It was one in every of those nights, the type that reminds you of the elemental rule of the last baseball century: There are the Yankees, after which there may be everyone else. From sepia tones to high definition, no other team does history, then or now, with such grandeur and resonance.
Within the ninth inning on Tuesday within the Bronx, Aaron Judge became the third player in American League history to succeed in 60 home runs in a season. The others were also Yankees: Babe Ruth in 1927 and Roger Maris in 1961, and each had slugging teammates pushing them along. For Ruth it was Lou Gehrig, for Maris it was Mickey Mantle.
So what else could have followed Judge’s sixtieth homer but a game-ending grand slam by Giancarlo Stanton, later that inning, to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 9-8? No other energetic slugger can relate to Judge quite like Stanton, who once belted 59 homers in a season for Miami. It needed to be Stanton to cap an evening like this, with a screaming low liner into the left-field seats.
“That’s a signature Giancarlo Stanton, 10-foot laser to the outfield,” Judge said, admiringly, within the interview room later. “I had a great front-row seat for that one. I believe the entire team lost its mind.”
Judge led the charge from the dugout to greet Stanton on the plate. Judge’s pursuit of the A.L. record — 61, by Maris — is a private achievement in a team game. Ruth and Maris finished their gilded seasons with championships, and Judge has never played within the World Series. He shouldn’t be basking in his stat line.
“He hit 60 tonight, and it’s like nothing happened,” Stanton said. “He’s got more work to do. That’s the mind-set. That’s the way it’ll all the time be.”
Whatever awaits the Yankees, who lead Toronto by five and a half games within the A.L. East, Judge will all the time have a spot within the 60-home run club, a pinstriped-only party of three — the A.L. version, anyway. Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa got there too, within the National League, right before baseball began testing for steroids.
McGwire and Sosa zipped past Maris in 1998. They each topped 61 again the following season, and Bonds set the record with 73 homers in 2001. Before all that, Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said, 60 had an unmistakable aura. Judge has not only revived it, but he has done so with no meaningful competition.
“I’m going back to him doing it on this season, the context of this season,” Boone said, noting that Philadelphia’s Kyle Schwarber has the next-highest home run total in 2022. “He’s got 40. He’s second. I mean, it’s unbelievable, 60 to 40. After I was playing, guys were routinely hitting within the 50s and 40s, bunched up in there. It ain’t happening now.
“And to be that far ahead of the sphere and be getting on base at the extent he’s, pushing for a batting title, playing the sort of all-around game that he’s — in a disappointing night to that time, I attempted to drink that in. I kept seeing ‘60’ on the board as he’s running across the bases. It’s hard for me to grip.”
Judge — who took a fast curtain call, mainly to maintain the sport moving — finished the night because the A.L. leader in each triple crown category, with a .316 average and 128 runs batted in to go together with the 60 homers. Only two Yankees (Gehrig and Mantle) have won a triple crown.
For a player chasing milestones, Judge appears to be playing remarkably pressure-free. He launched his 58th and 59th homers on Sunday in Milwaukee, then got to 60 in his very next game. When Stanton hit his 59 homers, in 2017, he finished the season without connecting in his final three games.
“How did I cope with it? By not getting it,” Stanton said. “Obviously you possibly can’t run from it, you possibly can’t hide from it. You’ll be able to tell within the stadium, you possibly can tell their pitcher doesn’t need to be the one to offer it up. In order that’s all extra distractions, outside noise. You’ve got to have the opportunity to compress all that and still stay in your zone.”
Judge did that against Wil Crowe, a Pirates reliever and a great-great-nephew of Red Ruffing, a Hall of Fame Yankees pitcher with a plaque in Monument Park. Crowe challenged Judge with a 3-1 sinker at 94 miles an hour, and Judge blasted it 430 feet into the left-field bleachers.
Michael Kessler, 20, a pitcher and outfielder for the baseball team at City College of Recent York, snagged the ball on a bounce and returned it to Judge. He met Judge and got 4 autographed baseballs and an autographed bat.
Judge smiled when asked what he had thought after hitting the homer; he had struck out with the bases loaded earlier in the sport, and even along with his homer, the Yankees still trailed by three runs.
“Man, you idiot,” Judge said he thought to himself. “It’s best to have done this a bit earlier.”
In a historical context, though, Judge is plenty early. Ruth reached 60 within the Yankees’ 154th game in 1927, and Maris got there of their 159th game in 1961. Tuesday was only the 147th game for Judge’s Yankees — but he could also be having an excessive amount of fun to process his lofty place in team history.
“Getting a probability to play baseball at Yankee Stadium with a packed house and a first-place team, that’s what you dream about,” Judge said. “I like every second of it.”