Opinion | Aaron Judge Courts Home-Run History

Opinion | Aaron Judge Courts Home-Run History


New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge hits his 60th home run of the season, in New York, Sept. 20.



Photo:

Jessie Alcheh/Associated Press

The baseball world has entered an era of good feelings. All the usual moaning about spoiled, tattooed punks who can’t bunt and don’t respect the game is on hold for the next few weeks. This happens periodically when a respected player is on the verge of making history.

Aaron Judge, the genial New York Yankees slugger, blasted his 60th home run of the season on Monday. In the American League, only fellow Yankees Babe Ruth and

Roger Maris

have hit that many round-trippers in one year. Ruth did it in 1927, when the baseball season was only 154 games. Maris did it in 1961, in the 159th game of a 162-game season.

Mr. Judge topped them both, doing it in the 2022 season’s 147th game. He now has a handful of games with which to break Ruth’s original mark and a solid two weeks to pass Maris’s league record—the one with the famous asterisk. All eyes will be on him every time he steps to the plate.

Some fans call 61 homers the “clean” Major League record.

Sammy Sosa

(66),

Mark McGwire

(70) and Barry Bonds (73) all hit more while playing in the National League during the late 1990s and early 2000s, but many purists don’t consider those records valid. The widely held assumption is that performance-enhancing drugs gave that era’s players an unfair advantage. All three men have been denied entry into the Hall of Fame by the baseball writers who vote on it. Everyone knows why.

Mr. McGwire has admitted using steroids but says he didn’t need them to hit home runs. Mr. Bonds’s lawyer claimed during his 2011 perjury trial that his steroid use was inadvertent—he thought he was taking flaxseed oil and arthritis cream. Mr. Sosa denies ever having used performance-enhancing drugs.

Nobody thinks Mr. Judge is cheating. At 6 foot 7 and 280 pounds he’d never be mistaken for a bat boy, but his body looks natural, the product of genetics and hard work. No rippling neck muscles or sleeve-busting biceps on him. The only thing enhanced are his teeth. Before the 2021 season he had his famous gap-toothed smile closed.

I’m a Yankee fan and I live in the New York media bubble, so it’s hard for me to know, but my sense is that baseball is rooting for Mr. Judge. He’s likable. He plays the game the “right way,” which is to say he’s old-school—he hustles, he’s humble, and he hits the cover off the ball.

Yankee-haters may be pleased to know that his success is likely to cost the team a fortune. Mr. Judge will be a free agent at the end of the year and is expected to become one of the highest paid players in the league. The Yankee organization knows fans would never forgive it for letting him go.

As Mr. Judge chases history and the good feelings spread, I can’t help but wish that my father were here to see it all. He was no Yankee fan, and he wasn’t shy about voicing his disgust with today’s “overpaid prima donnas.” His heroes all had off-season jobs and knew how to bunt. He would have delighted in Mr. Judge’s run at the record.

The big guy loves to play ball. You can just tell.

Mr. Hennessey is the Journal’s deputy editorial features editor.

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Appeared in the September 23, 2022, print edition as ‘Aaron Judge Courts History.’



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