The American League has a new single-season home run king.
New York Yankees star Aaron Judge threw his 62nd homer of the season on the road against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday, breaking the AL record he shared with Roger Maris.
After laying down a Tim Mayza lead into the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen to tie Maris’ score last Wednesday, Judge went homerun-free in the Yankees’ final regular-season homestand — a three-game series against the Yankees. Baltimore Orioles. Back on the road, Judge, who had gone 2 for 9 with two singles in two games against Rangers in the opener of Tuesday’s doubleheader, took Texas pitcher Jesus Tinoco deep in the first inning of the nightcap to reach No. 62.
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“It’s a big relief. I think everyone can sit down and watch the ball game, you know? No, but it’s been a fun ride so far,” Judge said. “To have the chance to do this, with the team that we have, the guys that surround me, the constant support of my family who have been with me throughout all of this… it has been a great honor. “
The Yankees gathered to meet the judge at home plate after the home run, and he took off his helmet as he walked back to the dugout to greet the fans. When he took the field late in the inning, he again received a standing ovation.
“Pretty surreal,” Judge said of the reception he received at the plate. “Just like in Toronto, it was pretty awesome to have their support. I think in Texas they were a little more excited, they could finally breathe.
“At home in the dugout I can see inside and see all the guys sitting at the top of the steps. Here on the road they are behind me so I didn’t see the 40+ people sitting in the dugout. So I think seeing them finally run out onto the field and having a chance to hug them all, that’s what it’s all about for me.”
The ball was caught by Dallas’ Cory Youmans, who was seated in Section 31. When asked what he was going to do with the ball while being safely taken away to have the ball authenticated, Youmans replied: “Good question. I didn’t. I didn’t think of that.”
Judge was then taken out of the game and Rangers took the 3-2 victory. The Yankees won Game 1 of the doubleheader, 5-4.
“It’s hard to put into words,” Yankees starter Gerrit Cole said of his teammate’s accomplishment. “When you think of the Yankees, you often remember the legends who live in Monument Park and the accomplishments they had, the type of players they were and what they did for our organization.
“Even just to tie the record, let alone beat it, it’s kind of surreal. And obviously, on a night like tonight, it’s just like, ‘Woah.'”
The record home run came three days after the 61st anniversary of the day Maris passed legendary Babe Ruth with her 61st home run.
“Roger Maris Jr, he and his family are supporting him and are there too, thank you and congratulations to them too,” Judge said. “It’s a difficult situation, your father’s legacy and you want to maintain it. But to be lucky enough to meet this family, they are wonderful people. To be lucky enough to have my name next to someone ‘As big as Roger Maris, Babe Ruth, those guys, it’s amazing.’
Only Barry Bonds (73), Mark McGwire (70, 65) and Sammy Sosa (66, 64, 63) are ahead of Judge on the MLB home run list. But while Judge holds the AL record, Maris’ son, Roger Maris Jr., said this week that he thinks Judge should be recognized as the true “king of the home run.”
Maris’ mark was the all-time MLB record until McGwire surpassed it by hitting 70 in 1998. Bonds passed McGwire in 2001, with baseball’s official single-season record of 73 homers. But Maris Jr. diminished the accomplishments of the two sluggers, who achieved their feats during the so-called steroid era.
“He plays the game the right way,” Maris Jr. said of Judge earlier this week. “And I think it gives people a chance to watch someone who should be revered for hitting 62 home runs, and not just a guy who hit it in the American League, but for being the true home run champion in one season. That’s who he is. He’s 62, and I think that’s what needs to happen.”
Judge, who grew up about a half-hour east of San Francisco as a Giants fan, said he thought Bonds’ 73 home runs were the legitimate mark for a season.
New York manager Aaron Boone said he felt privileged to have had a front row seat in baseball history.
“The story of this game is one of its calling cards,” Boone said. “The number 61. I’ve known that number all my life. I think one thing that makes our sport a bit more special than others is the history of it all. We make history very well. And it’s been a year and a season where we’re in the middle of one of those magical historical moments, and it’s tied to a number, and that’s pretty neat.
The Yankees will enter the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the American League. They wrap up the regular season on Wednesday in Texas.
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