JABO: Honoring the Minor League Home Run King

Usually, the retirement of a 37-year-old journeyman who spent the vast majority of his 20-year career in the minor leagues is not a cause for reflection by most fans of major league baseball. A cause of wonderment, perhaps, at the drive of a player who would, year after year, continue to play past the point at which a full-time major league dream seemed out of reach. That assumes, however, that the player wasn’t incredibly accomplished, and just this past season set the minor league record for home runs. All of it assumes the player isn’t Mike Hessman, the modern-day embodiment of Crash Davis.

Hessman’s is a true baseball life – not that of a storied major league slugger, or a fire-balling ace who won 300 games – but a player who epitomizes the never-say-die attitude at the heart of many a great sports story. That perseverance deserves recognition, and today, we’re going to highlight Hessman’s career through a few key facts and graphics to try to capture just how special and zany it was.

First, the easy one: the home runs. Hessman hit a lot of them. Out of a total of 454 professional dingers, he hit 433 in the minors, 14 in the majors, six in Japan, and one while playing in Venezuela. Take a look at his career home runs by level:


It took Hessman almost six years to make it to Triple-A after being drafted by Atlanta out of high school, but when he arrived, he stuck around. While he would compile 109 games in the major leagues with the Braves, Tigers, and Mets, his most permanent team was the Toledo Mud Hens, the Triple-A affiliate for the Detroit Tigers. He spent five years bashing a combined 140 homers for them between 2005 and 2009; in 2015, he reunited with them to add on another 16, including his record-breaking 433rd, a fitting go-ahead grand slam to left:

Read the rest on Just a Bit Outside.

Owen Watson writes for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. Follow him on Twitter @ohwatson.

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8 years ago

As one of hundreds of other baseball lifers who played in school, travel leagues, HS, Legion, College and eventually pay to play adult leagues (NABA, DC wood, blue gray etc).-Who visit this site. I’d just like to say props to JABO on this one. Also grest to hear a story about Hessman, Hayhurst, or the long time catcher who I believe Portland AA was his last stop. Baseball is a way of life, and whi doesnt love to see guys keep playing competitively, for not much, just to play. Wish Hessman would come play for us in NABA 😉