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MLB.com Columnist

Lyle Spencer

Even legendary hurlers are haunted by homers

Many of Major League Baseball's top victims of gopher balls are in Hall of Fame

Even legendary hurlers are haunted by homers play video for Even legendary hurlers are haunted by homers

When pitchers give up gopher balls, the initial reaction commonly is that they'd like to dig a hole in the mound and crawl inside. Home runs are distressing, humbling, even humiliating in the worst of circumstances when you're the victim.

GIVING UP THE GOPHER
All-time leaders in home runs allowed
Rank Pitcher HRs
1. Jamie Moyer 522
2. Robin Roberts 505
3. Ferguson Jenkins 484
4. Phil Niekro 482
5. Don Sutton 472
6. Frank Tanana 448
7. Warren Spahn 434
8. Bert Blyleven 430
9. Tim Wakefield 418
10. Steve Carlton 414
11. Randy Johnson 411
12. David Wells 407
13. Gaylord Perry 399
14. Jim Kaat 395
15. Jack Morris 389
16. Charlie Hough 383
17. Tom Seaver 380
18. Mike Mussina 376
19. Catfish Hunter 374
20. Javier Vazquez 373

Jamie Moyer knows the feeling better than anyone. His 522 home runs allowed are the most in history. For decades, that distinction was held by Robin Roberts, the Hall of Famer and Phillies ace of the 1950s who retired having served 505 long balls.

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But the next time your team's hurler throws a game-turning bomb and you get down on him, consider a fascinating fact: Seven of the 10 leaders in most homers allowed, and 10 of the top 20, have Hall of Fame plaques.

Joining Roberts in the top 20 are Cooperstown immortals Ferguson Jenkins, Phil Niekro, Don Sutton, Warren Spahn, Bert Blyleven, Steve Carlton, Gaylord Perry, Tom Seaver and Catfish Hunter.

New Cooperstown inductees Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux rank 25th and 26th all-time in homers surrendered. Randy Johnson, 11th on the list, is eligible for the Hall for the first time in the next Baseball Writers' Association of America election.

Jenkins led the Majors seven times in homers yielded, Roberts five times. Denny McLain led the American League three years in a row, including 31 in 1968 -- the year he won 31 games, and the AL Cy Young Award and the AL Most Valuable Player Award.

Active leaders Mark Buehrle, Bartolo Colon and Bronson Arroyo should take heart. They're in elite company.

As Moyer was closing in on Roberts, the lefty accepted his dubious distinction in good humor.

"It's nothing I'm proud of or I'm going to gloat about," Moyer told Jayson Stark of ESPN. "I'm sure I'll be the brunt of many jokes about it. But I've been the brunt of many jokes before. So I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.

VICTIMS OF THE LONG BALL
Active leaders in home runs allowed
Rank Pitcher HRs
1. Mark Buehrle 337
2. Bartolo Colon 325
3. Bronson Arroyo 324
4. Randy Wolf 291
5. Kyle Lohse 279
6. Dan Haren 272
7. Aaron Harang 268
8. CC Sabathia 265
9. Bruce Chen 254
10. A.J. Burnett 247
11. Ervin Santana 242
12. Josh Beckett 238
13. John Lackey 235
14. Tim Hudson 232
15. Jake Peavy 228

"The good thing about a home run is it clears the bases. It can be a rally killer. When you give up a hit, a hit, a hit, a walk and then a hit, you think, 'When's it going to end?'"

Minimizing damage is a crucial element in yielding home runs. Of Moyer's 522, 306 were solo shots. Roberts (323), Jenkins (310), Niekro (300) and Sutton (285) -- the top five -- also made a majority of their homers count for only one run.

The single-season king of bombs launched is Blyleven, with 50 in 1986. The inimitable Jose Lima came close, giving up 48 in 2000. Arroyo (2011), Blyleven (1987) and Roberts (1956) each gave up 46 in a season. Moyer's high was 44 in 2004.

Moyer pitched for 25 years, winning 269 games for eight Major League teams. He was less than six months shy of his 50th birthday when he gave up his last blast to the Reds' Todd Frazier on May 27, 2012, pitching for the Rockies. He watched four leave the yard that day in Cincinnati, going out with a bang.

To be taken deep often, a pitcher needs to go to the post regularly -- meaning he's good at what he does. He's usually durable and a strike thrower, not afraid to challenge hitters. Some admirable qualities are required to get hurt in big numbers by the long ball.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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