Homers and history: A look back
By Chris Shuttlesworth / MLB.com
A look at major events and what else was happening in the world of baseball and sports when each previous member of the 600-homer club reached that milestone.
Aug. 21, 1931, at St. Louis
off St. Louis Browns' George Blaeholder
Three days before Ruth smacked his 600th, teammate Lou Gehrig played in his 1,000th consecutive game, and two days after, Philadelphia's Lefty Grove saw his 16-game winning streak snapped. Ruth became the first player to ever hit 600 homers, but only four other men had even 200 homers at that time, topped by Rogers Hornsby with 293.
While Ruth led the Majors with 128 walks, he shared the home run title that season with Gehrig, as both men hit 46. Gehrig set an AL record that still stands with 184 RBIs.
But despite the Yankees' efforts, they ended up 13 1/2 games behind the AL champ Philadelphia A's, who lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, four games to three. The A's Grove and the Cardinals' Frankie Frisch were named MVPs of their respective leagues.
In football, the Packers won their third consecutive NFL championship, while the Montreal Canadiens won hockey's Stanley Cup. The Academy Award for Best Picture went to the Western "Cimarron."
President Herbert Hoover governed a country still mired in the Great Depression, but the desire for an inexpensive treat led to the invention that year of the Twinkie. New York City celebrated the opening of the spectacular Empire State Building on May 1.
For those who did have money, a car would run about $700, and a gallon of gas cost 10 cents. And the top song that year was "As Time Goes By."
Sept. 22, 1969, at San Diego
off San Diego Padres' Mike Corkins
In the year the save became an official statistic and baseball introduced divisions to each league, eight players had 500 or more career homers, topped by Ruth's 714 and Mays, who became the second man ever to hit 600 or more.
One week before Mays hit No. 600, Steve Carlton struck out 19 batters to set an NL record. Two days before Mays' blast, the Pirates' Bob Moose fired a no-hitter at New York's Shea Stadium, where Mays would eventually finish his career. In the same game as Mays' 600th, Bobby Bonds set a Major League record with his 176th strikeout.
Minnesota's Ron Perranoski, who would later become the pitching coach for the Giants, was the first official saves leader with 31. Mays' teammate, Willie McCovey, won the NL MVP Award that year by leading the league with 45 homers; AL MVP Harmon Killebrew led baseball with 49.
Another San Francisco player, Juan Marichal, led the league with a 2.10 ERA and eight shutouts, but he lost the Cy Young Award to Tom Seaver, whose Miracle Mets topped the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series, 4-1. Baltimore's Mike Cuellar and Detroit's Denny McLain shared the AL Cy Young Award.
The Boston Celtics successfully defended their NBA title in winning their 11th championship, while the Montreal Canadiens swept the St. Louis Blues for the Stanley Cup. Joe Namath's New York Jets shocked the Baltimore Colts to take Super Bowl III.
"Midnight Cowboy" was named Best Picture of 1969, and "Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In" topped the music charts in the same year as Woodstock. Favorite TV shows included "Laugh-In," "Gunsmoke" and "Bonanza."
With Richard Nixon in the White House, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon two months before Mays' milestone homer. A gallon of gas cost 35 cents.
April 27, 1971, at Atlanta
off San Francisco Giants' Gaylord Perry
Batting helmets became mandatory, and Reggie Jackson hit the light tower on the right-field roof at Tiger Stadium during the All-Star Game in the year Hank Aaron became the third man to reach 600 homers. At the time, nine men had 500 or more homers, with Ernie Banks the newest member of that club.
While Aaron joined the club that previously only had Ruth and Mays as members, Mays had the last laugh that day, hitting a 10th-inning single to give the Giants a 6-5 victory over the Braves. And in Pittsburgh, Willie Stargell hit his record-setting 11th homer in the month of April.
The Pirates eventually edged the Orioles, 4-3, in the World Series, even though neither team had an MVP or Cy Young Award winner. Joe Torre of the Cardinals (MVP) and Ferguson Jenkins (Cy Young) won the NL awards, while Oakland's Vida Blue earned both honors in the AL.
Just like the year Mays hit his 600th homer, Richard Nixon sat in the White House and the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup. In basketball, the Milwaukee Bucks downed the Baltimore Bullets, but Baltimore's NFL Colts were Super Bowl champs over the Dallas Cowboys. And Joe Frazier beat Muhammad Ali.
The Best Picture of 1971 was "The French Connection," while the top song was "Joy To The World," and "All in the Family," "The Flip Wilson Show" and "Marcus Welby M.D." were favorites on TV.
Forty-three people died during the Attica prison riot, while Lt. William Calley is found guilty of committing murder during the My Lai massacre three years earlier. Nixon ended the 21-year trade embargo against China, and the 26th Amendment to the Constitution lowered the voting age to 18.
A gallon of gas inched up to 36 cents, which you might have needed to drive to the newly opened Walt Disney World in Florida.
Chris Shuttlesworth is an editorial producer for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.