OT: Albert Pujols’ chase to 700 career home runs

Albert Pujols points up to the sky after powering a home run out of the stadium. Photo courtesy of Matt York/Associated Press.

TEDDY WYNARD | SPORTS REPORTER | twynard@butler.edu

Albert Pujols. “The Machine.” St. Louis Cardinals legend. Future first ballot Hall of Famer. With one month left in his career, he is six home runs away from eclipsing the 700 career mark. Will he do it? The entire baseball world hopes so.

With the retirement of Pujols imminent, reaching 700 home runs would add to his already stellar career and put him in an exclusive club that only three players have ever entered.

The three other players in history that have accomplished this feat are legends of the game. Babe Ruth was the first to do it in the ‘30s. Hank Aaron joined the club in the ‘70s and Barry Bonds is the latest to join, reaching the mark in the early 2000s.  

Andrew Mild, a fifth-year sports media major, is a Chicago Cubs fan — the Cubs are arch-rivals with the Cardinals — but still talked highly of Pujols, highlighting how the rarity of this feat makes it more impressive.

“That is really cool because it’s definitely another generational race,” Mild said. “There are 30-year gaps between every single one. So we were pretty young for Bonds, of course, but to see Albert do it, I think that’s going to be one of those things where we’re going to be telling our kids and our grandkids about.”

Pujols began his career with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2001. He played in 161 out of 162 games and with 37 home runs and 130 RBIs in just his first season, it earned him National League Rookie of The Year. He also placed second in NL MVP voting, just losing out to Bonds who was in the midst of a home run tear. Bonds would go on to set the MLB home run record a few years later.

Now, 21 years later, he has won three MVP Awards, two Gold Glove awards, six Silver Slugger awards, and two World Series titles. Prior to the start of the 2022 season, Pujols announced this season would be his last. His plan to retire after the season remains unchanged. Pujols has said: “I’m still going to retire, no matter whether I end up hitting 693, 696, 700, whatever…” 

Joey Urban, a first-year business major, is a member of the Butler baseball team. He looks up to Pujols and the great player that he is, but mainly for the man he is off the field.

“I think he is an amazing person coming out of a great family and the way he was brought up I do believe that his family brought him up the right way,” Urban said. “And through the baseball world, I think everyone respects him…and how he has treated others.”

In a sport that as of Opening Day 2022 was 28.5% Hispanic or Latino, Pujols has an important responsibility of being the ultimate role model for young Hispanic and Latino baseball players. 

Pujols grew up in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and lived there until his family moved to the United States in 1996. He would become the first non-American-born player to reach 700 home runs. Other famous Dominican players such as Vladimir Guerrero Sr. and David Ortiz did not even reach 600 home runs and are already in the Hall of Fame.

Pujols is well respected throughout the game and has given back to the community with his family foundation. Just a few games ago, he went out of his way to give a young fan a jersey. He has proven to be selfless and knows baseball is more than just a game.

Senior sports media major Drew Westland is a Boston Red Sox fan and appreciative of what Pujols has added to baseball.

“Albert Pujols has given baseball a treasure that only comes once in a generation, “ Westland said. “ He is more than deserving of all the praise and accolades he will receive. It is special that he is bucking the trends of the modern game.”

An entire generation of baseball fans have grown up watching Pujols. Now these same fans are preparing to see him finally retire. 

It’s been said that baseball has always had a way of writing magical endings. When fans say “How can you not be romantic about baseball?” they are referring to moments like this one, moments created by legends like Pujols. 

Even if Pujols does not achieve this milestone, he will retire as one of the greatest hitters to ever play baseball. He will not just be remembered as a Cardinals legend, but as a baseball legend.


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