Every Halos fan can probably remember where they were on that fateful day, December 8th, 2011. Arte Moreno and the Angels made every other front office in the league do a spit take, and Halos fans were pinching themselves to see if they were dreaming or if they were indeed awake.
We were awake, alright, but it was no ordinary December day, nope. It was The Day of the Panther.
That was when it was announced that the Angels had just acquired MLB megastar and big ticket, free agent 1B Albert Pujols (and we also learned that the Halos had signed pitcher C.J. Wilson, too). The jubilation turned to various degrees of hesitation when details of Pujols’ deal were revealed; the Angels gave the then-32 year-old slugger 10 years, at a staggering $240 mil price tag, with bonuses and perks galore (not to mention a job with the team once his playing days are done).
The one thing that was obvious from the outset of Pujols’ time with the Angels was the club betting on The Machine to break a couple of MLB’s most revered all-time batting records: Career hits and career home runs. They bought into Albert Pujols for the long haul, and they were banking on him making history in an Angels uniform, a boon for ticket sales, merch, billboards, you name it.
So with that, the quest began. We’ve seen him pass up names like Carl Yastrzemski and Manny Ramirez on the all-time RBI list. We’ve seen him climb up the all-time hits ladder, even passing up a guy named Lou Gehrig. Then, there’s the dingers; everybody loves the dingers. Albert Pujols passed up guys like Frank Robinson, Mark McGwire, Harmon Killebrew, Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle. The chase was on, and fans were enthralled.
The first HUGE milestone of Albert Pujols’ career was getting to that vaunted 600 home run mark, an accomplishment that only eight other players in MLB history have ever done. Pujols kept getting closer and closer, and the anticipation grew to a fever pitch at the Big A and around the Halosphere.
We waited and watched and counted down and waited some more, and then, finally, it happened. The Machine did it. Albert Pujols hit home run #600 of his illustrious, future-Hall of Fame career.
Albert Pujols is a wonder to behold. The man just hit the homer everybody wanted to see, and he did it on a grand slam. Wow. (Sorry, Ervin Santana)
Pujols, whenever the race for #600 was brought up by the press, would always demure, and put his focus on the team winning ballgames. But the closer he got to that magical number, the more you could tell he really, really wanted it. His teammates and Angels fans everywhere wanted to watch him do it, of course, but it’s fun to see how much Pujols himself wanted to make history, make a moment, make yet another big mark in MLB record books.
He did it, and the euphoric reaction from the Halos dugout said it all; in a season of bummers, this was one moment nobody could take away or tarnish. This was pure, baseball magic put on full display by one of the game’s greatest.
Thanks, Albert. That was one baseball moment that we’re not going to forget for the rest of our days. Once the dust settles, and the celebratory beer has gone warm and stale, Pujols will be the first one who makes it clear that work is yet to be done. This is a quest, after all, and #600 isn’t the end of that quest. Pujols isn’t done, not by a long shot.
He’s not thinking about resting on his laurels or putting out that competitive fire inside of him anytime soon. Nope, he’s got different thoughts on his mind. Eight different thoughts, to be exact:
Barry Bonds: 762
Hank Aaron: 755
Babe Ruth: 714
Alex Rodriguez: 692
Willie Mays: 660
Ken Griffey Jr: 630
Jim Thome: 612
Sammy Sosa: 609
The chase continues, on to #700. Here’s to Albert Pujols, and his quest to rewrite baseball history. Sometimes, it’s best to just put that deal, that money, those 10 years, and any accompanying gripes us Angels fans may have, in the back of our minds and just enjoy the ride, enjoy The Machine.