After last nights ESPN 30 for 30 documentary featured on the chase for the single season homer record in 1998 by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, I thought it would be interesting to highlight the greatest single season homerun performance in Phillies history. Ryan Howard, coming off Rookie of the Year honors in 2005, had a monstrous 2006 season in which he earned MVP honors.
By 2006 the single season homerun record belonged, and still belongs to former Giants and Pirates outfielder Barry Bonds with 73 long balls. With Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa all having PED use next to their names, many old-timers still view Roger Maris’ 61 homerun season in 1961 to be the unofficial record.
With Howard coming just a few homeruns shy of Roger Maris’ mark, lets compare the two standout seasons.
Howard played nine more games than Maris in the month of April, most likely because the 1961 season probably started later, but Howard or Maris did not start the season on fire in the long ball category. Howard’s numbers for the month of April were impressive as it was one of the only seasons he hit for a high average.
HOWARD- 27G/102AB/13HR/35RBI/.284BA SEASON HR TOTAL:18
MARIS- 26G/90AB/11HR/26RBI.267BA SEASON HR TOTAL:12
Howard really turned on the power in the month of May basically averaging a homerun every other game. In the chase to past Maris, he took an 8 homerun advantage into the month of June. Maris bounced back in May hitting 11, and would not cool off in his chase of Babe Ruth’s 60 single season mark set in 1927.
HOWARD- 26G/100AB/9HR/21RBI/.280BA SEASON HR TOTAL:27
MARIS- 32G/123AB/15HR/35RBI/.276BA SEASON HR TOTAL:27
Maris played in 6 more games than Howard in the month of June creating a deadlock at 27 heading into July. Howard continued hitting for high power and high average as he nearly had back to back double digit homerun months while still hovering over .280 at the plate.
HOWARD- 24G/86AB/8HR/19RBI/.267BA SEASON HR TOTAL:35
MARIS- 28G/106AB/13HR/31RBI/.330BA SEASON HR TOTAL:40
July was Roger Maris’ best month of the 1961 campaign. it was the first month of the season he batted over .300 and his 3rd straight month of double digit homeruns. Howard took a step back in June as he batted under .270, but remained steady in the power department belting 9 homers. Howard was going to need a huge month of August to get back in the race……
HOWARD- 29G/112AB/14HR/41RBI/.348BA SEASON HR TOTAL:49
MARIS- 31G/115AB/11HR/24RBI/.243BA SEASON HR TOTAL:51
Howard was incredible in the month of August 2006. 14 long balls, 41 runs batted in, and a .348 batting average. He was the clear MVP favorite heading into the last month of the season and was now just 2 homeruns off Maris’ pace. Maris continued to have great power numbers but his average dipped under .250 in August after a .330 average in the month of July.
HOWARD- 29G/96AB/9HR/21RBI/.385BA SEASON HR TOTAL:58
MARIS- 29G/107AB/10HR/21RBI/.262BA SEASON HR TOTAL:61
Howard fell just 3 homeruns short of tying Roger Maris for his once single season record. Howard stayed tremendously hot after an insane month of August as he batted .385 to close out the final month of the season. Even though Howard fell short of Maris, this was easily the greatest season by a Phillies hitter ever. Maris finished the season with 5 straight months of double digit homeruns as he took down The Great Bambino in 1961.
Even though Maris out-homered Howard, it’s pretty obvious who the MVP would be if these stats lined up in the same season–it would be Howard. The Big Piece having an insanely higher batting average and on base percentage gives him the nod. 2006 goes down as Howard’s best season and the greatest in Phillies history.