What a rare combination of average and power that allows a hitter to bat .350 while knocking 30+ home runs! While this feat has been accomplished 10 times since 2000, it only came once from a player not playing at Coors Field or dogged by allegations of steroid use. Stumped? It was Moises Alou back in 2000, when he barely made the club, knocking 30 home runs while batting .355.
An indication of this achievement’s rarity is illustrated by the number of times it occurred between 1962 and 1993–just once: Don Mattingly’s 1986 season where he hit .352 with 31 homers, like Alou just barely making the club.
Given the rarity of .350/30, you may be surprised to learn that it once happened five times in a single season, with four of the hitters playing in the same city. That year was 1929, and the city was Philadelphia.
The first baseman for the Philadelpha Athletics was Jimmie Foxx, nicknamed the Beast, one of the game’s all-time greatest power hitters. In just his second full season and at the age of 21, Foxx batted .354 with 33 home runs and a .463 on-base percentage. His 1929 was perhaps the least impressive of the five men.
Teaming with Foxx at Shibe Park was leftfielder Al Simmons. Bucketfoot Al, as he was known, hit .365 that year with 34 home runs and led the AL in RBIs with 157. While the AL handed out no official MVP trophy that year, Simmons was named the league’s top player by The Sporting News.
Meanwhile, across the tracks at the nearby Baker Bowl, the Phillies had a couple impressive bats in their lineup. Rightfielder Chuck Klein, in only his first full season, batted .356 with a league leading 43 roundtrippers, finishing 11th in the NL MVP voting. While it’s hard to fathom these days, Klein’s 43 home runs established a new single season record for the National League, though the record would last under a year!
And finally, the fourth Philadelphia phenom was Klein’s mate in the Phillie outfield, leftfielder Frank “Lefty” O’Doul. The runner-up in the NL MVP race, O’Doul led the lead in batting at .398, set an NL record for hits that still stands today with 254, and swatted 32 home runs. It was the first of O’Doul’s two seasons with the Phillies, who couldn’t possibly complain about his stint there. Over the two years, he batted .391, slugged .614, and had an on-base percentage of .460!
As to who the fifth member of 1929’s .350/30 club was, it was none other than Cubbies second baseman Rogers Hornsby, MVP of the National League. Besides hitting .380 with 39 home runs, the Rajah scored 156 runs, batted in 149, and slugged a league best .679.
To put these achievements in perspective, it’s worth looking at just how many times the .350/30 mark has been reached throughout the history of Major League Baseball. While that makes for a lot of data to look through, there’s no need to search before 1920 since no player–regardless of batting average–reached 30 home runs to that point. Well, it took me a few hours, but here is the comprehensive list, sorted by year: 58 instances in all. Players suspected of steroid use are indicated in red, and Coors Field hitters are shown in purple, in case the reader wishes to judge them differently from the other players on the list.
THE .350/30 CLUB – GRAPH
This graph shows a very uneven distribution of .350/30 seasons across baseball history. The only times we see three or more players in the same year are 1929-30, well known for all kinds of ridiculous batting stats, and the (take your pick) Bud Selig-ARod-PED era.
THE .350/30 CLUB – CHART
Here is some detail on who the players are. I don’t take the list too seriously after 1986, but I will leave the asterisks to the reader to decide.
Ignoring the red and purple players, there were six players who accomplished the feat three or more times, and they make up a who’s who list of some of the greatest sluggers ever to play the game:
- Babe Ruth (8)
- Lou Gehrig (5)
- Jimmie Foxx (4)
- Rogers Hornsby (3)
- Joe DiMaggio (3)
- Ted Williams (3)
And for readers who find the .350/30 club not selective enough (!), here are some related clubs with stricter admittance criteria:
THE .375/30 CLUB (with .400/30 members shown in bold)
Post-steroids era, there are very few lists one can still make involving power-hitting that don’t feel tainted. However, this last one manages to succeed. So where a number of early claims around steroid use (e.g., “steroids won’t help you hit a baseball) appear to have been debunked, perhaps one can truly say that steroids won’t help you hit .375 with 30 home runs. Only Coors Field can do that!
Meanwhile, here’s an even more exclusive club, one that really illustrates just what a special player Mickey Mantle was in his prime. It’s been more than 50 years since a player joined the .350/50 club, and it may well be another 50 years before we see another. Of course, Larry Walker (.366 BA, 49 HR, 1997) might rightly point out that had he played some of his road games at Coors like his NL opponents were able to, he darn well would have made the list!
THE .350/50 CLUB