By Dan Schlossberg
Going once, going twice, going three times.
Hitting 40 home runs in a season is difficult. Hitting 40 home runs in the same season a teammate does it is next to impossible.
No wonder 50 years have passed since three teammates did it at the same time for the first time in baseball history.
It happened in 1973, when Hank Aaron hit 40 at age 39 as he chased Babe Ruth’s career record. Darrell Evans, at 26, hit one more, finishing at 41. And first-year Brave Davey Johnson, who later managed five major-league teams, finished at 43, one behind National League leader Willie Stargell.
Twenty-three years passed before the improbable happened again.
A trio of players who prospered in the alpine air of the Mile High City reached 40 for the Colorado Rockies. Andres Galarraga, later a 40-homer man for Atlanta, led the way with 47, followed by Vinny Castilla and Ellis Burks with exactly 40 apiece.
One year later, the Denver-based ballclub had another trio at the 40-40-40 level. Larry Walker, en route to the National League MVP award and a future berth in the Baseball Hall of Fame, led the team and the league with 49. Galarraga had 41 and Castilla 40.
There have been other terrific trios, notable Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, and Orlando Cepeda in San Francisco and Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Yogi Berra in the Bronx. But neither trio of teammates ever reached 40 in the same season, even though all but Maris eventually found their way to Cooperstown.
Speaking of Maris, he and Dale Murphy are the only men not named Barry Bonds to win consecutive MVP awards without reaching the Hall of Fame.
Maris also owns the two-man, single-season home run record of 115, reached in 1961 when he hit 61 and Mantle hit 54. That erased the mark of 107 set by Ruth (60) and Lou Gehrig (47) in 1927. The only other duo to combine for triple digits were Alex Rodriguez (57) and Rafael Palmeiro (43) of the Texas Rangers.
Rodriguez also combined with Ken Griffey, Jr. to hit 98 in 1998, when both were with the Seattle Mariners.
Throughout baseball history, there were 29 seasons in which teammates scaled the 40-homer plateau simultaneously. Aaron and Eddie Mathews, who hold the career record of 863 home runs during the time they were together with the Braves, did it several times. But Maris and Mantle, after staging a two-man chase of Ruth’s single-season record, did it only once, as Maris never hit more than 39 in any other season.
The way the ball flies today — especially on a humid summer day in Fenway Park, when the wind is blowing out at Wrigley Field, or just about any time in Denver, Cincinnati, or Philadelphia — home run records should be falling by the dozen.
But it’s just not happening.
And it won’t happen this season either.
Even when the Minnesota Twins hit a record 307 home runs in 2019 and the Yankees hit just one less, no threesome of players on either team topped 40.
For the record, there have been teams with four 30-homer men in the same season. When Dusty Baker hits his 30th homer of the season against the Astros' J.R. Richard on Oct. 2, 1977, the Los Angeles Dodgers become the first team with four 30-homer men, along with Steve Garvey (33), Reggie Smith (32), and Ron Cey (30).
Those 2019 Twins did one better, with five 30-homer hitters: Nelson Cruz, Mitch Garver, Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario, and Miguel Sano.
But three at 40? Even that juggernaut from Minnesota couldn’t do that.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is weekend editor of Here’s The Pitch, national baseball writer for forbes.com, and author of 40 baseball books (with two more in the works). E.mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.