TORONTO — Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ 61 home run record in a season with a solid performance in Wednesday night’s New York Yankees game against the Toronto Blue Jays.
In the seventh inning at Rogers Center, the 30-year-old slugger drove a full ball off Tim Mayza’s left field fence.
Judge surpassed Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs in 1927, which was a major league hallmark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars have reached huge numbers for the Yankees.
Barry Bonds held the major league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.
Judge has hit seven games without a home run — his longest drought of the season was nine in mid-August. It was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, with seven games remaining in the regular season.
The judges started the day with a 128 RBI of 0.314, also the highest total in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.
On October 1, 1961, Maris hit 61 for the Yankees against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.
Maris has been marked more than six times, all contaminated with the stench of steroids. Mark McGwell hit 70 homers for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds passed him. Sammy Sosa scored 66, 65 and 63 points in four seasons starting in 1998.
McGwire admitted to using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball began testing PED penalties in 2004, and some fans—perhaps many fans—have until now considered Maris the “clean” record holder.
The tallest hitter in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge rushed out on August 13, 2016, hitting a home run over the railing above the midfield sports bar at Yankee Stadium and entering Nets above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin, who became the first teammates to hit their first major league batting homer in the same game.
The following year, Judge hit 52 home runs with 114 at-bats and unanimously won the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him over the next three seasons, and he rebounded with 98 RBIs and hit 39 homers in 2021.
As he neared his final season before free agency, a judge rejected an offer from the Yankees for an eight-year contract worth anywhere from $230.5 million to $234.5 million on Opening Day. The proposal includes an average of $30.5 million per year starting in 2023-29, with his salary this year being either the $17 million the team offered in arbitration or the $21 million the player asked for.
A $19 million, one-year deal was reached in June, and Judge enters this offseason with the prospect of a deal worth $300 million or more from the Yankees or other teams, possibly more than $400 million Dollar.
Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He was a fourth All-Star and entered halftime with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries made him less protected in the batting order and pitchers let him go 25 times.
He became the fifth player to hold the AL season record. Nap Lajoie scored 14 points in his first AL season as a major leaguer in 1901, while Philadelphia track teammate Socks Seabold scored 16 the following year, a score that remained until Babe Ruth scored 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in total, at 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921, and 60 in 1927, a mark that lasted until Maris was 61 in 1961.
In July 1961, when Maris was 35, and in the first season each team’s schedule was increased from 154 to 162 games, baseball commissioner Ford Frick ruled that if anyone overtook Ruth in more than 154 games, “It just had to put some unique mark on the record book that Babe Ruth’s record was set in 154 games.”
This “significant mark” was known as the “asterisk” until September 4, 1991, when the Committee on Statistical Accuracy, chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent, voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.
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