History was made Tuesday night when Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge launched his 62nd home run of the season against the Texas Rangers. With that home run, he earned the most ever in a single season in American League (AL) history, passing former Yankee outfielder Roger Maris, who hit 61 home runs in 1961.
There are many statistics that make Judge’s home run and season stand out, including the fact that no other player in the major leagues reached the 50-home-run mark in 2022. Judge became the first player to hit at least 60 home runs in a season since Barry Bonds in 2001 and is only the sixth player in history to reach that mark.
In addition to the AL home run record, Judge also set the unofficial mark for most home runs by a player not using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, the three players who have hit more than 62 home runs in a single season, each used steroids in their record-setting campaigns.
Though it’s impossible to speculate as to whether or not Judge has had any aid with PEDs this year, MLB players are tested regularly, and with Judge’s 6-foot-7-inch, 282-pound frame, it is not hard to understand where his natural power comes from.
The milestone home run capped off one of the greatest individual seasons the MLB has ever seen. It’s rare for a home run hitter to be able to hit for a high average. Maris only hit .269 in his 61 home run season, but Judge competed for the AL Triple Crown until the last day of the season.
Perhaps the most impressive feat for Judge this year was how he was able to bring attention to a sport that has been hanging on by a thread. It is no secret that baseball has been declining in popularity over the last two decades. Many of today’s biggest stars, including Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Julio Rodriguez and Fernando Tatis Jr. are unrecognizable to an everyday person, but Judge’s season has gained national attention that baseball hasn’t seen since Derek Jeter.
ESPN networks cut away from live programming to televise Judge’s plate appearances as he approached the milestone. News outlets such as CNN, ABC and Fox News aired segments talking about Judge and the history he has been making. Even President Joe Biden tweeted out a congratulatory message on Tuesday night after Judge broke the record.
Judge will have a chance to continue his magical season in the playoffs where the Yankees are the AL’s No. 2 seed.
After the playoffs, Judge is widely expected to be named AL MVP and will be an unrestricted free agent. Judge notably rejected a seven-year, $230 million contract extension from the Yankees prior to the season beginning. He is now expected to break the record for the largest contract ever signed in free agency, a record that currently is held by Bryce Harper, who signed a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2019.
Photo courtesy of Keith Allison, Wikipedia.