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No one had hit 60 home runs in a season in 21 years until Aaron Judge did so on Tuesday night.
Judge’s blast made him the sixth person in MLB history to hit 60 in a season, and it’s just the ninth occurrence all time. He joined Roger Maris and Babe Ruth as the only Yankees to accomplish the feat.
Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire were the last three players to accomplish the feat, but all three have been linked to using performance-enhancing drugs, so many will say Judge is the first person to do it cleanly since Maris did so in 1961.
Maris hit 61 that year – Judge’s next two homers will tie and break that American League record.
But for now, he has 60, and as humble as he is, he’s taking in this moment.
“I don’t think about the numbers. When you talk about Ruth and Maris and [Mickey] Mantle and all these Yankees greats that did so many great things in this game, you never imagine as a kid getting mentioned with them,” Judge said after the game. “It’s an incredible honor and something I don’t take lightly at all.”
Judge’s home run came when the Yankees were down four runs in the bottom of the ninth. At the time, it seemed kind of meaningless. But little did everyone know it was the catalyst of the Yankees’ best comeback win of the season – they scored five runs in the bottom of the ninth and won on a walk-off grand slam by Giancarlo Stanton to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 9-8.
Judge took an awkward, reluctant curtain call upon hitting 60 (ironically, so did Maris when he broke the record), but now that it came in a win, he can celebrate a bit more.
“It’s what I wanted to do,” he said. “I haven’t really been thinking about numbers or stats and stuff like that. I’ve just been trying to go out there and help my team win. At the time, it was a solo shot in the ninth and still down by a couple runs, but this team, we’ve always had a never die attitude, fight til the end, and you got four guys right behind me with great at-bats, one after the other against a great closer, it makes it that much sweeter. That’s for sure.”
In the sixth inning, Judge struck out with the bases loaded for a chance at 60 and put the game away in the process. His initial thought when he hit 60 was that he wished it came in that at-bat instead.
“(My reaction was) kind of like ‘damn, I wish I would’ve done that with the bases loaded a little earlier in the game.’ I was little upset at myself,” he joked.
The 30-year-old not only leads baseball in homers, but he also leads the majors in RBI (128), on-base percentage (.419), slugging percentage (.703), total bases (372), and runs scored (123). His .316 batting average is also the best mark in the American League, thus giving him the Triple Crown at this moment. He also leads the AL with 93 walks.
Judge got the ball back from the fan who caught it, who was with three friends who had a meet-and-greet with Judge. The fan who caught it received a signed bat, while his friends each got a signed ball.
They might have gotten the short end of the stick though. Some auctioneers thought the ball could go for six figures, while 62 may break records.
Now, Judge will look to tie, break, and shatter Maris, while the Yankees inch closer to an AL East division title.