In Major League Baseball (MLB), the 500 home run club is a group of batters who have hit 500 or more regular-season home runs in their careers. On August 11, 1929, Babe Ruth became the first member of the club. Ruth ended his career with 714 home runs, a record which stood from 1935 until Hank Aaron surpassed it in 1974. Aaron’s ultimate career total, 755, remained the record until Barry Bonds set the current mark of 762 during the 2007 season. Twenty-seven players are members of the 500 home run club. Ted Williams holds the highest batting average of 500 home run hitters with a .344 while Harmon Killebrew holds the lowest at .256.
Of these 27 players, 14 were right-handed batters, 11 were left-handed, and 2 were switch hitters. The San Francisco Giants and Boston Red Sox are the only franchises to see four players reach the milestone while on their roster: Mel Ott while the team was in New York, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, and most recently Bonds, and Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, and more recently Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. Five 500 home run club members—Aaron, Mays, Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro, and Alex Rodriguez—are also members of the 3,000 hit club. Sheffield’s 500th home run was his first career home run with the New York Mets, the first time that a player’s 500th home run was also his first with his franchise. Alex Rodriguez, at 32 years and 8 days, was the youngest player to reach the milestone while Ted Williams, at 41 years and 291 days, was the oldest.
Membership in the 500 home run club is sometimes described as a guarantee of eventual entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame, although some believe the milestone has become less meaningful in recent years. Five eligible club members—Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Gary Sheffield and Sammy Sosa—have not been elected to the Hall. Bonds and Sosa made their first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2013; Bonds received only 36.2% and Sosa 12.5% of the total votes, with 75% required for induction. Eligibility requires that a player has “been retired five seasons” or be deceased for at least six months, disqualifying four living players who have been active within the past five seasons. Some believe the milestone has become less important with the large number of new members; 10 players joined the club from 1999 to 2009. Additionally, several of these recent members have had ties to performance-enhancing drugs. Some believe that by not electing McGwire to the Hall the voters were establishing a “referendum” on how they would treat players from the “Steroid Era”. On January 8, 2014, Rafael Palmeiro became the first member of the 500 Home Run Club to be removed from the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot. As the BBWAA announced the selections for the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2014, Palmeiro appeared on just 4.4% of the ballots. Players must be named on at least of 5.0% of ballots to remain on future ballots.