Three years to the day after Alex Rodriguez hit his 500th homer, he drilled No. 600.
The blast came in the first inning of a win over Toronto when Rodriguez ended a 46-at-bat homerless streak with a shot off Shaun Marcum on Aug. 4, 2010.
“It’s definitely a special number,” Rodriguez said after the game. “I’m certainly proud of it and I’ll treasure it for a long, long time. Many years from today I’ll be able to reflect a lot better. Today the focus was we needed a win and it was good to do it in a winning fashion and to get a little breathing room in the first inning.”
Rodriguez was still years away from being involved in one of the darkest episodes in MLB history, when he was suspended for his part in the Biogenesis scandal, but his reputation was already tarnished by the time he hit No. 600 after admitting steroids use.
“I said at that press conference that there are some certain things I would love to go back and change but the truth of the matter is none of us can go back and change time,” Rodriguez said at the time. “But I knew with the green I had in front of me that I would have an opportunity to rewrite some of the chapters in my life and in my career and try to do things right.”
He didn’t, and he became one of the most despised people in sports before staging a comeback that brought him back to the Yankees, MLB and beyond.
As for the milestone, Rodriguez went through a slump after getting to 599.
“I’ve got to say [the last two weeks] really haven’t been a lot of fun,” Rodriguez said after the game. “The one thing I talked about coming back from Colorado [where he had hip surgery] last year was I think for the most part I’ve found a niche in this clubhouse and a way of doing things that has worked much better for me, which is let my play do the talking and do a lot less talking to all of you guys [in the media]. The last 10 days [have] been the exact opposite. I’ve been doing a lot of talking and not much out on the field.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he knew the third baseman had a tough time during the chase.
“I know how much Al just wants to get down to baseball and winning games and not being the talk right now about, ‘When is he going to hit 600?’ [and] just to do his job,” Girardi said. “I’m very happy that we got through that and he’s been so productive for us. You think about the RBIs he had for us. There are a lot of emotions but really happiness for him.”
Rodriguez didn’t receive any financial bonus for his 600th homer, but as part of his $275 million, 10-year deal, he was due to earn $6 million checks for tying Willie Mays (660), Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755) and Bonds (762), and $6 million more for breaking Bonds’ record.
That led to a nasty fight with the Yankees when he eventually did pass Mays, as he was already disgraced. The Yankees declined to pay him the bonus, saying it was tied to marketability, which was no longer viable. The two sides eventually agreed to pay $3.5 million to charity.
Rodriguez became just the seventh player to reach the 600-homer plateau — and the youngest to do so at 35 years and eight days.
It came when Rodriguez sent a 2-0 fastball over the middle of the plate into the net over Monument Park in center field. The ball was retrieved by 23-year-old security guard Frankie Babilonia, who gave the ball to Rodriguez and received an autographed bat from the slugger.
Rodriguez extended his arms out from his sides as he rounded first base and the crowd of 47,659 at Yankee Stadium cheered.
Derek Jeter, who scored on the homer, hugged him at home plate and the rest of his teammates were waiting for him in front of the Yankees dugout. Rodriguez took a curtain call and got him another ovation when he took the field in the top of the second.
“I’m pretty sure this won’t be the last one he hits,” Jeter said after the game. “He’s got another 15 years on his deal, anyway.”
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