Judge hit his 62nd home run of the regular season, breaking the American League record.
ARLINGTON, Texas — History has been made in Arlington, Texas!
New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge has broken an American League record with his 62nd home run of the regular season.
The 30-year-old drove a 1-1 slider from Texas Rangers right-hander Jesús Tinoco into the first couple of rows of seats in left field when leading off the second game of New York’s day-night doubleheader.
Roger Maris’ 61 for the Yankees in 1961 had been exceeded six times previously, but all were tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year. Barry Bonds hit an MLB-record 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001, and the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.
McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans — perhaps many — until now have considered Maris as holder of the legitimate record.
A Ruthian figure with a smile as outsized as his body, the 6-foot-7 Judge has rocked the major leagues with a series of deep drives that hearken to the sepia tone movie reels of his legendary pinstriped predecessors.
“He should be revered for being the actual single-season home run champ,” Roger Maris Jr. said Wednesday night after his father’s mark was matched by Judge. “I think baseball needs to look at the records and I think baseball should do something.”
Judge had homered only once in the past 13 games, and that was when he hit No. 61 last Wednesday in Toronto. The doubleheader nightcap in Texas was his 55th game in row played since Aug. 5.
After a single in five at-bats in the first game Tuesday, Judge was 3 for 17 with five walks and a hit by pitch since moving past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league record for 34 years. Maris hit his 61st off Boston’s Tracy Stallard at old Yankee Stadium on Oct. 1, 1961.
Judge has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012. He leads the AL with 131 RBIs and began the day trailing Minnesota’s Luis Arraez, who was hitting .315.
The home run in his first at-bat put him back to .311, where he had started the day before dropping a point in the opener.
Judge’s accomplishment will cause endless debate.
“To me, the holder of the record for home runs in a season is Roger Maris,” author George Will said earlier this month. “There’s no hint of suspicion that we’re seeing better baseball than better chemistry in the case of Judge. He’s clean. He’s not doing something that forces other players to jeopardize their health.”
Texas Rangers spokesperson John Blake told WFAA this week that the team added additional security for this four-game series.
The lucky fan who caught the piece of history could be in for a big payday.
“Whoever catches 62, if Aaron Judge hits it, will be looking at at least seven figures,” Chris Ivy of Dallas-based Heritage Auctions said.
Ivy told WFAA a California collector is already offering $2 million for the ball.
“There’s probably about 15,000 seats in the outfield. And if Aaron Judge does hit a home run that’s probably pretty good odds that you might be catching a seven-figure baseball,” Ivy said.