Saturday, August 4, 2007
By JAY COHEN
New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez hits a three-run home off Kansas City Royals pitcher Kyle Davies, bottom right, during the first inning of the Royals-Yankees game on Saturday, August 4, at Yankee Stadium in New York.
NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez became the youngest player in major league history to hit 500 home runs, sending the first pitch he saw Saturday just past the foul pole in left field.
Rodriguez stood at home plate for a second, waiting to see if his first-inning drive off Royals starter Kyle Davies would stay fair. He threw his hands in the air after the ball landed in the seats and began trotting around the bases with a wide grin on his face as the Yankee Stadium crowd cheered wildly.
When he reached the plate, he hugged Derek Jeter and Bobby Abreu, who both scored on the landmark home run. His teammates were already on the field and he embraced several of them on his way to the dugout.
The crowd buzzed and roared again when A-Rod stuck his head out of the dugout for a curtain call.
After he took his seat the bench next to Jeter, the Yankees captain reached out and playfully rubbed A-Rod's head as the two superstars laughed.
His homer came eight days after he celebrated his 32nd birthday. Rodriguez surpassed Jimmie Foxx (32 years, 338 days) as the youngest player to reach 500 homers. A-Rod is the 22nd player to reach the mark, the second this season behind Frank Thomas.
"Never, as a kid, did I ever think I'd hit even one," Rodriguez said after hitting No. 499 in a 7-1 win over Kansas City on July 25.
Rodriguez went into a tailspin after his previous homer against the Royals. He was hitless in a career-worst 22 straight at-bats before he singled in the second inning of Thursday's 13-9 loss against the Chicago White Sox.
His 500th came in his 1,855th game. Only two players took fewer games to reach 500: Mark McGwire (1,639) and Babe Ruth (1,740).
Rodriguez also became the third player to accomplish the feat as a Yankee and the second to do it in the Bronx. Babe Ruth hit his 500th at Cleveland on Aug. 11, 1929, and Mickey Mantle reached the mark at home against Baltimore on May 14, 1967.
Yankees manager Joe Torre, standing next to the dugout mister on a hot summer day, saw the drive off A-Rod's bat and pointed toward the pole as it went out.
The Seattle Mariners took him with the first overall pick in the 1993 draft. One year later, he became the third 18-year-old shortstop in the majors since 1900. At that point, he gave little indication that he would develop into a two-time AL MVP and one of the game's greatest home run hitters.
He went homerless in 17 games for Seattle in that first season, and hit five in 48 games the following year.
But in 1996, his first full season in the big leagues, he hit 36 home runs. And after hitting 23 in 1997, he hasn't fallen short of 30 since. His seven seasons of 40 or more home runs are tied for fifth in major league history, and in 2001 he became only the fourth player with 50 homers and 200 hits in a season.
New York Yankees' Derek Jeter, center, and teammate Bobby Abreu, second from left, wait for Alex Rodriguez (13) at home plate after he hit a home run during the first inning of baseball action for his 500th homer as Kansas City Royals catcher Jason LaRue, right, looks on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2007 at Yankee stadium in New York. Rodriguez became the youngest player in major league history to hit 500 home runs.
A-Rod's first home run came on June 12, 1995, against Tom Gordon and Kansas City. He hit No. 100 in August 1998, No. 200 in May 2001 with Texas and No. 300 in April 2003 with Texas. Number 400 came on June 8, 2005, against Milwaukee during his second season with the Yankees.
He hit 189 home runs with Seattle, 156 with Texas and has 155 with New York. He is one of only three players, along with Reggie Jackson and Darrell Evans, to hit 100 home runs for three different teams.
Rodriguez leads the majors with 36 this season, already surpassing the 35 he hit last year.
"Fifty home runs doesn't seem to be an issue," manager Joe Torre said recently. "Fifty home runs. That's incredible. You're talking about his age, you're talking about him hitting in the 50s -- in a couple of years he'll be going for No. 600."