It's Outta Here!: The History of the Home Run from Babe Ruth to Barry Bonds

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As Barry Bonds closes in on Hank Aaron's record 755 career home runs in 2005, attention will no doubt be drawn to the long and colorful history of the "long ball" and its role in the development of major league baseball. Long thought to have "saved" baseball from mediocrity, Babe Ruth's 60-home-run year in 1927 proved that baseball had come a long way since 1876, when the highest number of home runs by a single player was four in seventy games played. Ruth's record stood for thirty-four years, when Roger Maris bested him by one and established a new season record that many thought to be beyond reach. But as year-round training became more the norm and players' careers extended well into their thirties, the home runs began to pile up, leading to a period in the late 1990s and early 2000s that saw an explosion of home run records, from Mark McGwire's astounding 70 blasts in 1998 to Bonds's current record of 73, set in 2001. In It's Outta Here! veteran sports writer Bill Gutman not only chronicles the evolution of the home run, but also describes what constitutes a "hitter's" ball park, explains how the baseball itself has evolved over the years (addressing the issue of whether or not it has been "juiced" to travel farther), and finally, takes on the controversial allegation that sluggers in recent years have been using performance-enhancing drugs to achieve their record. If Bonds does break Aaron's record, the feat will surely trigger questions as to its legitimacy; Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa has already declined one journalist's invitation to be tested for steroids. Beyond these issues, though, Gutman colorfully dramatizes record-breaking performances and provides team and individual records from baseball's rich history.