Harper joins elite company with 40-HR season at age 22

Bryce Harper (left), meet Joe DiMaggio.

Washington Nationals slugger Bryce Harper is making history nearly every time he swings the bat in the latter stages of the season.

A night after claiming the record for the most home runs by a left-handed hitter in a season in Nationals franchise history with his 38th and 39th home runs, Harper etched his name into another piece of history Wednesday, when he blasted his 40th homer of the season.

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After belting a two-run home run in the Nationals’ 12-2 rout of the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, Harper joined a select few in MLB history who have hit 40 or more home runs in a season at age 22 or younger.

The elite company Harper has now joined includes six players: Eddie Mathews (1953: 47 HR; 1954: 40 HR), Joe DiMaggio (1937: 46 HR), Johnny Bench (1970: 45 HR), Juan Gonzalez (1992: 43 HR), Alex Rodriguez (1998: 42 HR), and Mel Ott (1929: 42 HR).

Four of those players are Hall of Famers (DiMaggio, Ott, Matthews, Bench) and four went on to win MVP awards (DiMaggio, Bench, Gonzalez, Rodriguez).

Hitting .338/.467/.670 with 40 home runs and 92 RBI this season, Harper is on pace to post the highest OPS (1.137) of any player on that list.

However, Harper has his sights set on a distinction that he would have to share with another player amongst that illustrious group: Johnny Bench.

His feat?

Being the only one amongst the aforementioned players to be crowned MVP in the season in which he hit 40 or more home runs at age 22 or younger.

Bench, like Harper, was 22.