Cal Ripken Jr. stepped to the plate in the sixth inning on Sept. 29, 1991, and stroked his second home run of the game against the Detroit Tigers. It would be his 34th and final homer of the season. Ripken, Baltimore’s career home run leader, tied Boog Powell for seventh on the O’s single-season home run list with that effort; both players now rank 17th.
Powell, who has the third-most career home runs in Orioles history, held four of the top 10 spots on the single-season list when Ripken joined it; he now holds one. Powell’s 39 home runs in 1964 are currently tied for sixth with Rafael Palmeiro.
Eddie Murray is sandwiched between Ripken and Powell on the career home run list at the No. 2 spot. Murray’s 33 home runs in 1983 fell to ninth place on the single-season list, tied with Jim Gentile (1962), after Ripken one-upped his mentor in 1991; those seasons for Murray and Gentile now rank 20th.
The Orioles’ power surge in recent seasons is changing the face of the team’s single-season home run list. Eleven of the top 20 seasons have come since Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened in 1992. Three of the top 20 have come in the past two seasons.
Here’s what the Orioles home run list looked like following Ripken’s 1991 MVP season and where each of those totals now ranks:
1. Frank Robinson, 49 (1966) - third
2. Jim Gentile, 46 (1961) - fourth
3. Boog Powell, 39 (1964) - sixth
4. Boog Powell, 37 (1969) - tied for 12th
5. Ken Singleton, 35 (1979) - 14th
6. Boog Powell, 35 (1970) - 15th
7. Cal Ripken Jr., 34 (1991) - 17th
8. Boog Powell, 34 (1966) - 17th
9. Eddie Murray, 33 (1983) - tied for 20th
10. Jim Gentile, 33 (1962) - tied for 20th
This isn’t a lament about the benefit of batting in Camden Yards, although it is fun to wonder what guys like Gus Triandos (the first O’s player to hit 30 home runs), Robinson (the only player to hit a ball out of Memorial Stadium) and Powell (whose 469-foot home run in 1962 was the first O’s homer to clear the center field hedges at Memorial Stadium) might have done there.
(For perspective, here are the dimensions Triandos faced in 1958. His 30 home runs in 1958 fall outside the top 20 on the single-season list.)
Instead, this is a call to remember the guys who are being replaced as the Orioles single-season home run list undergoes modern renovations.
Chris Davis took us on a thrilling ride last season that ended at the top of the O’s single-season home run list. Nelson Cruz is currently ahead of Davis’ 2013 pace and, barring injury or a near-complete power outage, will end up in the top 10. It’s fun to follow these recent ascents, but let’s not to forget the guys who climbed the mountain first.
Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. Follow him on Twitter: @RoarFrom34. His ruminations about the Birds appear as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.