MLB: Yankees’ Aaron Judge ties American League record with 61st home run
TORONTO— New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge smashed his 61st home run of the year on Wednesday to tie the American League single-season record set in 1961 by Roger Maris and will return to the Bronx targeting number 62.
Toronto pitchers had approached Judge with abundant caution leading up to the finale of their three-game series, issuing walks rather than giving him a free swing at tying the record.
But when the opportunity came in the top of the seventh inning Judge was ready, taking a 3-2 offering from Blue Jays reliever Tim Mayza and crushing it over the left field wall.
After Toronto had tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth Judge, who walked in his first at-bat, flied out in his second and grounded out in his third, stepped up to the plate.
Then, with the entire Yankees dugout and 37,000 spectators on their feet, he lined the history-making shot over the fence, dropped his bat and rounded the bases to appreciative applause.
Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr, watching from the front row behind the Yankees dugout, hugged and cheered as the ball sailed into the Toronto bullpen to give New York a 5-3 lead and helped power them to an 8-3 win.
61 years since 61.
Aaron Judge has written his name alongside Roger Maris in baseball's record books. pic.twitter.com/1V4Gums34C
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 29, 2022
Without a home run for seven consecutive games there seemed to be as much relief as celebration for the big outfielder as he jogged around the bases and touched home plate surrounded by his team mates.
“Definitely some relief getting to 61, you try not to think about it but it creeps into your head,” Judge told reporters.
“When I hit it, I thought I got enough but it’s been a couple of games since I did that so you never really know if it is going to get out or not.
“Once it got over the fence just some relief that now we’re leading the game and then also getting the chance to tie Roger Maris is stuff you dream about that its not even real.”
Judge had moved to within one of the AL record last Tuesday when he joined Babe Ruth (1927), Maris, Barry Bonds (2001), Mark McGwire (1998, 1999) and Sammy Sosa (1998, 1999, 2001) as the only players to hit 60 home runs in a season.
With just seven games remaining in the regular season breaking the single-season home run record of 73 that Bonds set in 2001 is almost certainly out of Judge’s powerful reach.
But he will return home to the Bronx a hero for a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles starting on Friday where he can claim sole ownership of the AL record.
To many he would also become baseball’s home run king.
No one was celebrating Judge’s accomplishment more than Major League Baseball, which saw many of its greatest hitters stained by doping accusations in the 1990s and early 2000s before mandatory testing was installed – baseball’s so-called ‘Steroid Era’.
“I can’t think of anyone better baseball can look up to as Aaron Judge,” said Roger Maris Jr. “He’s clean, he’s a Yankee and he plays the game the right way.
“He should be revered as being the actual single-season home run champ.
“That’s really who he is if he hits 62, and I think baseball needs to look at the records and I think baseball should do something.”
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