Aaron Judge hits 61st home run of the season, equals Roger Maris’ AL and Yankees record for one season – The Mercury News

TORONTO – About the bat, everyone except Aaron Judge seemed to know. The Yankees slugger got a sinker that didn’t sink in the seventh inning of a tie and just let it rip. He sprinted out of the box and saw it fly, a little unsure at first. The line drive flew 394 feet over the left field wall at Rogers Center. Judge smiled, raised his hand and index finger, and exhaled with the rest of the baseball world.

Judge hit his 61st homerun of the season on Wednesday-evening, tying the 61-year American League-record set by Roger Maris in 1961 in the Yankees’ 8-3 victory over the Blue Jays for 37,008.

“I thought I’d had enough, but it’s been a few days since I did,” Judge said with a self-mockery. “You never really know if it will come out or not and so I tried to sprint around the bases a bit and once it was over the fence… [Cole] was throwing his ass tonight.

“And then tie up Roger Maris, that’s the stuff you dream about, you don’t even think it’s real.”

Judge hammered the 3-2 sinker of Toronto lefty Tim Mayza into the Blue Jays bullpen. Toronto bullpen coach Matt Buschmann finished with the historic ball and Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano took the ball into custody and got it delivered to the Yankees.

After Judge crossed home plate, he hugged Aaron Hicks—whom he’d driven in with the homer—and Oswaldo Cabrera, who was on deck. The rest of his teammates and coaches rushed onto the field, and everyone got a hug from the slugger—from Luis Severino, who he came up with through the minors, to Harrison Bader, who just joined the active roster last week.

As he left the field, Judge took off his batting helmet and pointed to the seats just above the Yankees’ first base dugout, where his mother Patty and Maris’ son were sitting side by side. Patty — who had kissed her 30-year-old son as he circled the bases — and Roger Maris Jr. hugged each other.

“He’s someone who should be honored for hitting 61 home runs and not just as the man who did it in the American League. But he should be remembered as the true one-season home run champion when he turns 62,” Maris said. “That’s who he really is. And I think that’s what needs to be done. I think baseball needs to look at these records and I think baseball needs to do something.”

Judge is only the fifth man in Major League history to hit 61 home runs in a season, along with Barry Bonds (73 in 2001 with the Giants), Mark McGwire (70 in 1998 and 65 in 1999 with the Cardinals), Sammy Sosa (66 in 1998, 64 in 2001 and 63 in 1999 with the Cubs) and Maris in 1961 with the Yankees. Maris’ record is still considered the highest point by some baseball purists, who disregard Bonds, McGwire and Sosa because of the strong suspicion that they did it while taking performance-enhancing drugs.

While Judge, who grew up watching the Giants and Bonds, considers Bonds’ 73 to be the MLB record, Maris’s 61 had become a burden on his shoulders.

“Certainly,” said the judge. “Certainly some relief at turning 61. Don’t try to think about it or let it get into your head, but get the chance to do it in a Yankee win, especially on a night when Gerrit Cole struckout the eponymous gets one season. [franchise] recording, that’s a pretty special day there.”

It had been seven games and eight days since Judge had hit number 60, and the eyes of the baseball world were on every pitch he saw. MLB had specially marked balls to make sure they could verify number 61 and everyone. MLB Network and radio stations in New York broke into programming to broadcast all of his at bats.

He had played 34 at bats between hitting number 60 on September 20 against the Pirates and Wednesday-evening’s historic homerun. That ended Judge’s second-longest homerun drought of the season, second only to the 41 at bats he went without a homerun in August. During those seven games, 10 other Yankees homered, the Bombers went 6-1 and captured the American League-division title.

And Judge isn’t done yet.

“Having the opportunity to be connected to a baseball legend and an amazing family, I can’t even describe it right now. It’s just such an honor what Maris did in this game, what kind of person was. I’ll be forever connected to him, so it’s a moment I’ll definitely never forget,” Judge said. “I will certainly cherish it. Supporting my mom here….she’s been with me through it all, that’s for sure. From the days of the Little League, getting ready for school, taking me to my first few practices and games. You know, my first professional game, being there, my debut and now getting the chance to be here. This is so special.

“And we’re not done yet.”


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