It happened for the first time in 1918. Babe Ruth led the major leagues with 11 home runs. He hit more home runs than the American League's Washington Nationals (4), St. Louis Browns (5), Chicago White Sox (8) and Cleveland Indians.
It was a remarkable feat, but it was merely the beginning. The following summarizes Ruth's domination of baseball:
YEAR Ruth HR
1918 11 beat 5 teams
1919 29 beat 10 teams
1920 54 beat 15 teams
1921 59 beat 8 teams
1922 35 beat 2 teams
1923 41 beat 3 teams
1924 46 beat 8 teams
1925 25 beat 0 teams
1926 47 beat 9 teams
1927 60 beat 12 teams
1928 54 beat 7 teams
1929 46 beat 4 teams
1930 49 beat 1 team
1931 46 beat 6 teams
1932 41 beat 1 team
From 1920-1932, Ruth averaged more than 46 home runs a season. In 1927, Ruth's record-setting season in which he hit 60 home runs, American League teams, excluding the New York Yankees, averaged 50 home runs.
It was not unusual for Ruth to top the league average for home runs.
When Roger Maris set a new single-season home run record in 1961 with 61, American League teams averaged 153 home runs.
When Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs in 2001, National League teams averaged 185 home runs.
The following table summarizes Ruth's, Maris' and Bonds' best home run season:
Player HR League Avg. Pct.
Ruth 60 58 1.03
Maris 61 153 0.40
Bonds 73 185 0.39
Ruth and Maris' record-setting seasons produced a higher percentage of home run than Bonds' when compared to the home runs that teams averaged.
Ruth never struck out 100 times in a season. He led the league in strikeouts five times, but he never struck out more than 93 times. During Ruth's era, to strike out was disgraceful, at least according to the "experts" of the day. Fans, who are the real experts, didn't care as long as the home runs kept on coming.
Ruth hit 714 home runs and struck out 1,330 times. He walked 2,062 times. When he hit 60 home runs, Ruth struck out 89 times, which calculates to one home run for every 1.48 strikeouts.
Roger Maris broke Ruth's single-season home run record when he hit 61 in 1961. Maris struck out 67 times, which calculates to one home run for every 1.10 strikeouts.
In 2001, Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs and struck out 93 times. He hit one home run for every 1.27 strikeouts.
The above simply confirms that which is already known: When one examines the numbers within their context, Ruth is still the greatest home run hitter of all time. That is true for a single season as well as for a career.