Barry Bonds may be the MLB home run king, but his crown is disputed over in Japan. On this day in 1978, legendary home run hitter Sadaharu Oh became the first player with 800 professional home runs.
Even at age 38, Sadaharu Oh was one of the most fearsome sluggers in the Japan Central League. He was in the midst of his 17th consecutive season with 30 or more home runs, a power hitter the likes of which the world had not seen before. Oh had already broken Hank Aaron‘s professional home run mark, and on this day in 1978, was sitting with 799 homers to his name.
That changes with one swing of the bat. Oh crushed his 34th home run of the season, and the 800th of his career. That ball would end its flight in the shoe of a fan, who had moved his footwear to feel more comfortable in the stands. Milestone home runs do not get more legendary than that.
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Oh would play two more seasons, hitting 30+ homers in each year. Even at the age of 40, Oh hit his 30 home runs, although his other number were at their lowest since his third year in the league, or before he revamped his swing. Overall, he finished his career with 868 homers, over 100 more than Barry Bonds ended with when his impressive career came to an end.
That power display would make Oh well known, even here in the States. Perhaps the best known Japanese superstar before the influx of talent to the MLB level, Oh’s power hitting exploits were quite well known. Of course, his Home Run Derby against Hank Aaron, which Aaron won by a single homer, certainly helped to thrust him into the spotlight.
The debate may rage as to who the greatest home run hitter was in baseball history, but Sadaharu Oh certainly has a case to the title. Of every player to play professional ball, he is the only one to enter the 800 home run club.