TORONTO — Aaron Judge wouldn’t acknowledge it on the time, however the wait was attending to him. He had hit his sixtieth home run greater than per week ago to tie Babe Ruth’s best season, and he needed only yet one more to match the American League record, set by Roger Maris in 1961.
But day after day, plate appearance after plate appearance and walk after walk, Judge, the mighty Yankees slugger, remained stuck on 60. He tried to pick the best pitches to hit, but there have been so few of them. He had not hit a house run in seven games — his second-longest stretch of the 12 months — and with time running out on the regular season, the pressure had mounted.
“You are trying to not give it some thought,” Judge said, “however it creeps into your head.”
Why wouldn’t it? For greater than per week, the complete baseball world had been focused on Judge’s home run chase. Networks that were broadcasting other sports broke away to point out Judge’s at-bats. Within the stadiums where he played, an unusual anticipatory hush fell over the stands each time he strode to the plate.
After which, immediately, all the strain and frustration evaporated with a crack and roar. With Aaron Hicks on first base and the rating tied within the seventh inning of Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays, the left-hander Tim Mayza delivered a full-count sinker that didn’t sink in any respect.
Judge advanced, unleashed his murderous swing and sent a horsehide comet soaring to left field. It cleared the fence, banged off a back wall and bounced into the Blue Jays bullpen — and history. Judge had drilled his 61st home run of the season to tie Maris, and brought Canada into the record books together with him.
“It’s definitely some relief, attending to 61,” Judge said with fun, then added, “it’s a probability to tie Roger Maris. It’s the stuff you dream about. It’s not even real.”
But it is vitally real, and to Roger Maris Jr., much more real than when Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds broke his father’s record several times over, starting in 1998. Those three players have all been linked to performance-enhancing drugs, while Judge is the primary player to hit 60 home runs under Major League Baseball’s collectively bargained drug-testing program.
To Maris, Judge is the just one worthy of standing alongside his father within the record book.
“I feel it means so much for plenty of those who he’s clean,” said Maris, who was at Rogers Centre for the sport. “He’s a Yankee, he plays the sport the best way and I feel he gives people a probability to take a look at any person who needs to be revered for hitting 62 home runs and never just as a man who did it within the American League.”
Maris has been at the entire Yankees games since Judge reached 59 home runs, and he was sitting with Judge’s mother, Patty, at Wednesday’s game. For on a regular basis that he had been following the team, he had not met Judge until Wednesday night, after the 61st home run. It was a plan Maris devised to avoid causing a distraction for Judge. They met and hugged outside the Yankees clubhouse after the sport.
“I asked him why he waited so long and made me travel across the country,” Maris joked after the sport, which the Yankees won, 8-3. “The ironic thing was, it’s the ninth day I’ve been here. He wears 99, my dad wore 9. It’s just type of weird the way in which all of it went together. So now I’m considering, ‘OK, we’re going to go to Yankee Stadium, and he’ll probably hit 62 on October the primary, when Dad hit his 61st. Just plenty of weird similarities.”
Throughout the three-game series, Toronto fans tried to string a partisan needle by concurrently rooting for his or her team to win and for Judge to get his justifiable share of swings. Every time he walked, seven times in all, the fans booed their team’s pitchers.
“I’m attempting to make good, competitive pitches,” said Kevin Gausman, Monday night’s pitcher, who walked Judge twice. “I didn’t just like the proven fact that they booed me after I walked him. I believed that was unique.”
Unlike at Yankee Stadium, where fans stood in near-silent anticipation every time Judge went to the plate, spectators in Toronto remained seated, for essentially the most part, during his at-bats. But they did grow quiet because the pitchers went into their windups, and so they “oooohed” each time he swung his mighty bat.
“It’s a weird situation,” said George Springer, the Blue Jays center fielder. “However it’s good company to be in and it’s also an honor to have the complete baseball world watching what he’s doing. He’s handled it exceptionally well.”
The stands weren’t full for Wednesday’s game. There was an announced attendance of 37,008 for a venue that holds about 45,000 and far of the upper deck was empty. Many within the outfield stands had hoped to catch a ball that some experts predicted could sell for greater than $1 million.
What seemed most appropriate was that Judge’s home run put his team ahead to remain in the sport, breaking a 3-3 tie, and added to the list of iconic home runs at this park: Judge smashed the ball into the identical general area of the stadium where Joe Carter hit his famous World Series-winning home run for the Blue Jays in 1992, and where Jose Bautista hit his devastating blast within the 2015 American League Championship Series.
As he rounded third base he broke right into a smile as his joyful teammates got here out of the dugout to greet with him with hugs.
“It was unbelievable,” said Gerrit Cole, the Yankees’ starting pitcher on Wednesday, who tied Ron Guidry’s Yankees franchise record when he collected his 248th strikeout of the season. “I’m so joyful for him. There isn’t a more deserving person for my part. It was a special night for us to find a way to witness it.”
When the ball landed, the Blue Jays’ bullpen coach, Matt Buschmann, caught it off the bounce and he and the relief pitcher Jordan Roman gave it to Zack Britton, a Yankees reliever who had walked down from the visiting team’s bullpen to retrieve it. The ball was then authenticated and given to the clubhouse manager Rob Cucuzza for protected keeping, just as he did with the ball Judge hit for No. 60 at Yankee Stadium last week.
“To get a probability to sit down at 60 for some time there with the Babe was nice,” Judge said. “But getting a probability to now sit at 61 with one other Yankee right fielder that hit 61 home runs, was an M.V.P. and a world champion, is pretty cool.”
Maris Jr. was only 3 when his father broke Ruth’s record, and said that he remembers nothing of it. He does recall growing up around individuals who always asked his father about it, so he heard loads of stories. Now, it’s time for a recent story to be told, and Maris Jr. is enthusiastically pushing for Judge to jot down it along with his bat, and shortly.
The Yankees have three more games at Yankee Stadium against the Baltimore Orioles this weekend after which 4 in Arlington, Texas, against the Rangers. Maris is confident the A.L. record will probably be broken before the team heads south.
“You’ll be able to tell he’s back and he’s able to go,” Maris said. “I feel it would occur in Latest York and it’s where you wish it to occur. It’s where I would like it to occur. The town of Latest York deserves it. The fans deserve it. It is going to be great for baseball if it happens in Latest York. Like I discussed to Aaron, ‘Get to Latest York and hit 62, and knock the highest off Yankee Stadium.’”