New York Yankees star Aaron Judge hits the 61st homer of the season, tying Roger Maris’ mark

TORONTO — New York Yankees star Aaron Judge hit his 61st homer of the season Wednesday night against the Toronto Blue Jays, tying Roger Maris’ American League record.

It took Maris until October 1, the last game of the 1961 season, to hit his 61st, which broke Babe Ruth’s single-season homer mark of 60 set in 1927.

Judge did it on September 28 in Game 155 for New York. A day after the Yankees clinched the American League East title, Judge, first at bat as the designated hitter, led Toronto‘s Tim Mayza deep into the seventh inning with a runner on base. The judge – who batted in his first game at bat, went out in his second and fell short in his third – had gone seven games without a home run since hitting just one solo shot in the New York 6-0 home game.

He and the Yankees then headed to Toronto in a bid to make history at the Rogers Center. He went 1-for-3 with a single in Game 1 of the series on Monday and walked four times in Tuesday’s divisional clincher, before finally throwing the historic shot on Wednesday.

The seven-game homer drought was a rare occurrence for the select few who reached such heights. Of the previous seven instances in which a player hit 61 homers, four had reached that mark the next game after hitting 60 and none went more than three games to reach the milestone.

Judge finally arrived in the series finale, with Roger Maris Jr. and Judge’s mother sitting, front row, atop the Yankees dugout. And now the only players in MLB history with more single-season home runs are Barry Bonds (73), Mark McGwire (70, 65) and Sammy Sosa (66, 64, 63) – all of whom completed the their during the steroid era (1998-2001).

Judge’s tear in 2022 was done without any evidence of performance-enhancing drugs used by the Yankees slugger, which manager Aaron Boone says puts the All-Star outfielder’s numbers beyond those recorded by others .

“I think that puts him a cut above,” Boone said last week. “I have to believe it’s right there with some of the best very short list seasons ever. I go back to the context of the season, and the more I watch it and dive into it, it’s got to be an all-time great season. .”

At one point, Judge’s scorching home run pace matched that of Bonds’ record season in 2001, but with less than two weeks left in games, he will now need a formidable push to approach that mark.

Maris’ 61 is considered by many to be the “clean” home run record. Judge, a Northern California native who called Bonds “the greatest hitter of all time,” doesn’t discount his accomplishments.

“That’s the record,” said Judge, a graduate of Linden High School in San Joaquin County, about an hour and a half east of San Francisco Bay. “I watched him do it. I stayed up late watching him do it. That’s the record. Nobody can take that away from him.”

Bonds, for his part, said over the weekend he could see Judge hitting a homerun streak after connecting on his 61st.

“Trying to get to that 61 is the hardest part,” Bonds said on the KayRod Cast on ESPN2 during Sunday Night Baseball. “Trying to get to that one. Once he gets there he’s probably going to hit five or six in a row after that. But trying to get to that one is the hardest part, that 61 is going to be the hardest. It’s a big moment out of 61.”

The Yankees are hoping for more big moments next month. Appearing at times as if they had run away from the American League pack before stumbling through August, New York looks destined for the second seed in the AL playoffs behind the Houston Astros. The division title was New York’s first since 2019 and 20th overall in franchise history.

The judge was a big reason for the crown, and it wasn’t just home runs. He entered Wednesday’s action, leading the AL in batting average, homers and RBI as he seeks to become the third Yankees player to win the Triple Crown (Lou Gehrig in 1934, Mickey Mantle in 1956) .

Judge’s homer gave the Yankees a 5-3 lead, and they took a 6-3 advantage late in the inning. The ball was picked up by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann after it took off in the Toronto bullpen.

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