No. 62! Judge breaks Maris’ all-time AL HR record

October 5th, 2022

ARLINGTON -- When Babe Ruth set a new league record with his 60th home run of the 1927 season, the bombastic Bambino had thumped his chest, challenging the world to match that staggering total. An exhausted Roger Maris edged "The Babe" on the last day of the 1961 season, later expressing a feeling of “exultation” that the chase was over.

Sixty-one years after Maris captivated the baseball world with his pursuit of Ruth’s beloved record, now stands alone as the American League’s single-season home run king. Three Yankees right fielders across three eras of baseball history, all having experienced the thrills of chasing a magnificent mark.

“I tried to enjoy every single moment,” Judge said. “I didn’t think about, ‘Hey, they’re all on their feet to see you hit a home run.’ I tried to think about, ‘Hey, they’re here to see an exciting ballgame and see something special.’ Having that mindset helped me stay pretty calm, but there was definitely a little pressure in there.”

Judge hit his record-breaking 62nd home run on Tuesday at Globe Life Field, launching a 1-1 slider from Rangers right-hander Jesus Tinoco to open the second game of a split doubleheader. On a night when No. 99 hit No. 62, the Yankees’ 3-2 loss gave them a record of -- wait for it -- 99-62.

“Just an all-time great season,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone. “He’s been the leader of this team, for a division-winning team, one for which he’s gotten big hit after big hit. I think it’s a historically great season, and one we’ll talk about when we’re long gone.”

With three regular-season games remaining, Boone was prepared to give Judge every opportunity to break Maris’ record. Judge went 1-for-5 with a single and a run scored in the first game of Tuesday’s twin bill, a 5-4 Yankees win, then told Boone he was ready to go in the second game.

Was he ever. After looking at a ball and a strike, Judge unloaded on an 88.4 mph offering, slugging a Statcast-projected 391-foot drive toward the left-field seats. The ball, marked with ‘C 13’ for authentication purposes, was secured by Cory Youmans, a fan seated in Section 31, Row 1, Seat 3.

“I had a good feeling off the bat,” Judge said. “I just didn’t know where it was going to land or what it was going to hit. There was a good sense of relief once I saw it in that fan’s glove.”

As Youmans and the treasure were hustled through the concourse, the Yankees spilled out of their dugout, waiting as Judge rounded the bases. Judge grinned widely as he rounded third base, pointing to the sky and stamping his left foot on home plate, embracing each teammate in sight.

“It felt like the college days,” third baseman Josh Donaldson said. “The moment was worth that, to show the amount of respect we have for him and what he’s done.”

Nearing the finish line of a remarkable campaign that should finish with an American League MVP award, homers Nos. 61 and 62 did not come quickly for Judge. As the chase wore on, including two consecutive weeks of interrupting college football broadcasts with split screens of his at-bats, Judge showed a few flickers of frustration.

In the first game on Tuesday, he’d bashed his batting helmet after popping up a hittable pitch from Rangers right-hander Jon Gray; true to form, though, Judge picked the helmet up from the dugout floor and placed it in its appropriate slot.

“It was the first time I’d seen it wearing on him, just a little bit,” said Yankees right-hander Gerrit Cole. “We just wanted it to happen so bad.”

Judge had been 9-for-39 (.231) with a homer, 18 walks and 15 strikeouts since hitting No. 60 on Sept. 20 against the Pirates, but with one violent swing, none of that seemed to matter.

“I can’t lie,” Judge said. “The past couple of games, I looked up in the seventh inning and I’m like, ‘Dang, I’ve only got one more at-bat. We’d better figure this out.’”

A crowd of 38,832 roared inside this gleaming, glassy structure on Texas’ north side; Judge’s parents, Patty and Wayne, were in attendance for the blast, as was his wife, Samantha, who wore a vintage T-shirt honoring the 1996 World Series championship.

Celebrations sparked across the country, prompting congratulatory messages from celebrities, Hall of Fame ballplayers and President Joe Biden. The public nods from Judge’s contemporaries seemed to mean the most.

“There’s no higher honor in my book,” Judge said. “That’s what it’s always been about for me; my teammates and my peers.”

Chants of "M-V-P!" greeted Judge as he took his position in right field; Judge tipped his cap, acknowledging the many fans wearing Yankees paraphernalia. Judge expressed some regret that he could not achieve the milestone at home; more than 137,000 fans attended the Yanks’ final three regular-season home games, hoping to witness history.

“They were booing pitchers for throwing balls, which I’ve never seen before,” Judge said, with a chuckle. “I think I got a base hit the other night and I was getting booed for a single.”

The Major League and National League record for home runs in a single season is 73, set by Barry Bonds in 2001. Judge has hit the seventh-most home runs in a single season in AL/NL history, behind performances by Bonds, Mark McGwire (70 in 1998; 65 in 1999) and Sammy Sosa (66 in 1998; 64 in 2001; 63 in 1999).

The home run totals of Bonds, McGwire and Sosa have all been clouded by allegations of performance-enhancing drug use; Roger Maris Jr. has said that he considers Judge to be the single-season home run champion. Judge has said that he believes Bonds’ record is valid, but he thanked the Maris family for their support.

“I know it’s a tough situation; it’s your dad’s legacy and you want to uphold that,” Judge said. “Getting a chance to meet their family, they’re wonderful people. Having my name next to someone who’s as great as Roger Maris, Babe Ruth and those guys, it’s incredible.”

In the Yankees’ clubhouse, toasts were made in honor of Judge and Cole, the latter of whom set the Yankees' single-season strikeout record by eclipsing Ron Guidry’s 1978 total of 248. Cole struck out nine batters over six innings on Tuesday, bringing his season total to 257.

A couple of plastic cups still rested on a large table about an hour later as Judge finally unbuttoned the gray jersey with ‘NEW YORK’ embroidered across the front, only beginning to absorb the magnitude of this accomplishment -- and wondering aloud about what might come next.

“That’s what we’ve got tonight for, to soak in the moment with my family,” Judge said. “I think it won’t really sink in until after the postseason. That’s really our main goal and our main focus.”