For the past month all eyes in the baseball world have been fixated on one man chasing down history. On October 4th in front of a nearly sold-out crowd in Globe Life Field down in Arlington, Texas that man etched himself in the history books as the American League (AL) single-season home run champion when he hit his 62nd of the year. That man is Aaron Judge, who has been the judge, jury, and executioner for the New York Yankees this season.
With a shot to left field on the third pitch he saw, Judge broke his week-long tie with Roger Maris for the AL single-season home run record. Maris, a former Yankee, knocked 61 long balls back in 1961, beating out Yankee legend Babe Ruth’s previous AL record of 60 home runs set all the way back in 1927. As fate would have it, 61 years later, Maris’ record would fall to another Yankee.
Maris’ son, Roger Maris Jr., was in attendance when Judge hit his 61st home run and has been very vocal throughout Judge’s chase. Maris Jr. sent out a controversial tweet after Judge officially broke the record:
Maris Jr. is taking a jab here at the three people above Judge on the single-season home run leaderboard regardless of league. Barry Bonds is the sole leader in MLB history with 73 home runs in 2001, but he is the figurehead of the largest steroid scandal in baseball history. Mark McGwire hit 70 long balls in 1998 and 65 the following year, however he came out in 2010 stating that he used steroids throughout his playing career. Sammy Sosa sent 66, 64, and 63 baseballs into the stands in 1998, 2001, and 1999. He too tested positive for steroids. All three are not in the Baseball Hall of Fame because of their indulgent in banned substances. Queens College baseball head coach Chris Reardon commented on the significance of Judge’s record in comparison to the aforementioned three.
“Home runs are very attractive to baseball, they bring in a lot of fans. What Judge did this year was amazing and considering this, and I’m a huge Bonds fan, we know that era was tainted with steroids, and there was a big cloud over them,” Coach Reardon said. “What Aaron Judge did this year was incredible because only three other players in the whole Major Leagues had 40 or more home runs, but when Bonds did it in 2001, eleven other players hit forty or more home runs.”
Not only did Coach Reardon mention the modern scarcity of sending a significant amount of home runs into the stands, but he also commented on how physically demanding it is if you’re not on steroids.
“There’s a genuineness to it. I do believe it was harder because if you’re not taking any performance-enhancing drugs, it’s a long season, and you get tired. And he clearly was getting tired down the stretch. He had played 55 straight games and his home runs down the stretch were much more infrequent than, say Bonds in 2001,” Coach Reardon commented.
The numbers back this up. In the last 55 games of Judge’s 2022 campaign and Bonds’ 2001 season, the former hit 19 homers while the latter hit 28. Bonds never went more than three games without smacking one into the stands, meanwhile Judge had multiple streaks of five-plus games without a homer, the longest of which was nine games.
While fans may hope to move on from the drama of comparison, the fact of the matter is that there will always be a cloud of debate over the top of the single-season home run list. That’s just how history goes.
For others, they want to be in on history. Catching these historic baseballs that Judge blasted into the stands can net a lucky fan millions of dollars and exclusive memorabilia. The man who caught Judge’s 60th home run ball exchanged it for a clubhouse meet-and-greet with Judge, four autographed baseballs, and a signed game bat.
While Judge’s 61st landed in the hands of a Toronto Blue Jays worker in the bullpen and was ultimately given to Judge who gave it to his mother, number 62 was instead caught by a fan by the name of Cory Youmans sitting in Section 31, Row 1, Seat 3 at Globe Life Field. JP Cohen, the president of Memory Lane Inc., offered Youmans $2 million for the ball but has thus far received no answer. Youmans claims he doesn’t know what he wants to do with the ball yet.
Judge stated after the game, “We’ll see what happens with that [the 62nd ball]. It’d be great to get [the ball] back, but you know, that’s a souvenir for a fan. They made a great catch out there, and they’ve got every right to it.”
The timing of Judge setting this record is noteworthy as well. Prior to the start of the season, the Yankees offered him a seven-year, $213.5 million contract extension. Judge declined. By betting on himself, Judge proved he’s worth more than $213.5 million and is set to be unrestricted free agent following this season.
However, Yankees fans would probably not like to dwell on that at the moment, as they’re currently tied 1-1 in the American League Divisional Series against the Cleveland Guardians in their chase for a 28th World Series victory.