Albert Pujols joined the 600-home run club on Saturday night, and he did it in a way that’s never been done before: via a spectacular, 363-foot grand slam.
The Angels’ 37-year-old slugger delivered his record-setting blast in the fourth inning of Saturday’s game against the Twins, skying a pitch from Ervin Santana into the left field bleachers. No one begrudged him the long moment he took to admire the ball as it drifted back over the wall. It was a moment he — along with an estimated 40,236 Angels fans — deserved to savor.
Pujols is the ninth major leaguer with at least 600 home runs, joining Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Alex Rodriguez (696), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey Jr. (630), Jim Thome (612) and Sammy Sosa (609). Of the nine legends, two reached the 600-homer club via solo shot, five by two-run homers, one by a three-run blast, and now, thanks to Pujols, just one by grand slam.
It’ll take Pujols another nine home runs to tie Sammy Sosa for eighth-most among major league hitters and 12 to tie Jim Thome for seventh-most. Thome was the last addition to the club before Pujols’ historic blast on Saturday, reaching No. 600 back in 2011 against the Tigers. Miguel Cabrera, meanwhile, is next in line for the elusive milestone, with just 451 career home runs to date.
Athletics president Dave Kaval is ready to take full advantage of the interleague series between the Giants and A’s this season. While the two teams customarily play a few preseason “Battle of the Bay” games each year, they’re also scheduled to meet each other six times during the regular season; once for a three-game set in San Francisco, then for a three-game set in Oakland. On Saturday, Kaval announced that any Giants fans looking to park at the Coliseum this year will be charged $50 instead of the standard, general admission $30 — an additional “rivalry fee” that can be easily waived by shouting, “Go A’s!” at the gate.
This isn’t the first time that a major-league team has tried to keep rival fans at bay, though Kaval doesn’t seem all that intent on actually driving fans away from the ballpark. Back in 2012, the Nationals staged a “Take Back the Park” campaign after people began complaining that Phillies fans were overtaking Nationals Park during rivalry games. They limited a single-series presale of Nats-Phillies tickets to buyers within Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia in hopes of filling the stands with a few more friendly faces. Washington COO Andy Feffer told the press that while he would treat all guests with “respect and courtesy,” he wanted Phillies fans to feel irked enough to pay attention to the Nationals. In the end, things went… well, a little south for all involved.
Whether the Giants are planning any retaliatory measures has yet to be seen, but it’s not as if this is going to be an enforceable rule. The real travesty here, if you’re an A’s fan or just pretending to be one, is that the parking fees have increased from $20 to $30 this season. Unless you’re a season ticket holder with a prepaid $10 parking permit, it’s far better to brave the crowds and take advantage of local public transportation. There are bound to be far fewer irate Giants fans on BART than at the gates — even if the gag only lasts a few days out of the year.