Looking back on Albert Pujols’ crowning achievement with LA Angels
By David Rice
MLB legend and Angels’ superstar Albert Pujols achieved an important milestone on this date three years ago.
For Albert Pujols, June 3rd, 2017 was a perfect night in Anaheim for history to be made. His family was there, the weather was perfect, and the crowd was amped.
In the fourth inning of the game Albert Pujols strode to the plate against a familiar foe, former Angel teammate Ervin Santana, the bags were packed full of Angels, and the 40,236 fans were on their feet with electricity that probably could have powered the city of Anaheim.
Albert Pujols was sitting on the verge of another major baseball milestone with 599 career home runs. I was lucky enough to be there that night sitting down the third base hoping to see another baseball milestone.
Flashback: As a kid, I witnessed Rod Carew’s 3000th hit and Don Sutton’s 300th career victory, which were both very special, but this night was different than those. A player reaching the 3,000 hits or the 300 win plateau is an amazing accomplishment, one that all but guarantees enshrinement into Cooperstown (the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame).
Rod Carew was the 16th member of the 3,000 hit club which has doubled in size to 32 members now. Don Sutton was the 19th pitcher to reach 300 wins and there are now 24 pitchers in this illustrious club with all but one having received a ticket to the Hall of Fame (Roger Clemens, who has been linked to alleged steroid use).
However special these memories were they weren’t done before anything close to a sellout crowd, and while the two got standing ovations and were congratulated by their teammates and coaches it was something that many people had seen before in recent memory at the time. Six players reached the 300 win plateau between 1982 and 1986 when Sutton did it. Carew was the fourth player in a five-year period that reached 3,000 hits.
Now back to the regularly scheduled memory: Albert Pujols was trying to become only the 9th player in MLB history to reach the 600 HR plateau. Five of the then eight members of the 600 HR Club had reached the milestone in the previous 15 years, but three of those players’ legacy were tarnished by alleged steroid use (Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Alex Rodriguez). Only Jim Thome and Ken Griffey Jr. did not have their names drug through the steroids mud.
So as Albert Pujols strode to the plate flashbulbs/camera phones, were going off all around The Big “A”. Santana quickly got ahead of Pujols 1 and 2, with Albert just missing getting a hold of a 1 and 1 fastball fouling it off. Then it happened. Santana left a 1-2 breaking ball over the plate and Albert swung his mighty club and obliterated the pitch over the short wall in left field.
As Albert Pujols circled the bases the crowd noise had reached its crescendo and it seemed to lift Pujols off the ground as seemed to float around the bases until he reached home plate. When Pujols touched home he was mobbed by his teammates including an injured Mike Trout, who had torn a tendon in his thumb just a few days earlier. Trout and Pujols shared a long embrace, which was a photo opportunity for the ages as Trout is likely headed to that same 600 home run plateau in the next 10 years.
Pujols is the best hitter the game has seen in this century since he debuted in St. Louis in 2001 by winning the NL Rookie of the Year.
Despite the fact that Albert Pujols has been on the decline ever since he came to Anaheim in 2012 from the Cardinals he still has provided the Angel fans with numerous special moments. His clubhouse leadership and mentoring of Mike Trout, who is the heir to Pujols’ throne of being the best player in baseball.
June 3rd, 2017 was quite a night for Angel fans everywhere especially for those 40,263 fans including myself who were there to witness it. I’m hoping to see at least one more Albert Pujols milestone, home run #700. This would put Albert Pujols into an even more elite company than he already is in. Only three players have reached this plateau; Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth. Albert would be the fourth if he can hit 44 more homers.
This seemed it would be a likely occurrence as Pujols had two more seasons left in his 10-year contract with the Angels. However, with the pandemic wiping out at least half of the 2020 season, it is more in doubt that he will reach this milestone. Especially with the Angels unless they were to sign Pujols to a one-year extension after the 2021 season.
Whether Pujols reaches this lofty milestone or not, or whether he does it in an Angel uniform, I hope Angel fans realize they have seen a very special player in #5 Albert Pujols. Thanks for this special memory Albert, hope to see you and guys back in action soon.