September 23, 2022: Albert Pujols hits his 700th home run

If Albert Pujols’ 700th home run couldn’t come at Busch Stadium, Dodger Stadium made for a nice consolation prize.

On September 23, 2022, Pujols hit the 699th and 700th home runs of his career in front of a crowd of 50,000 fans who cheered him as though he was still wearing Dodger blue. While Pujols hit just 12 homers with the Dodgers in 2021, he might never have returned for his 22nd big-league season and reached 700 without his tenure in L.A.

“To have my family in town and to do it here in Dodger Stadium, where my joy of this game came back last year being in the postseason and being in this clubhouse, was awesome,” Pujols said. “It was pretty special to do it with the Dodgers fans here.”[1]

Of course, the bulk of Pujols’ home runs – and accomplishments – came in St. Louis. After the Cardinals drafted him in the 13th round of the 1999 draft, Pujols made his big-league debut in 2001 and immediately established himself as one of the game’s premier players, batting .329 with 37 homers and 130 RBIs. In recognition of his debut season, Pujols played in his first all-star game, won the Silver Slugger Award, and was named the National League Rookie of the Year.

It marked just the beginning of an 11-year stretch in which Pujols made nine all-star games, won the 2003 batting title, earned six Silver Slugger awards, two Gold Glove awards, and was named the National League MVP in 2005, 2008, and 2009. Along the way, Pujols and the Cardinals won World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.

Following that 2011 championship, Pujols signed a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Angels. Though he continued to add historic milestones to his resume, including his 500th and 600th career home runs and his 3,000th hit, leg injuries and age slowed the monstrous pace he set in St. Louis.

Pujols was in the final year of his contract, batting just .198 with five homers and 12 RBIs, when the Angels cut him in May 2021. He signed with the nearby Dodgers, where he was used as a power bat off the bench. Pujols hit .254 with 12 homers and 38 RBIs in 204 plate appearances, including a .953 OPS (on-base plus slugging) against left-handed pitchers.

Pujols’ five-month tenure with the Dodgers not only showed teams like the Cardinals how he could continue to be an effective player in a more limited role, but also re-inspired Pujols’ love of the game.

“If they weren’t going to give me the opportunity, I don’t think I would be sitting here today,” Pujols said after hitting No. 700. “You guys wouldn’t see the history tonight. … It’s great when you have great people around you who believe in you.”[2]

On March 28, 2022, the Cardinals signed Pujols to a one-year deal for what he immediately announced would be his final season. Despite the initial excitement, Pujols got off to a slow start in his return to St. Louis, batting just .215 with six homers and 20 RBIs during the first half of the season. The all-star game, hosted at Dodger Stadium, proved to be both a showcase and a turning point for Pujols, who was revered by his all-star teammates and surprised audiences by reaching the semifinals of the home run derby.

When Pujols returned to St. Louis, he looked much more like the Albert of old. By September 23, his batting average had increased to .265 and he had slugged 13 homers since the all-star break. That total put him two away from 700 as the Cardinals entered their fourth contest in a seven-game road trip.

With his five children in the stands for the first time all season, Pujols wasted little time in making history. After Tommy Edman drew a one-out walk in the third inning, Pujols fouled off a 1-1 pitch, breaking his bat in the process. Dodger Stadium batboy Oswaldo Ramirez grabbed one of two Marucci model AP5 bats engraved with Pujols’ jersey number – 5 – and handed it to Pujols.[3]

Dodgers lefthander Andrew Heaney’s next pitch was a 94-mph fastball. Pujols sent it 434 feet into the left-field pavilion. The blast not only drew Pujols within one homer of 700, but also broke the scoreless tie to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.

One inning later, Pujols got his first chance at the milestone. With runners on first and second, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pulled Heaney in favor of righthanded reliever Phil Bickford, a California native who had played alongside Pujols the previous year. As Pujols stepped to the plate, Yadier Molina, who had seen so many of Pujols’ homers over the years, warned his teammates they were about to witness history.

“This is it, boys,” he said.[4]

On his third pitch of the at-bat, Bickford hung a slider. Pujols hit it 389 feet, once again clearing Dodger Stadium’s left-field wall. As Pujols circled the bases, the theme from “The Natural” played over the public-address system.[5]

With the blast, Pujols joined Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, and Barry Bonds as the only players in MLB history with 700 home runs and the only player to join the 700-home run club with a multi-homer game. He also joined Aaron as the only two players in baseball history with 700 homers, 3,000 hits, and 2,000 RBIs.

“It’s pretty special,” Pujols said. “When it’s really gonna hit me is when I’m done at the end of the season and I’m retired, and a month or two after that I can look back at the numbers. Don’t get me wrong, I know where I stand in the game, but since day one, it was never about the numbers. It was always about winning championships and getting better in this game.”[6]

Pujols’ two-homer night was reminiscent of April 22, 2014, when he hit his 499th and 500th homers on the same day.

“Every night, you want to check the box score, and when he hits a home run, everybody’s talking about it,” said Angels outfielder Mike Trout, who played alongside Pujols throughout his tenure in Anaheim. “It’s crazy. When he was here and passing all the big-name guys, you had to pinch yourself sometimes just to be able to witness it.”[7]

Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, nearing the conclusion of a National League MVP season, shared Trout’s sentiment.

“It’s like, hey, don’t forget this because we might not ever see it again,” Goldschmidt said. “I know me, as a teammate, will never see it again. It’s been a blessing. It’s been an honor to be a small part and get to see this. You can play this game for a long time and not ever see it or be a part of it. Take it in. Remember it.”[8]

Even after Pujols had driven in the Cardinals’ first five runs, they continued to pile on. In the fifth, Dylan Carlson hit an RBI double and Lars Nootbaar followed with a two-run homer that made the score 8-0.

In the seventh, rookie Juan Yepez added a solo home run and Nootbar added an RBI single to extend the lead into double digits. In the eighth, Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol gave Pujols the rest of the night off. Alec Burleson, batting in place of Pujols, hit a solo shot to right field for the first home run of this career.

“I think that’s the only way to pinch-hit for him right there – hit a homer,” Burleson said. “That’s the right way to do it. You don’t ever forget your first big-league home run. You definitely don’t forget when you hit it on a night like last night.”[9]

Burleson’s blast made the final score 11-0. Heaney took the loss for the Dodgers after allowing four earned runs in 3 2/3 innings. Bickford, the first of four relievers L.A. used in the game, allowed four runs – three earned – in 1 1/3 innings.

“At first, I was upset … and then when the crowd reacted and (seeing) all the smiles, it was a very special moment for MLB,” Bickford said. “Albert Pujols is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.”[10]

Jose Quintana, who had come to St. Louis in a trade with the Pirates in July, earned the win after throwing 6 2/3 shutout innings. Lefthander Zack Thompson pitched 1 1/3 innings before outfielder Corey Dickerson threw the final inning.

“A lot of sensations. I almost cried,” said Quintana. “That happened on my day. I’m never going to forget this night.”[11]

It was a memorable night for several Dodgers fans as well. Cesar Soriano, a 37-year-old from Los Angeles, caught 699 and handed it over in exchange for meeting Pujols.[12] Another fan wearing a Hideo Nomo shirt caught No. 700. He chose to hold onto the historic ball, and Dodger Stadium security escorted him out of the ballpark.

“Souvenirs are for fans,” Pujols said. “If they want to give it back, great, but at the end of the day, I don’t focus on material stuff. I have the bat, the uniform, things that are special. If they want to keep that baseball, I don’t have a problem with it.”[13]

After the game, Pujols’ Cardinals teammates toasted him with champagne bearing special labels with Pujols’ signature and “700” in a neon glow.[14]

“I know he said he didn’t care. But we all cared,” bench coach Skip Schumaker said. “We cared. We got the moment to be a fan.”[15]

The Cardinals weren’t the only ones to savor Pujols’ milestone.

“This is like the Mount Rushmore of sluggers, so to reach that 700-home run mark, it’s remarkable,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.[16]

Even previous generations of Cardinals sluggers were in awe.

“It’s a number that Babe and Hank set way back when, a number of longevity, of stability, of greatness,” Mark McGwire said, “but I’m not surprised at all. Listen, if he didn’t have those few years in Anaheim where he basically lost his legs, with his knee and foot injuries, we’d be talking about 800 homers, not 700. There’s no question in my mind that he would have blown by Barry’s record.”[17]

Pujols finished the season with a .270 batting average, 24 homers, and 68 RBIs. His .895 OPS was higher than any of the 10 seasons he spent in California.

At the conclusion of the season, Pujols retired, ending a 22-year major-league career with a .296 career batting average, 703 home runs, and 2,218 RBIs. He will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2028.


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[1] Mike DiGiovanna, “Cardinals’ Pujols homers twice, becoming just the fourth MLB player to reach 700,” Los Angeles Times, September 24, 2022.

[2] Derrick Goold, “Right bat, right time,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 25, 2022.

[3] Derrick Goold, “Right bat, right time,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 25, 2022.

[4] Derrick Goold, “Teammates offer perspective on Pujols’ 700th homer,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 25, 2022.

[5] Mike DiGiovanna, “Cardinals’ Pujols homers twice, becoming just the fourth MLB player to reach 700,” Los Angeles Times, September 24, 2022.

[6] Mike DiGiovanna, “Cardinals’ Pujols homers twice, becoming just the fourth MLB player to reach 700,” Los Angeles Times, September 24, 2022.

[7] Mike DiGiovanna, “Cardinals’ Pujols homers twice, becoming just the fourth MLB player to reach 700,” Los Angeles Times, September 24, 2022.

[8] Derrick Goold, “Teammates offer perspective on Pujols’ 700th homer,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 25, 2022.

[9] Derrick Goold, “Teammates offer perspective on Pujols’ 700th homer,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 25, 2022.

[10] Beth Harris (Associated Press), “Pujols’ 700-HR feat one for the ageless,” Newsday, September 25, 2022.

[11] Derrick Goold, “Right bat, right time,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 25, 2022.

[12] Beth Harris (Associated Press), “Pujols’ 700-HR feat one for the ageless,” Newsday, September 25, 2022.

[13] Mike DiGiovanna, “Cardinals’ Pujols homers twice, becoming just the fourth MLB player to reach 700,” Los Angeles Times, September 24, 2022.

[14] Derrick Goold, “Right bat, right time,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 25, 2022.

[15] Derrick Goold, “Teammates offer perspective on Pujols’ 700th homer,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 25, 2022.

[16] Beth Harris (Associated Press), “Pujols’ 700-HR feat one for the ageless,” Newsday, September 25, 2022.

[17] Mike DiGiovanna, “Cardinals’ Pujols homers twice, becoming just the fourth MLB player to reach 700,” Los Angeles Times, September 24, 2022.