Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run drive for the New York Yankees against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.
The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence at Rogers Centre. The 117 mph drive landed 394 feet from the plate. and put the Yankees ahead 5-3.
The ball clanked off the front of the stands, just below two fans who reached over a railing and tried for a catch, and dropped into Toronto's bullpen, .
Judge's mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and hugged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, then was congratulated by the entire Yankees team who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate.
Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.
Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.
Judge had gone seven games without a home run — his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.
The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.
Judge is hitting .314 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.
Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.
Maris' mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. 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 doping in 2004, and some fans - perhaps many - until now have considered Maris the holder of the “clean" record.
Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.
Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.
As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from US$230.5 million to US$234.5 million. The proposal included an average of US$30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the US$17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the US$21 million requested by the player.
An agreement was reached in June on a US$19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for US$300 million or more. (AP)