St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols chases 700 home run baseball glory The 42-year-old is in his final Major League season and is hoping to join three baseball legends in reaching 700 home runs. Only Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds have done it. Pujols has 698.

St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols 'chases' baseball history: 700 home runs

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1124346020/1124370348" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Home run milestones are the talk of Major League Baseball as the regular season winds down. And the St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols is two shy of 700 career home runs. He has another crack at that tonight in San Diego, where last night, NPR's Tom Goldman joined a watch party.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Want to get on Albert Pujols' bad side? Mention to him he's chasing 700 career home runs. A reporter did that yesterday pre-game in the St. Louis Cardinals' dugout.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ALBERT PUJOLS: I'm not chasing anything, buddy. That's something that you guys are playing with. I just never chased any numbers, and I accomplished so much, so 22 years later, I definitely don't want to chase anything.

GOLDMAN: Actually, Pujols uses that odious word when it comes to chasing another World Series title. He helped St. Louis win championships in 2006 and '11, and he wants another before he retires after this season and ends a two-decade plus career that'll easily land him in the Hall of Fame. That ending always was going to be a fond but fairly sedate affair, with teams on the road honoring Pujols. The San Diego Padres did last night with a very San Diego gift for him and fellow retiree-to-be, St. Louis catcher, Yadier Molina.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The Padres are presenting these two legends with surfboards.

GOLDMAN: But Pujols has turned an easygoing retirement tour into something electric thanks to a home run barrage that ignited a somewhat sleepy final season. He's hit a dozen since last month, and it's prompted reporters to call it a power surge, which, again, he doesn't like.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PUJOLS: My power surge - OK. I guess I didn't have any power. I had to search for some, so - that it took this long, I don't know why. But for me, it was just try to really repeat the same swing that I've been doing for 21 years of my career.

GOLDMAN: Pujols does acknowledge his swing speed is better now than years past. He's also been feasting on left-handed pitchers. According to MLB.com, lefties have given up 9 of Pujols' last 12 homers.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD BOOING)

GOLDMAN: Last night, the Padres offered up only right-handed pitchers. They held Pujols to two singles and this walk that drew boos from the homer-hungry fans. Alas, there'd be no lucky ones in the bleachers catching a Pujols home run. But high above the first-base line, 36-year-old San Diegan Chris Wooldridge found himself perfectly positioned to snag the closest thing to history last night - an Albert Pujols foul ball.

CHRIS WOOLDRIDGE: I just saw it pop up, and it looked like it was coming right at me, and it was just so perfect. I didn't have to move or anything.

GOLDMAN: Wooldridge said he hadn't been to a major league game in maybe 15 years. He'll remember this one and a chance souvenir from a 42-year-old player finishing with a bang.

WOOLDRIDGE: It's impressive. You know, you're not supposed to be, you know, hitting as many home runs and playing at that caliber at that age. It's just really - it's really special.

GOLDMAN: There was a time not too long ago when a home run barrage by a 42-year-old would raise questions, not unreasonable questions to ask in San Diego, where Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr. currently is serving a lengthy suspension after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. There have been no credible allegations against Pujols, nor has he had the outlier performances. He never hit 50 home runs in a season. His major league career began in 2001, during the so-called steroid era, but he's played most of his baseball since the game's become a standard-bearer in the fight against sports doping. Travis Tygart is the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

TRAVIS TYGART: The light switch went on in baseball, and they put in a policy that protects clean athletes.

(CHEERING)

GOLDMAN: Unencumbered by suspicion, San Diego fans cheered all four of Pujols' at-bats last night. Many stood with cell phones recording hoped-for history. It didn't happen. But fans on the road, and certainly in St. Louis, will keep turning out to watch one of baseball's great late-season chases - or whatever Albert Pujols wants us to call it.

Tom Goldman, NPR News, San Diego.

Copyright © 2022 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.