ARLINGTON, Texas — The American League has a new single-season home run king.
New York Yankees star Aaron Judge launched his 62nd home run of the season Tuesday night on the road against the Texas Rangers, breaking the AL record he shared with Roger Maris.
After depositing a Tim Mayza sinker into the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen to tie Maris’ mark last Wednesday, Judge went without a home run during the Yankees’ final regular-season homestand — a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles. Back on the road, Judge, who had gone 2-for-9 with two singles in two games against the Rangers through Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader, took Texas pitcher Jesus Tinoco deep in the first inning of the nightcap to reach No. 62.
“It’s a big relief. I think that everyone can sit back down in their seats and watch the ballgame, you know? No, but it’s been a fun ride so far,” Judge said. “Getting a chance to do this, with the team we’ve got, the guys surrounding me, the constant support from my family whose been with me through this whole thing … it’s been a great honor.”
The Yankees gathered to meet Judge at home plate after the home run, and he took off his helmet as he walked back to the dugout to acknowledge the fans. When he took the field in the bottom of the inning, he was again given a standing ovation.
“Pretty surreal,” Judge said of the welcome he received at the plate. “Just like in Toronto, it was pretty awesome, having their support. I think, in Texas, they were a little more excited. They could finally exhale.
“At home, in the dugout, I can see right in and see all the guys sitting at the top steps. Here on the road, they are behind me, so I didn’t see the 40-plus people sitting in the dugout. So, I think, to finally see them run out on the field and get a chance to hug them all, that’s what it’s about for me.”
The ball was caught by Cory Youmans of Dallas, who was sitting in Section 31. Asked what he was going to do with the ball while being taken away with security to have the ball authenticated, Youmans responded, ” Good question. I haven’t thought about it.”
At the time of his postgame news conference, Judge hadn’t met Youmans but did say it was the fan’s right, should he choose to keep the ball.
“I don’t know where it is,” Judge said. “It would be nice to get it, but that guy made a great catch.”
Judge struck out in the second inning and was removed from the game when the Yankees next took the field, again drawing a standing ovation. The Rangers went on to win 3-2. The Yankees won the first game of the doubleheader 5-4.
“We were all a little bit out of sorts,” Yankees starter Gerrit Cole said of his teammate’s accomplishment in his postgame, on-field interview on the YES Network. “What a special opportunity to share a field with this guy. He’s just an unbelievable player, unbelievable talent, unbelievable human. He’s been our rock all year.”
The record-setting homer came three days after the 61st anniversary of the day Maris passed the legendary Babe Ruth with his 61st home run.
“Roger Maris Jr,. him and his family, supporting and being along for the ride too, a lot of thanks and congratulations to them too,” Judge said. “It’s a tough situation, your dad’s legacy and you want to uphold that. But getting a chance to meet that family, they are wonderful people. Getting a chance to have my name next to someone as great as Roger Maris, Babe Ruth, those guys, is incredible.”
Only Barry Bonds (73), Mark McGwire (70, 65) and Sammy Sosa (66, 64, 63) are ahead of Judge on MLB’s single-season home run list. But while Judge holds the AL record, Maris Jr. said this week that he believes Judge should be recognized as the true “home run king.”
Maris’ mark stood as the MLB record until McGwire passed it by hitting 70 in 1998. Bonds surpassed McGwire in 2001, with baseball’s official single-season record of 73 home runs. But Maris Jr. diminished the accomplishments of the two sluggers, who reached their feats during the so-called steroid era.
“He plays the game the right way,” Maris Jr. said of Judge earlier this week. “And I think it gives people the chance to look at somebody who should be revered for hitting 62 home runs, and not just a guy who hit it in the American League, but for being the actual single-season home run champion. That’s who he is. It’s 62, and I think that’s what needs to happen.”
Judge, who grew up about half an hour east of San Francisco as a Giants fan, has said that he believes that Bonds’ 73 homers is the rightful single-season mark.
New York manager Aaron Boone said he feels privileged to have had a front-row seat to baseball history.
“The history of this game is one of its calling cards,” Boone said. “The number 61. I’ve known about that number for my entire life. I think one thing that makes our sport a little more special than the others is the history of it all. We do history really well. And this has been a year and a season where we’re in the middle of one of those magical historical moments, and that’s tied to a number. And that’s pretty neat.”
The Yankees will enter the postseason as the No. 2 seed in the American League. They will conclude the regular season Wednesday in Texas.
“That’s one of the things we said when we got together, like this is just the start of hopefully what is more magical moments to come, as a team,” Boone said in a postgame interview on the YES Network. “We’re hoping to ride that.”