ARLINGTON, Texas (A P) — Aaron Judge took a smooth, mighty swing, then broke into a big smile as he trotted around the bases. Heading home, his teammates backed away, letting him touch the plate alone.
At last, the New York Yankees slugger had the American League home run record all to himself.
Judge hit his 62nd home run of the season Tuesday night, breaking Roger Maris’ AL record and setting what some fans consider baseball’s “clean” standard.
“It’s a big relief,” Judge said. “Everybody can finally sit down in their seats and watch the ballgame. It’s been a fun ride so far, getting a chance to do this. … Getting a chance to have your name next to someone as great as Roger Maris and Babe Ruth and those guys is incredible.”
Judge said he felt “quite a few emotions” after connecting, thinking about his family and fans and supporters. He said it would probably be after the season until he’d truly soak in and appreciate the significance of his achievement.
“In my book, it’s just another day,” the stoic Judge said.
After slamming his helmet in a rare show of frustration when he went without a homer in the first game of the doubleheader against the Rangers in Texas, Judge hit the third pitch of the nightcap into the first row of seats in left field.
That trip around the bases after a long chase was certainly a mixture of pure joy and relief for No. 99, whose only homer in the previous 13 games had been when he tied Maris’ 61 last Wednesday in Toronto.
Judge did it just in time, too, homering on the next-to- last day of the regular season.
Barry Bonds holds the major league record of 73 home runs, set with the San Francisco Giants in 2001.
Judge’s milestone ball was caught by Cory Youmans of Dallas, who was sitting in Section 31. When asked what he was going to do with the ball while being taken away with security to have the ball authenticated, Youmans responded, “Good question. I haven’t thought about it.”
Asked after the 3-2 loss if he’d gotten the ball, Judge said, “not yet.”
“I don’t know where it’s at. It’d be great to get it back,” he said.
Judge also praised the fan for making a “great catch” and said the man had every right to keep the prized souvenir.
Another fan was escorted away after leaping over the rail into a gap between the seats and the left-field wall. The crowd of 38,832 was Texas’ third sellout of the season.
Almost as soon as Judge connected on a 1-1 slider from right-hander Jesús Tinoco,
his Yankees teammates streamed out of the dugout to celebrate with him. But they stayed away from home plate — leaving him to step on it before sharing hugs and high- fives.
“You never know how you’re going to react in the moment. And it was just so, so very cool,” manager Aaron Boone said.
Gerrit Cole, who set a Yankees single-season strikeout record in the same game, said he didn’t know if Judge was pressing as of late, but chuckled when saying everybody else on the team was.
“Just wanted it to happen so bad,” Cole said. “So I don’t know if that’s pressing, or it’s just hoping hard. We were all just hoping really hard I think … He’s not trying to get the record for himself. He’s trying to get the record for his teammates, and for the Yankee fans.”
New York wound up losing the second game after winning the opener 5-4. With one game left in the regular season, the split left the Yankees with a fitting 99-62 record — Judge’s number and his home run total.