New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge belted his 61st home run of the season in Toronto on Wednesday night, tying the American League record set by fellow pinstripe great Roger Maris.
Judge’s latest long ball came against Blue Jays pitcher Tim Mayza in the seventh inning at Rogers Centre, breaking a 3-3 tie and leading New York to an 8-3 victory.
The A.L. MVP candidate crushed a 94 mph sinker into the Toronto bullpen, beyond the left field wall. The historic home run ball was picked up by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann, who gave it to the Yankees.
Judge had been without a homer for seven consecutive games, a non-noteworthy fact for virtually all other players but a drought by his lofty 2022 standard. The outfielder has still very been productive in his homer-less stretch, drawing 12 walks and scoring five runs as the Yankees went 6-1.
“It’s an incredible honor, that’s for sure” Judge told reporters after the game in Toronto. “Definitely some relief.”
Judge’s mother Patty and Roger Maris Jr. were seated next to each other in the front row and they hugged after the ball left the yard.
“Having my mom here, that’s important,” Judge said. “She’s been with me through it all, that’s for sure. From the Little League days, getting me ready for school, being there (for) my first professional game, being there (for) my debut and now getting a chance to be here for this, this is something special.”
Wednesday’s blast moved Judge into a tie for the seventh most homers hit in a single season.
- Barry Bonds has the record of most home runs in a season, with 73 in 2001 for the San Francisco Giants. Bonds is the lifetime home run leader, with 762.
- Mark McGwire hit 70, then a record, in 1998 for the St. Louis Cardinals.
- McGwire followed up the historic season by hitting 65 out of the park in 1999.
- Sammy Sosa chased McGwire throughout 1998 and ended up with 66 long balls for the Chicago Cubs.
- Sosa hit 64 in 2001.
- Sosa followed up his McGwire chase with another homer-filled summer in 1999, with 63.
But in the minds of many baseball fans, Maris’ mark is the untainted real record that deserves the most adulation.
The respect Maris, who hit 61 home runs in 1961, gets today stands in stark contrast to the lack of esteem he deserved in that magical season 61 summers ago.
Babe Ruth hit 60 homers in the 154-game season of 1927, and Maris’ 61 came in a 162-game campaign, prompting the Major League Baseball commissioner at the time, Ford Frick, to call for “some distinctive mark in the record books to show” the difference in games played.
While Frick never ordered any asterisk to be placed by Maris’ name, the accomplishment of 61 home runs never got the admiration then that it does in these contemporary, post-steroid years.
Now Maris’ name is linked to baseball’s well-liked 2021 home run leader, Judge, 30, a native of Linden, California.
Judge has been an elite home run hitter from his first full season in the Bronx, when he hit 52 homers in 2017.
He has saved his best season yet for this, his possible walk year, as he’s likely to test the free agent market before the 2023 season.
Before the season, Judge reportedly turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million contract offer from the Yankees, setting himself up for a deal that could go north of $300 million with the Yankees or another big-money bidder.
David K. Li is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.
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