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Pete Alonso joins a long list of homer-happy first halves

Pete Alonso hit his 29th homer of the

Pete Alonso hit his 29th homer of the season Friday night against the Phillies. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Pete Alonso spent a good chunk of his pregames this past week preparing for Monday’s All-Star Home Run Derby. Alonso worked with his designated pitcher — Derek Morgan, his cousin — and aimed for the fences at Citi Field.

Lost in all the understandable hoopla about Alonso’s participation in the Home Run Derby in Cleveland is that the Mets’ rookie first baseman has been playing home run derby for real all season long.

Alonso, who hit his 29th home run Friday, already had broken a number of pre-All-Star break records, including the National League mark for home runs by a rookie before the break, which had been the 25 that Cody Bellinger hit for the Dodgers in 2017.

Mark McGwire is one of 10 players to hit at least 33 home runs before the break. He did it twice. In his rookie season, McGwire hit 33 before the break but ended up with “only” 49. In 1998, McGwire hit 37 before the break en route to a then-record 70.

It’s hard to overstate today just how much the historic home run race between McGwire and Sammy Sosa captivated the sporting public’s imagination in 1998. Sosa hit 33 before the break and ended up with 66 as both players shattered Roger Maris’ previous record of 61 in 1961.

Of course, the sporting public was equally disgusted when it came out that McGwire and Sosa had both (allegedly) used performance-enhancing drugs during their homer barrage.

Speaking of which . . . the all-time record for homers before the break is the 39 hit by Barry Bonds in 2001. Bonds set the single-season home run record that year with 73. There was no shock that time, however: Bonds was suspected of tainting his chase with PEDs the whole time.

Some fans still consider Maris’ 61 in ’61 the true home run record. He hit 33 before the break.

But how many know the second-most homers before the break was the 37 hit by Chris Davis in 2013? He finished with 53. Three years later, the seemingly reliable slugger signed a seven-year, $161 million contract with the Orioles.

If not for that contract, Davis likely would no longer be in the majors, as his hitting skills have disappeared. Davis hit .168 with 16 homers last season and went into Saturday with a .182 average and seven home runs.

Reggie Jackson hit 37 in 1969 and finished with 47; Luis Gonzalez hit 35 in 2001 and finished with a career-high 57; Ken Griffey Jr. hit 35 in 1998 en route to a total of 56, and Frank Howard hit 34 in 1969 and finished with 58.

Two sluggers were done in by the players’ strike in 1994 that ended the season Aug. 12. Griffey got to the break with 33 and finished with 40. Matt Williams also hit 33 and finished with 43.

So while what Alonso is doing is historic for him, there are plenty of examples of sluggers having big first halves in terms of homers. Some went on to glory and some to eventual infamy.

Even if Alonso wins the Home Run Derby, he insists his focus is still on hitting homers — and singles, doubles and even the occasional triple. That kind of thinking is not half-bad.

“I understand that the Home Run Derby is a really special event, but I guess I’m going to go into it conscious that the important thing is performing during the season,” Alonso said. “I want to be able to do the best I can during the Derby, but also, at the same time, I’m going to be conscious of the season. Playing for my team is the utmost priority.”

AT THE BREAK

Players with the most home runs at the All-Star break:

39

Barry Bonds, 2001 Giants

37

Chris Davis, 2013 Orioles

Mark McGwire, 1998 Cardinals

Reggie Jackson, 1969 Athletics

35

Luis Gonzalez, 2001 D-backs

Ken Griffey Jr., 1998 Mariners

34

Frank Howard, 1969 Senators

33

Sammy Sosa, 1998 Cubs

Ken Griffey Jr., 1994 Mariners

Matt Williams, 1994 Giants

Mark McGwire, 1987 Athletics

Roger Maris, 1961 Yankees

32

Albert Pujols, 2009 Cardinals

Sammy Sosa, 1999 Cubs

Frank Thomas, 1994 White Sox

31

Jose Bautista, 2011 Blue Jays

David Ortiz, 2006 Red Sox

Jose Canseco, 1999 Devil Rays

Mark McGwire, 1997 Athletics

Kevin Mitchell, 1989 Giants

Mike Schmidt, 1979 Phillies

Willie Mays, 1954 Giants

30

Aaron Judge, 2017 Yankees

Miguel Cabrera, 2013 Tigers

Alex Rodriguez, 2007 Yankees

Jim Thome, 2006 White Sox

Barry Bonds, 2003 Giants

Mark McGwire, 2000 Cardinals

Greg Vaughn, 1998 Padres

Ken Griffey Jr., 1997 Mariners

Brady Anderson, 1996 Orioles

Dave Kingman, 1976 Mets

Willie Stargell, 1973 Pirates

Willie Stargell, 1971 Pirates

Willie McCovey, 1969 Giants

Harmon Killebrew, 1964 Twins

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