lead in the home run contest for most of the season.
In fact, it seemed inevitable for most of the summer that the record would be his, as McGwire hit his 62nd home run of the season on September 8, fittingly doing so against Sosa and the Cubs.
Even opposing players seemed thrilled to be there for the moment. Ultimately, McGwire would hit his 70th home run on the final day of the season, setting a new watermark for most home runs in a season, albeit one that only held for a few years.
1. Barry Bonds, 73 (2001)
By the start of the 2001 season, Barry Bonds had established himself as one of the best power hitters in baseball, hitting 49 home runs the previous year. But he exceeded that number and then some on his way to hitting the most home runs in a season.
By the time the first 50 games of the season were in the books, Bonds had already hit 28 home runs, including the 500th of his career, which came in April. At the all-star break, he had 39 home runs, and they kept coming after that despite Bonds also setting a single-season record for walks. It seemed like virtually every at-bat he took was either a walk or a home run. Eventually, Bonds tied McGwire’s record in the 159th game of the season.
One game later, he homered twice to get the record for most homers in a season, eventually adding one more before the season ended to reach 73 home runs on the season. At the time, we didn’t know that Bonds would become a key figure in MLB’s PED issues in the years to come. But even with a little synthetic help, 73 home runs is awfully impressive.