ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Aaron Judge scored his 62nd home run of the season Tuesday night, breaking Roger Maris’ American League record and setting what some fans consider baseball’s “clean” standard.
The 30-year-old Yankees slugger pushed a 1-1 slider from Texas right-hander Jesús Tinoco into the first row of seats on left court while leading the second game of New York’s day-night doubleheader.
After No. 99 hitting smooth and powerful, he had a big smile on his face as he circled the base and his Yankees teammates came out of the dugout to celebrate with him. They moved away from home plate, allowing Judge to stomp on him before embracing each other and giving each other a high five.
Judge’s mom and dad were in the stands to see Judge end a streak of five games without a home, including Game 1 of the doubleheader when he was 1 for 5 by one.
The ball was caught by a fan in Section 31, who was then taken with security to have the ball authenticated.
Another fan was led away after jumping out of the chair into the gap between the seat and the left wall of the pitch.
Maris’ 61st for the Yankees in 1961 had surpassed the previous six times, but all of them were tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 for St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year. Barry Bonds hit an MLB record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001, and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs had 66, 65 and 63 over a four-season span starting in 1998.
McGwire admitted to using illicit steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball began testing with penalties for PED in 2004, and some fans—perhaps many—to this day consider Maris to be the rightful record holder.
A Ruthian figure with a smile as big as her body, the 6-foot-7 Judge has rocked the major leagues with a series of deep thrusts listening to the sepia-tone film reel of its legendary streaky predecessor.
“He should be honored for being a true single-season home run champion,” Roger Maris Jr said Wednesday night after his father’s sign was matched by Judge. “I think baseball needs to look at the records and I think baseball has to do something.”
The Judge has homered just once in the last 13 games, and that’s when he hit No. 61 last Wednesday in Toronto. The doubleheader nightcap in Texas was the 55th straight game he has played since August 5.
The Judge is 3 for 17 with five moves and strokes on the court since moving past Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs in 1927, which has stood as a major league record for 34 years. Maris hit 61 from Boston’s Tracy Stallard at the old Yankee Stadium on October 1, 1961.
Judge has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Miguel Cabrera of Detroit in 2012. He leads the AL with 131 RBI and starts the day behind Luis Arraez of Minnesota, who hit .315.
A home run in his first stroke returned him to .311, where he started the day before dropping a point in the opener.
The judge’s achievements will cause endless debate.
“For me, the record holder for home runs in a season is Roger Maris,” writer George Will said earlier this month. “There is no sign of suspicion that we are seeing better baseball than better chemistry in the Judge case. He’s clean. He doesn’t do anything that forces other players to put their health at risk.”
AP Baseball writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.
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