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List of Top Home Run Hitters Older Than 36

Following a successful career as a journalist, graphic designer, and marketer, Gary Kauffman is now a freelance writer.

Darrell Evans with the Giants around the time he turned 36.

Darrell Evans with the Giants around the time he turned 36.

What’s the difference between Craig Biggio and Harmon Killebrew? They’re both Hall of Fame players but you could find a number of differences between them. But likely your first thought is that Killebrew, with 573 career dingers, was a home run hitter and Biggio, with 291 for his career, was not.

Except…

After age 36, it was Biggio, not Killebrew, who was the home run hitter. Biggio managed to hit 111 round-trippers after his 36th birthday, while Killebrew managed just 48 after that age. That accounted for 38 percent of Biggio’s career total and only 8 percent of Killebrew’s.

Does Starting Early Affect Later Performance?

I bring this up because one of the game’s great players, a certain Hall of Famer, turned 36 in April 2019 and he struggled mightily. That’s Miguel Cabrera, who should be a lock for a plaque in Cooperstown. But this year he managed just 12 homers. In fact, he’s been struggling since his 34th birthday, with just 29 since then.

This sometimes happens to sluggers, especially it seems, those who started rather young like Cabrera (he was a big leaguer at age 20). Jimmie Foxx had big league at bats at age 17 and was a full-time player at age 20; he hit just 7 homers after he turned 36. Mel Ott also made it to the Majors at 17 and was a full-timer at 19; he hit only 22 after age 36. Mickey Mantle came up at age 19 and hit just 18 after he turned 36. Eddie Mathews hit 25 homers at age 20 and 47 at 21, and holds the record for most homers by the time he turned 25. He hit just 3 homers after he turned 36. Killebrew got some big league playing time by the time he was 18, although he didn’t become a full-timer until after he turned 23, and managed just 48 after 36.

Naturally, some of the players with the highest career home run totals also did well after they turned 36. It’s hard to rack up huge numbers without doing some of that. Barry Bonds leads the way with not only 762 career homers but also the most after his 36th birthday, with 285, although it’s suspected that he had some chemical help in achieving that. Hank Aaron is second in both categories, with 755 career and 201 after age 36.

Home Runs After Age 36

PlayerHR TotalAfter 36Pct.

Barry Bonds

762

285

37

Hank Aaron

755

201

27

Darrell Evans

414

173

42

Rafael Palmeiro

569

169

30

Carlton Fisk

376

167

44

David Ortiz

541

163

30

Ted Williams

521

160

31

Babe Ruth

714

149

21

Jim Thome

612

146

24

Nelson Cruz

401

140

35

Raul Ibanez

305

138

45

Carl Yastrzemski

452

137

30

Edgar Martinez

309

135

44

Andres Galarraga

399

134

34

Dave Winfield

465

133

29

Reggie Jackson

563

133

24

Gary Sheffield

509

130

26

Moises Alou

332

124

37

Stan Musial

475

123

26

Hank Sauer

288

116

40

Steve Finley

304

116

38

Craig Biggio

291

111

38

Graig Nettles

390

110

28

Brian Downing

275

109

40

Willie McCovey

521

108

21

Harold Baines

384

107

28

Willie Stargell

475

107

23

Eddie Murray

504

106

21

Gary Gaetti

360

103

29

Fred McGriff

493

103

21

Willie Mays

660

103

16

Cy Williams

251

102

41

Jeff Kent

377

102

27

Andre Dawson

438

100

23

Albert Pujols

656

96

15

Ken Griffey Jr.

630

94

15

Frank Thomas

521

93

18

Ernie Banks

512

93

18

Mike Schmidt

548

93

17

Frank Robinson

586

90

15

Alex Rodriguez

696

70

10

Mark McGwire

583

63

11

Manny Ramirez

555

56

10

Harmon Killebrew

573

48

8

Sammy Sosa

609

35

6

Mel Ott

511

22

4

Mickey Mantle

536

18

3

Jimmie Foxx

534

7

1

Eddie Mathews

512

3

0.5

34 Players Have Hit 100+ Homers After Age 36

Overall, 34 players have hit at least 100 homers after turning 36 (Albert Pujols will soon join that list) but that list includes only 12 of the 27 players who have hit more than 500 career homers. Surprisingly, the list includes 14 players who had fewer than 400 career homers and four who didn’t reach 300 career homers.

Of course, there are varied reasons why some players failed to hit many homers after age 36. Mantle, for example, took such poor care of his body that he retired after his age 36 season. Foxx was known to have alcohol problems. Ott became a player-manager and retired after dealing with the effects of a batting practice beaning. Mathews, perhaps because of starting so young, simply faded although a back injury hastened the end of his career.

Others simply seemed to be victims of slowing reflexes and bat speed that turned previous homers into long fly outs. Rather than deal with their reduced power they retired or found no one interested in them anymore.

Raul Ibanez at about age 40 with the Yankees.

Raul Ibanez at about age 40 with the Yankees.

Some Sluggers Flourish After Age 36

On the other hand, some players seemed to flourish after they turned 36. Third behind Bonds and Aaron for homers after 36 is Darrell Evans, who bashed 173 of his career 414 homers (42 percent of his total) after 36. Carlton Fisk is fifth on that list, with 167 of his 376 homers (44 percent) after blowing out the candles on his 36th birthday cake. Also in the top 11 is Raul Ibanez, swatting 45 percent of his homers (138 of 305) after he was 36. Nelson Cruz, who hit 40 roundtrippers this year at age 39, just moved into the top 10 for most homers after age 36, now 140 and counting.

Amazingly, 13 players who hit 100 or more homers after turning 36 hit at least a third of their career total after that age. Ibanez is tops with 45 percent. The only player with 500-plus homers to do so was Bonds, who hit 37 percent of his career total after that mark.

Highest Percentage of Homers After Age 36

PlayerHR TotalAfter 36Pct.

Raul Ibanez

305

138

45

Carlton Fisk

376

167

44

Edgar Martinez

309

135

44

Darrell Evans

414

173

42

Cy Williams

251

102

41

Hank Sauer

288

116

40

Brian Downing

275

109

40

Steve Finley

304

116

38

Craig Biggio

291

111

38

Barry Bonds

762

285

37

Moises Alou

332

124

37

Nelson Cruz

401

140

35

Andres Galarraga

399

134

34

Ted Williams

521

160

31

Carl Yastrzemski

452

137

30

David Ortiz

541

163

30

Rafael Palmeiro

569

169

30

Late Starters Sometimes Bust Out Later

Perusing the list of players who turned out to have big power after age 36 reveals some surprising names, such as Biggio, Steve Finley, Moises Alou, Hank Sauer and Brian Downing.

In contrast to the players who started young but didn’t hit many homers later on, some of the players with the highest totals after age 36 also got a late start. Evans wasn’t a full-time player until he turned 25. Babe Ruth, although a pitching phenom at age 20, didn’t become a full-time hitter until he was 24. Jim Thome was 23 before he was a regular and 24 before he played 100 games in a season. Ibanez was 24 before he even got a cup of coffee in the Majors and 29 before he played 100 games in a season. Edgar Martinez was 27 before he was a regular. Andres Galarraga, the Big Cat, was 25, as were Finley and Alou, before getting regular playing time. Even Biggio was 23 before being considered a starter.

So while it isn’t a guarantee, there does seem to be some correlation between how young a player is when he becomes a Major League regular and how many homers he hits after age 36.

Hank Sauer with the Cubs at age 36.

Hank Sauer with the Cubs at age 36.

Sauer Made Up for His Late Start

Sauer is the ultimate in this category. He had some terrific years for the Cubs in the early 1950s, including one year when he led the league with 37 homers and 121 RBIs. He also hit 41 homers in another season. He hit 109 homers after he turned 36 yet had only 288 lifetime in large part because he played in only 47 games while in his 20s.

Sauer got into only a few games with Cincinnati in 1941 and ’42 because he was seen as a fielding liability, but then left for the service during World War II. He returned in 1945 but an injury limited him to 31 Major League games. Then it was back to the minor leagues for two more years. Finally in 1948, at age 31, he got the chance to be a regular in the big leagues. All but seven of his homers came after he turned 31.

Ted Williams is another interesting case. He lost all or most of five seasons to World War II and the Korean War before he turned 36. He crushed 160 homers after that birthday, leaving us to only speculate how many career homers he would have added to his total of 521 if he could have played those missing years. Even a relatively conservative estimate would have put him around 700.

Two Current Players Moving Up the List

One active player is on the list of those who hit 100 or more homers after age 36 and another will join soon. Cruz, mentioned earlier, has now bashed 140 of his 401 homers (35 percent) since turning 36. Cruz, like many other post-36 power hitters, got a late start to his career. He didn’t play 100 games in a season until he turned 28.

Albert Pujols hit 23 homers this season, giving him 96 since his 36th birthday. He should hit the century mark sometime in 2020. But his homers after age 36 account for only 15 percent of his total. He has two years left on his contract and, if he performs like most others that age, we can expect another 30-40 homers out of him. He’s 44 shy of 700 total. An interesting side note is that since turning 36 Pujols is 11-for-11 in stolen bases.

How 500 Homer Club Fared After 36

PlayerHR TotalAfter 36Pct.

Barry Bonds

762

285

37

Hank Aaron

755

201

27

Babe Ruth

714

149

21

Alex Rodriguez

696

70

10

Willie Mays

660

103

16

Albert Pujols

656

96

15

Ken Griffey Jr.

630

94

15

Jim Thome

612

146

24

Sammy Sosa

609

35

6

Frank Robinson

586

90

15

Mark McGwire

583

63

11

Harmon Killebrew

573

48

8

Rafael Palmeiro

569

169

30

Reggie Jackson

563

133

24

Manny Ramirez

555

56

10

Mike Schmidt

548

93

17

David Ortiz

541

163

30

Mickey Mantle

536

18

3

Jimmie Foxx

534

7

1

Ted Williams

521

160

31

Willie McCovey

521

108

21

Frank Thomas

521

93

18

Ernie Banks

512

93

18

Eddie Mathews

512

3

0.5

Mel Ott

511

22

4

Gary Sheffield

509

130

26

Eddie Murray

504

106

21

Who's Next?

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the future. Will it be more likely that Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, who both started playing regularly in their teens, will hit 100-plus long balls after age 36, or might it be more likely to be someone like Charlie Blackmon, who didn’t become a regular until age 27, or Aaron Judge, who was 25 his rookie season? Or possibly even someone like Yuli Gurriel, who is just in his fourth season at age 35 and is just now having a breakout season? It might even be someone like Brett Gardner who hit a season high of 28 homers in 2019, 11 of those since turning 36 on Aug. 24. He was 25 before cracking the starting lineup so he certainly fits the mold.

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