I’m sitting here in Kansas City watching Michael Schur sign lots of copies of his new book How To Be Perfect (and getting ready to sign a few more of my own). Undoubtedly, the most important book that Mike has signed so far was this one:
Will miracles never cease?
Anyway, a request just came up from someone who asked Mike to sign a book with something about Chase Utley. There’s a lot to say about Chase Utley, including the fact that he will be coming up on the Hall of Fame ballot in two years, and he will be an absolutely fascinating Hall of Fame case. But it’s probably too much to ask Mike to go through the Utley Hall of Fame resume in a book inscription, so he asked a simple question:
Doesn’t Chase Utley have the most home runs for players whose name begins with U?
You might know the answer to that question right off – but I did not.
And so, hey, we’re killing time here, how about we run down the all-time home run leaders by letter? I think we know the answer to “A.” And probably “B” too.
A: Henry Aaron, 755
OK, sure, that’s easy. But who is No. 2 on the list?
That’s actually not that hard either – it’s Dick Allen with 351. After that you have a couple more 300-homer hitters: Joe Adcock and Moises Alou.
B: Barry Bonds, 762
Again, this one’s pretty easy and the No. 2 is easy too because for years and years this trivia question answer was Ernie Banks (512). Adrian Beltré (477) did not quite get to 500.
C: Miguel Cabrera, 502
Until fairly recently, the answer here was Jose Canseco – who decided to weigh in on the Hall of Fame voting in his own inimitable and eloquent way:
I think “again MLB screws it up again” would be an outstanding title for a poem, even if MLB did not really have anything to do with anything here. But, as always goes with Canseco, there probably is some weird germ of a point somewhere in there.
D: Carlos Delgado, 473
Too often forgotten, Delgado was an absolute force. Look at these two splits:
Player A: .287 / .397 / .571, 148 OPS +
Player B: .290 / .386 / .570, 148 OPS +
Player A is Delgado over a 10-season span, 1997-2006.
Player B is David Ortiz in Boston.
Delgado was not as good for as long as Ortiz, but at their best they were essentially the same kind of hitter.
Adam Dunn, incidentally, is second on the D list with 462.
E. Edwin Encarnacion, 424
Encarnacion went into the 2020 COVID season tied with Darrell Evans for the most home runs hit by an E. He whacked 10 homers in 44 games, and now he should have the spot for a good long time; there are no promising E’s on the horizon.
F. Jimmie Foxx, 534
Ol ‘Double X has had this spot for 90-plus years, and unless we get some sort of massive name change like Albert Fujols or Aaron Fudge, it’s going to be his letter pretty much Forever.
G. Ken Griffey Jr., 630, or Josh Gibson (???)
G has actually been a pretty good power-hitting letter – not just Griffey, Gibson, Gehrig, Guerrero, Giambi, Gonzalez and Galarraga, but in total 59 different Gs have hit more than 100 big league home runs, including both Griffeys.
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H: Ryan Howard, 382; Frank Howard, 382
This is definitely my favorite letter. It thrills me that two gigantic men named Howard, playing in different times and different places, climbed and climbed and, in the end, met at the top of Mount H.
With just a few more homers, this spot could have belonged to Gil Hodges (370), Todd Helton (369) or Torii Hunter (353). But I think the baseball gods wanted two Howards.
In: Raul Ibañez, 305
Hey, hey, it’s my friend Raul! He passed Pete Incaviglia (205) back in 2009 and never looked back. Of course, we should pause here to wonder just how many home runs Monte Irvin would have hit in MLB had he been given the chance.
J: Reggie Jackson, 563
This is one of those letters that just feels right – it SHOULD be Reggie Jackson. If someone asked you, “Who do you think has the most home runs for players whose last name begins with J,” virtually everyone would guess, “Reggie Jackson.” That’s no offense to Chipper Jones or Andruw Jones, but it has to be Reggie.
K: Harmon Killebrew, 573
Poor Jeff Kent. He did hit the most home runs for any second baseman ever, which is something that his Hall of Fame advocates will talk about repeatedly. But among players whose name begins with K, he’s FIFTH, which is a bit of a letdown, no?
Harmon Killebrew, 573
Dave Kingman, 442
Paul Konerko, 439
Al Kaline, 399
Jeff Kent, 377
He’s ahead of Hall of Famers Ralph Kiner and Chuck Klein, so there’s that.
L: Carlos Lee, 358
Just ahead of Derrek Lee at 331.
Evan Longoria (317) has a good chance of overtaking the Lees in the next couple of years.
M: Willie Mays, 660
Is this the most star-studded letter? It could be: Mays, McGwire, Mantle, McCovey, Mathews, Murray, McGriff, Musial, Murphy. Not to mention Maris.
N: Graig Nettles, 390
Trivia question: How many N hitters are in the Baseball Hall of Fame?
Answer: Zero. There have been a surprisingly small number of great every-day players whose name starts with N. Nettles, I would think, is probably the closest.
There are three N Pitchers in the Hall – Hal Newhouser, Kid Nichols and Phil Niekro.
O: David Ortiz, 541
Here’s Papi, who moved past Mel Ott (511) in his final big-league season.
O seems more a letter for pure line-drive hitters than big sluggers – Tony Oliva, Al Oliver, John Olerud. etc.
P: Albert Pujols, 679
For a short while, the top player on the P list was Boog Powell with 339 home runs – less than half of where Pujols ended up. Boog is now sixth on the list behind Pujols, Palmeiro, Piazza, Perez and Parker.
Q: Carlos Quentin, 154
No other Q has hit even 100 home runs.
No. 2 on the list, believe it or not, is Mark Quinn, who is best known for going on a long, long, long no-walk streak – so long that when he finally did draw a walk, they set off some fireworks at Kauffman Stadium. No. 3 is another Royal – Jamie Quirk.
R: Babe Ruth, 714
Here’s how out of it Mike is after signing several bajillion books; I was saying to him, “You know, there’s a certain justice that not only did Alex Rodriguez fall short of the home run record that basically everyone predicted for him, but he’s not even the leading Letter R home run hitter.”
And Mike looked at me blankly and said: “Who is?”
S: Sammy Sosa, 609
Mike Schmidt is second with 548.
T: Jim Thome, 612
It’s funny, when I was thinking “Which player with T hit the most home runs?” Jim Thome was somehow the furthest name from my mind. What’s funnier is that Mickey Tettleton was the name that just kept popping in. I would tell my brain, “Stop that, it’s not Mickey Tettleton, give me another T name, any other T name.”
And my brain would go: “How about Mickey Tettleton?”
Tettleton is 12th on the list with 245 homers, in case you were wondering.
U: Justin Upton, 324
No, it’s not Chase Utley – though he is second on the list with 259, a bit ahead of Dan Uggla at 235.
F: Greg Vaughn, 355
This is the year that Joey Votto (331) takes the V title, and what a glorious day that will be. I’m going to keep an eye on it and try to go to that historic game. Maybe I’ll get Mike to come too (I would ask him now but, no kidding, he’s fading hard).
W: Ted Williams, 521
Winfields and Walkers and Wynns and numerous other Williamses such as Billy and Bernie and Matt have come along, but nobody’s taking W away from the Splendid Splinter.
There has never been an MLB players whose last name started with X. There have been a few first-name guys such as Xavier Nady and Xander Boegarts, and there have been guys called the X Factor (David Eckstein) and Double X (Jimmie Foxx ) but no true Xs in MLB.
There was a player from Cuba in the Negro Leagues, however – Leovigildo Xiqués – who played for a time with the Indianapolis Clowns. If he hit an MLB home run, however, it has not yet been uncovered.
Y: Carl Yastrzemski, 452
Another first-guess choice – think Y players and you think Yaz. He has never really been challenged – Rudy York is second on the list with 277.
Z: Ryan Zimmerman, 284
For a while, the answer to the Z trivia question was Gus Zernial. Then Todd Zeile moved by. Now it’s Zimmerman, and it’s probably his for a long time, though Mike Zunino, by hitting 33 home runs last year, announced his presence. Zunino has 141 home runs, but he’s just 31. That’s the thing about baseball, though. You just never know.