Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Number 868 says Number 714 is the "True King"

Sudaharu Oh played with the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants from 1959 to 1980. He hit more home runs than any professional player who has ever stepped into a batter's box: 868. More than Babe Ruth (714), more than Hank Aaron (755), and probably more than whatever number San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds — who at 751 is closing in on Aaron's Major League Baseball record — finishes with.

In a sport obsessed with statistics, Oh's 868 does not resonate with American baseball fans, is never mentioned alongside magic numbers such as the 56 of Joe DiMaggio's consecutive game hitting streak, or Ruth's 714 that was the gold standard for home run hitters until Aaron smashed it on his way to 755.

But Oh argues that the true measure of greatness is how a player performs in his era.

"You can't compare unless you are playing in the same conditions," he says. "The best measure is how much of a gap you can create between people playing in the same period," and by that standard he calls Ruth baseball's true home run king.

"What was great about Babe Ruth is that he hit so many home runs at a time when other players hit so few," Oh says.

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