TORONTO — star of the New York Yankees Aaron Judge hit his 61st home run of the season Wednesday night against the Toronto Blue Jays, tying Roger Maris’ American League record.
It took Maris until October 1, the final game of the 1961 season, to hit his 61st, which broke Babe Ruth’s single-season mark of 60 home runs set in 1927.
Judge did it on September 28, in Game #155 for New York. A day after the Yankees clinched the American League East title, Judge, batting ahead as the designated hitter, took Toronto’s. Team Mayza deep in the seventh inning with a runner on base. Judge — who walked in his first at-bat, popped out in his second and struck out in his third — went seven games without a home run since managing a solo shot during New York’s 6-0 homestand.
He and the Yankees then went to Toronto looking to make history at Rogers Centre. He went 1-for-3 with a single in the series opener on Monday and walked four times in Tuesday’s game, before finally launching the historic shot Wednesday in the Yankees’ 8-3 victory. When he finished rounding the bases, his delighted teammates left the dugout to greet him.
“It’s an incredible honor, to get an opportunity to be associated with one of the Yankee greats, one of baseball’s greats, words can’t describe it,” Judge said. “That’s one thing that’s so special about the Yankees organization is all the guys that came before us and kind of paved the way and played the game the right way, did things the right way, did a lot of great things in this game and got a chance to be mentioned with those guys are now, I can’t even describe it, it’s an incredible honor that’s for sure.”
Home plate umpire Brian O’Nora, after the game, congratulated Judge just outside the Yankees dugout, and gave him the official lineup card of the night.
Judge said when he hit the ball, he wasn’t sure if it would be a home run or an out. But after it went over the fence, he said he felt “relieved” knowing the Yankees were in the lead as a result.
“Having a chance to tie Roger Maris,” Judge said, “you dream of that kind of thing, it’s unreal.”
The seven-game hitting streak was a rare occurrence for the select few who hit such home runs. Of the previous seven occasions in which a player hit 61 home runs, four reached that mark the next game after hitting 60 and none went more than three games to reach the milestone.
Judge finally got there in the series finale, with Roger Maris Jr. and Judge’s mother, Patty, sitting front row atop the Yankees dugout. And now, the only players in MLB history with more home runs in a season are Barry Bonds (73), Mark McGwire (70, 65) and Sammy Sosa (66, 64, 63) — all of whom accomplished theirs while on the steroid . era (1998 to 2001).
“It felt like we were the only ones there. It was just a really good moment of togetherness,” the Yankees starter said. Gerrit Cole said, describing the party. “We’re all so proud of him, and know how hard he works. He wants to keep it low-key, but boy, does he deserve it.”
Maris Jr. confirmed in a postgame press conference that he will travel back to Yankee Stadium this week while Judge swings for No. 62.
“I don’t think it will last very long,” he said. “I think he’s loose. I think the party last night, the party, loosened him up… You can tell he’s back, and he’s ready to go now.”
Judge’s 2022 tear was made with zero evidence of performance-enhancing drugs used by the Yankees slugger, which manager Aaron Boone believes puts the All-Star outfielder’s numbers beyond those recorded by others.
“I think it puts it up a notch,” Boone said last week. “I have to believe it’s right up there with some of the best very short lists of all-time seasons. I go back to the context of the season, and the more I look at it and dive into it, it’s got to be everything. – great time season.”
Maris Jr. agreed
“He’s clean. He’s a Yankee. He plays the game the right way,” Maris Jr. said. “And he’s giving people a chance to look at someone who should be respected.”
At one point, Judge’s hot home run pace matched that of the Bonds’ record-setting 2001 season, but with less than two weeks of games left, it will take a huge surge for him now to approach that mark.
Maris’ 61 is considered by many to be the “clean” home run record. Judge, a Northern California native who called Bonds “the greatest hitter of all time,” doesn’t downplay his accomplishments.
“That’s the record,” said Judge, who graduated from Linden High School in San Joaquin County, about an hour and a half east of the San Francisco Bay Area. “I watched him do it. I stayed up late watching him do it. That’s the record. Nobody can take that away from him.”
Bonds, for his part, said over the weekend that he could see Judge going on a home run streak after connecting on his 61st. “Trying to get to that 61 is the hardest,” Bonds said on the KayRod Cast on ESPN2 during Sunday Night Baseball.
“Trying to get to that one. Once he gets to it, he’ll probably hit five or six in a row after that. But trying to get there, that’s the hardest, that 61 is going to be the hardest. It’s a big moment on a 61.”
The Yankees are hoping for bigger moments next month. At times looking as if they would run away from the American League pack before stumbling through August, New York seems destined for the AL’s No. 2 postseason seed behind the Houston Astros. The division title was New York’s first since 2019, and 20th overall in franchise history.
Judge was a big reason for the crown, and it was more than just home runs. He entered Wednesday’s action leading the AL in batting average, home runs and RBIs as he looks to become the third Yankee player to win the Triple Crown (Lou Gehrig in 1934, Mickey Mantle in 1956).
“He’s as beloved as they get,” Boone said. “Everybody is so excited for him, and — because Aaron is who he is — everybody feels a part of it. And that’s who he is as a teammate.”
Judge’s home run gave the Yankees a 5-3 lead, and they took a 6-3 edge in the bottom of the inning. The ball was retrieved by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann after it bounced into the Toronto bullpen.
“This is pretty amazing, set up now for a wonderful atmosphere in the Bronx,” Boone said. “It’s been a good script so far.”