Today in Baseball History: Barry Bonds joins the 300-300 club

Sport

I was initially going to devote today’s baseball history post to a different exclusive club as, on this day in 1971, Hank Aaron hit his 600th career homer in a Braves loss. At the time, there were only two other players in that exclusive club and one of them — Willie Mays — was on the team that beat Aaron’s Braves that day, the San Francisco Giants. The other, of course, was Babe Ruth.

The thing is, though, the 600-home run club isn’t as exclusive as it used to be. Since Aaron joined that club, six other men have joined him, the Bambino and the Say Hey Kid: Barry Bonds (762), Alex Rodriguez (696), Albert Pujols (656 and counting), Ken Griffey Jr. (630), Jim Thome (612), and Sammy Sosa (609).

A lot of that, obviously, is because of the differences between eras and, in some cases, the help of banned substances. More homers were hit from the mid-1990s through the present day, making a hyper-exclusive club into a somewhat less-hyper-exclusive club. It happens.

There’s a different club, however, that two of those men belong to which also has a history item tied to is on April 27: the 300-300 club, for guys who have smacked 300 dingers and stole 300 bases. On this day in 1996 Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants homered twice in a 6-3 victory over the Florida Marlins to gain entry. He had stolen his 300th base in 1994. Bonds, of course, would go on to become the only member of both the 400-400 and 500-500 club. He was pretty good.

At the time Bonds entered it, the 300-300 club was one player less-exclusive than the 600 homer club was in 1971. For Bonds, though, it was a bit more of an intimate affair, as it included his father, Bobby Bonds, and his godfather, Willie Mays. The only other member of the crew at that time was Andre Dawson.

Since, then, however, the 300-300 club has proven harder to enter, as only four more men have earned admission, meaning that it currently counts one less man as a member than the 600-homer club. That makes some sense too. Homers go up in certain eras, but usually when they do, stolen bases go down, and vice-versa. The power game and the speed game often seesaw, and a good mix of both traits is thus not easily selected for.

Can you guess who else is in the 300-300 club? I bet you can get one of them. Maybe two. But I bet you can’t get the other two without taking a peek.

OK, let’s peek:

  • Barry Bonds: 762 homers, 514 stolen bases
  • Willie Mays: 660 homers, 338 stolen bases
  • Andre Dawson: 438 homers, 314 stolen bases
  • Bobby Bonds: 332 homers, 461 stolen bases
  • Reggie Sanders: 305 homers, 305 stolen bases
  • Steve Finley: 304 homers, 320 stolen bases
  • Alex Rodríguez: 647 homers, 318 stolen bases
  • Carlos Beltrán: 334 homers, 336 stolen bases

I figure most of you would’ve guessed A-Rod and, because it isn’t that long since he retired, Beltrán might’ve stuck in your head.

I’d guess that journeymen like Finley and Sanders might’ve escaped notice for most folks, though. Before I checked I had Sanders in my mind because I have always been kinda fascinated by Sanders’ weird career. I probably wouldn’t have guessed Finley if you gave me 50 tries, though once I saw his name on the list I immediately went “oh, yeah, that makes total sense.”

It makes sense because Finley was a weird player with an odd mix of power and speed. A leadoff guy who hit more than 30 homers four times. If you’re not an all-time great like Bonds, Mays, Dawson, Rodríguez and Beltrán were, you have to be kinda unique like that. Like Bobby Bonds was. And like Sanders was.

I think the most fun 300-300 fact, though, is that the guy with, in my view anyway, the greatest blend of power and speed of all time isn’t even it: Rickey Henderson stole 1,406 bases but hit “only” 297 home runs. Rickey played for 25 seasons. If only three fly balls in all that time had a couple extra feet on them, Rickey’d be in the club too.

Not that Rickey cares. Rickey is in the most exclusive club in baseball history: Club Rickey. Membership: 1. Membership applications: closed.

Also today in baseball history:

1971: Curt Flood leaves the Washington Senators after 13 games, ending his playing career and going on to write his memoirs later that year. He had joined the Senators after sitting out the 1970 season in protest of his trade to the Phillies, which formed the basis of his famous antitrust lawsuit against Major League Baseball. The suit was still pending at the time he retired.

1973: Royals rookie Steve Busby no-hits the Tigers 3-0. Busby is the first pitcher to toss a no-hitter who had to face an opposing lineup containing a designated hitter.

1983: Nolan Ryan strikes out Brad Mills to move ahead of Walter Johnson on the all-time strikeout list. Later that year Steve Carlton and Gaylord Perry would pass Johnson as well. Ryan remains the all time leader. Johnson is now ninth on the list. Carlton is fourth and Perry is eighth.