The newest addition to Angel Stadium is a dark green sign, behind the last row of the bleachers closest to center field. In white letters and numbers, the sign reads “PUJOLS 494.”
The number will change with every home run Albert Pujols hits. At Angel Stadium, the countdown to 500 home runs is on.
The celebrated club is one of the most exclusive in baseball history. Home runs represent the most glamorous statistic in the game, and Pujols would be the 26th man to join the club.
Of the first 25, all but nine are in the Hall of Fame. That nine-man group consists of players not yet eligible for election and/or players linked to the use of performance-enhancing substances.
The first four men on the list — Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays — are top candidates in any discussion of the greatest player in baseball history.
Pujols never has hit fewer than 30 home runs in a full season. If he hits 30 this season, he would pass such luminaries as Willie McCovey, Frank Thomas, Ted Williams and Ernie Banks and would end the year with 522 home runs, which would rank him 18th on the all-time list.
Although 500 home runs represents the most notable milestone Pujols could reach this season, it is not the only one. He passed 1,500 runs batted in last week and ranks 52nd, just behind Mickey Mantle. He needs 22 doubles for 550, which would rank 26th, just behind Jeff Kent and Eddie Murray.
The milestone watch is in full effect in New York, where Derek Jeter is playing the final season of his distinguished career. Jeter already is the Yankees’ career hits leader, and he passed Paul Molitor last weekend for eighth on the all-time list. His total of 3,325 ranks ninth all-time, and Jeter needs 111 hits to finish his career in sixth place, behind Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Aaron, Stan Musial and Tris Speaker.
Jeter also needs 71 runs to finish his career ranking eighth in runs scored, behind Rickey Henderson, Cobb, Bonds, Aaron, Ruth, Rose and Mays.
Chicago White Sox slugger Paul Konerko, who also is retiring after this season, needs 16 home runs to finish with 450.
Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia needs 99 strikeouts for 2,500. If he matches last season’s total of 175 strikeouts, he would finish this season tied for 27th place all-time, just behind Bob Feller.
Joe Nathan of the Detroit Tigers last weekend moved into 10th place all-time in saves with 342. If he records 26 more, he’ll finish the season in seventh place, ranking behind Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, Lee Smith, John Franco, Billy Wagner and Dennis Eckersley.