This guy is an 'expert' ... in giving up homers to Albert Pujols

Dempster good-natured about place in Cardinals slugger's historic career

September 24th, 2022

saw it all as a pitcher over his 16 Major League seasons. He played for five teams (the Marlins, Reds, Cubs, Rangers and Red Sox) and faced some of the game’s greatest hitters.

Few, however, gave him more trouble than .

He’s not alone in that regard, of course. With Pujols reaching the 700-homer plateau on Friday -- fourth all-time -- the Cardinals slugger has been making pitchers pay throughout his 22 Major League seasons.

But Dempster does hold a unique place in Pujols’ home run history. That’s because, of the 455 pitchers that Pujols has homered off in his career, Dempster leads the way, with eight home runs allowed.

“When he hits 700, he should sit in his locker and take a deep breath and say, 'Man, I should really thank Ryan Dempster, because if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be at 700, I'd only be at 692,’” Dempster said, prior to the Cardinals slugger reaching that milestone.

Dempster is a good sport about such an achievement, even joking during an interview with that he is an “expert” on the subject of being taken yard by Pujols. And he’s OK with that.

“We might be seeing the last 700 home run hitter ever,” Dempster said. “So I think we all should just be kind of taken [aback] a little bit -- taking it all in and just being like, ‘Wow, this is pretty special what he's doing.’”

Dempster, pitching for the Marlins in 2001, was first introduced to Pujols when the 21-year-old rookie ripped a double off him that August. It was the first of 79 matchups the two would have from 2001-13.

It wasn’t until April 22, 2007, however, that Dempster first served up a home run to Pujols. It was a go-ahead three-run blast in the 10th inning of a 9-9 game. Dempster was pitching in relief for the Cubs.

“He never took at-bats off,” Dempster said. “He didn't take pitches off. Sometimes, you face guys and they would give an at-bat away. Not with him. There was always a game plan -- whether it was 10-nothing or one-nothing. Tie game in the ninth, getting blown out -- it was the same.

“You just constantly had to play a chess match against him. If you fell into patterns, he was ready for that. If you made a mistake, he was ready for that. And if you execute pitches, you get him out; and sometimes if you execute pitches, he still got hits.”

Most of the Pujols-Dempster matchups came while Pujols played for the Cardinals (2001-11) and Dempster with the Cubs (2004-12). Pujols homered once off Dempster in 2008, four times against him in 2010 and once in 2011. His final homer off the right-hander came in 2013, when Pujols was playing for the Angels and Dempster was pitching for Boston.

Pujols finished with a 1.262 OPS against Dempster, along with 21 hits, 14 walks and 17 RBIs.

“[I] only ever struck him out [twice],” Dempster said. “I tripled up on a split-finger fastball and never did that on him. I broke his bat one time. So I did have some special moments in there. You know, it wasn't all him. It’s a privilege to be able to compete against somebody for that many years.”

While also becoming the first Latino player to hit 700 home runs, Pujols joined Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) as the only players to hit at least 700 home runs in MLB history. As someone with an appreciation for baseball history, Dempster doesn’t mind his connection to that feat.

“I think it's just really, honestly, one of probably the great stories of baseball -- especially this year,” Dempster said. “To come back to St. Louis for this swan-song farewell when nobody thought, ‘Oh, he's gonna get to 700.’ It kind of seemed far-fetched. And then after the All-Star break, all of a sudden he just gets really on this tear. I think it's great.”