Through Sunday, San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds has amassed 753 home runs in his career, two round trips shy of Henry “Hank” Aaron’s record for most home runs by a Major League Baseball player (former Japanese Central League baseball player Sadaharu Oh holds the professional baseball record, having hit 868 home runs for the Yomiuri Giants). Last year, on 28 May 2006, Bonds passed former Red Sox and Yankees baseball great Babe Ruth for second-place all-time, notching home run number 715 in the sixth inning off former Red Sox pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim of Colorado in San Francisco as the Giants lost 6-3 to the Rockies.
Then again, had one of modern baseball’s rules been observed early in Ruth’s career, it might have been necessary for Bonds to hit one more home run to pass the legendary ballplayer. On 08 July 1918, with the score tied in the tenth inning at Fenway Park, Ruth ended the game for the Red Sox with a walk-off hit over the outfield fence. Unfortunately, prior to 1931, as soon as the first run necessary to win the game scored, the ball was ruled dead, and the batter was credited only with the number of bases needed to drive in the winning run. In this instance, Red Sox center field Amos Strunk had already reached first base earlier in the inning when Ruth stepped up to the plate; after his hit left the yard, the umpires awarded an RBI triple to Ruth as Strunk crossed home plate one base ahead of “The Bambino” with the deciding run. This was the only instance in The Babe’s career in which this happened, and several other players from that period also lost home runs in this fashion.
In 1931, in part due to the frequency and popularity of Ruth’s home runs, the rule was changed to allow the entire play to be completed, with the ball ruled dead and all runners given the opportunity to move freely around the bases, which in turn allowed for the batter to be credited with a home run and all runs batted in, depending on the number of players on base. To put in perspective today, if the original rule still applied today, Red Sox slugger David Ortiz would have had three game-winning home runs for Boston since 2004 and his two game-winners from the 2004 post-season also changed to triples. As an added note, baseball historians did make an attempt in the 1960s to have the records of those who played prior to 1931 updated to reflect this rule change, but Major League Baseball decided to leave them as they still stand today.