The Norman Transcript

National Sports

April 23, 2014

Albert Pujols hits 500th HR of major league career

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

Of the 26 members of the 500-homer club, 11 have reached the mark in the last 15 years, according to STATS. Gary Sheffield was the most recent player to do it, hitting No. 500 on April 17, 2009.

“It’s huge. That’s a lot of balls over the fence. That’s a lot of them. Albert’s one of the great hitters of this generation,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said before his team’s series against the Angels. “The ability to not only hit home runs, but the ability to hit .330 and drive in 100-plus every single year — that’s saying something. That’s the ultimate guy you want on your team, because he provides it all.”

The Cardinals selected Pujols in the 13th round of the 1999 draft, with the 402nd overall selection — a steal if ever there was one. Pujols stormed onto the scene as a 21-year-old rookie in 2001, hitting .329 with 37 homers and 130 RBIs.

He won a batting title in 2003, National League MVP awards in 2005, 2008 and 2009, and World Series titles with the Cardinals in 2006 and 2011. Pujols was the first player to hit 30 homers in each of his first 12 seasons and the second — after Al Simmons in 1924-34 — to reach 100 RBIs in each of his first 10.

A nine-time All-Star, Pujols hit 455 homers with the Cardinals.

So many power hitters of this era, have come under suspicion of using performance-enhancing drugs. Earlier this year, radio host and former Cardinals player Jack Clark apologized for and retracted comments he made in 2013 implying that Pujols used steroids. Pujols sued Clark for defamation in October.

After his decade-plus of excellence in St. Louis, Pujols signed a 10-year deal worth $240 million with the Angels following the 2011 season. Almost immediately, the 6-foot-3 slugger appeared to be slowing down. He hit .285 with 30 homers in 2012 — impressive numbers for most players, but career lows at that point for Pujols.

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