NEW YORK — Only five players had hit 60 home runs in one season in major league history — that is, until New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge joined that exclusive club on Tuesday night with a solo home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The judge engaged a sinker from right-handed Wil Crowe to lead the final frame and drove it 430 feet into the stands of left field, leading to a five-run, nine-innings rally for a 9-8 win.
He took a rare curtain call, forced by his teammates.
“I really didn’t want to do it, especially because we’re losing. It’s a solo recording,” he said.
“He made it to 60 tonight and it’s like nothing happened. He has more work to do, and that’s the mentality, and it always will be. It’s nice to be a part of it,” said Giancarlo Stanton, who delivered a game. Grand Slam finish.
The All-Star outfielder is now one home run away from tying Roger Maris’ American League single-season record of 61 home runs, set in 1961, which was also the highest point in the Major League for 37 years.
With his 60th home run, 6-foot-7 Judge Babe Ruth (1927) tied for eighth on the single-season home run list.
“I’m not thinking about the numbers,” Judge said. “If you’re talking about Ruth and Maris and… [Mickey] Mantle and all these Yankees greats who have done so many amazing things in this game, you can’t imagine being mentioned with them as a kid. It’s an incredible honour. It’s something I don’t take lightly at all. But we’re not done yet. We still have a few games to go in this season and hopefully a few more wins to come.
“I try to enjoy everything, take it all in, but I know I still have a task to do on the field every day and I just have to keep my head down, keep preparing and stay mentally focused.”
The Yankees maintained a 5 1/2 game lead over AL East over the Toronto Blue Jays.
Judge’s 60th home run came from a pitcher whose great-uncle, Hall of Famer Red Ruffing, was Ruth’s teammate with the Yankees in the 1930s. Crowe visited Ruffing’s plaque in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium before the game.
“[Judge] did what he had to do with it,” Crowe said, “count 3-1, I’m not going to put it on. I felt like I wanted to go after him. Started out, came back in. He put a good swing on a bad pitch.”
Roger Maris Jr. and Kevin Maris, sons of the former player, were both present. Every time Judge walked up to the plate, specially marked balls were used. Fans stood in the outfield seats, and many moaned with every foul ball.
But they broke loose with Judge’s shot in the ninth.
“I think there’s something to be said for that kind of ignition. In a game, we’re four runs behind, igniting a kind of magic spark that happened in that inning tonight. That was a special one,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
There are now nine seasons of 60 home runs in MLB history, scored by six different players. Judge joined Hall of Famers Ruth and Maris, as well as Barry Bonds (2001), Mark McGwire (1999, 1998), and Sammy Sosa (2001, 1999, 1998).
Judge’s 59 home runs were already the most by a right-handed batter in AL history. Judge had also already joined Ruth (four) and Mickey Mantle (two) as the third member of the legendary Yankees franchise to have had multiple seasons of 50 HR while wearing pinstripes.
Judge also took over the Triple Crown lead on Tuesday-evening with his .316 batting average reaching the AL lead when Luis Arraez, first baseman for Minnesota Twins, dropped to .314. Judge, who is anything but a slot to lead the league in home runs and RBIs (128), has the chance to become the 11th player to win the Triple Crown since RBIs became official in 1920.
According to research by Elias Sports Bureau, he is the first player since Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown in 2012 to lead all three categories by September or later, and the first Yankee to do so since Mantle won the Triple Crown in 1956.
No one else in the majors has more than 40 home runs.
“To be so far ahead of the field,” Boone marveled, “it’s hard for me to hold on.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.