NEW YORK — In the midst of the trot for the most remarkable and historic home run in more than a decade, one that Aaron Judge took him to a level graced by baseball royalty, the Yankees slugger chose not to indulge, too to cheer or be lavish in the moment. And about an hour later, the Yankees butcher celebrated the occasion of the 60th home run in his wonderful 2022 season on Tuesday night by regretting that he hadn’t hit it earlier in the game, when the bases were loaded instead of when he did, in the bottom of the ninth with empty and New York behind the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“I kind of kicked myself as I ran around the bases,” Judge said. “Like, man, idiot, you should have done this a little earlier.”
Finally, at the urging of his teammates and manager, Judge had offered those who had lingered at Yankee Stadium and been treated to more of his magic, a half-hearted curtain call. It was more out of duty than out of desire. All season, while he’s been chasing ghosts and the numbers they’re associated with, the things that matter very much in the baseball world, but very little in Judge’s, he’s been numbly steadfast in his persistence that the team replaces the individual. . To him, this all felt weird, disappointing, wrong — hit another round number, but with his team still three runs behind and just three outs away from another defeat, just like when he hit 50.
Something just happened. Anthony Rizzo reached, then Gleyber Torres, and then Josh Donaldson, and Giancarlo Stanton forward, and Wil Crowe left a substitution too high, and Stanton sent it in line over the wall of left field. This time it looked like Judge was the first to emerge from the dugout, there to greet his teammates at home plate, to celebrate an improbable 9-8 win that marked a night for the rest of the world and which had consequences for him, too.
As crazy as it is to believe that Judge thinks this way — that he’s so team-oriented, has such tunnel vision, that he won’t give himself the grace to enjoy this moment unless his teammates have something to celebrate too — everyone around swears to him that it is true. That he is truly machine-like in his belief, personality inverted for the person whose one-time record he matched Tuesday.
When Babe Ruth hit his 60th home run to break his own goal in 1927, he said after the game, “Sixty! Count ’em, 60! Let’s see another motherfucker to match that!” It was pure Babe: a little arrogant and a lot bombastic, even appreciating his place in history at the time, perhaps because he had become so accustomed to writing it. In Baseball’s early record books, Ruth’s name appeared so many times that they felt biographical. He was the game in the 1920s and the fact that he still plays such a prominent role a century later illustrates that despite all the pomposity he understood the enormity of the shadow he was casting.
Others ended up beating 60 — first Roger Maris in 1961, then Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds, although the latter three were helped by performance-enhancing drugs, a fact that doesn’t invalidate their achievements so much as provides important context through which you can find them. can view. Ruth’s record came before the integration. Maris’ preceded the internationalization of the game. Every brand carries its baggage.
That’s part of the reason Judge apologizes for talking about numbers. He said “60” only once during a post-game press conference. He said “team” at least 10 times. He could get involved in a debate about the real record or the rightful record. He prefers an almost hymnal devotion to the party line along which he lives.
“Having the chance to play baseball at Yankee Stadium, a full house, a first place team, that’s what you dream about,” Judge said. “I love every second of it. Even when we were down, you don’t like losing, but I knew the top of the lineup was coming, we have a chance to come back here and do something special. I’m trying to enjoy it all, let it all come to your mind, but I know I still have to do a job on the field every day.”
He seems to mean it: somehow this life, this reality, doesn’t bother Judge. As much as Ruth enjoyed it, Maris hated it. While he and teammate Mickey Mantle were chasing Ruth in 1961, Maris made coffee and ripped cigarettes and watched his hair fall out in clumps. And as much as he wanted to perform, Maris viewed his legacy as a burden, saying, “It would have been a lot more fun if I never hit those 61 home runs. It just gave me a headache.”
The judge’s head is stable, clear, unshakable. That’s lucky, because as much as he would love to get rid of the numbers — hitting 61 to match Maris for the American League record and 62 to break the record — he almost accidentally did it. that there will be no clean slate. In addition to possessing unbeatable leads on home runs and runs batted in, Judge pushed his batting average to an AL-best .315 in the ninth. That is, if the Yankees are in the last 15 games of their season and want to take an AL East title in a division they now lead 5½ games over Toronto, they will do so with Judge not only chasing Ruth and Maris. is only the second Triple Crown in the last half century.
This is a man who has played in the Bronx his entire career. A man who turned down a seven-year contract extension on Opening Day. Aaron Judge knows the pressure from the numbers, the accolades, the team performance, the impending free desk coming out with a completely different kind of track this winter. On Tuesday, he allowed himself to name his ancestors — “You’re talking about Ruth and Maris and Mantle and all those Yankees greats…” Judge said — but didn’t go much further in that line of thought.
The past is about ego. The present is about team. And the New York Yankees, undeniably Aaron Judge’s team, recorded arguably their best win of the season on Tuesday. As Stanton trotted to the grand slam that was, Judge was able to clear his mind of who could have been, unburdened.
The night he hit 60 — yes, Babe, count them 60 — he reveled and cheered and lavished on another home run, hit by another man of immense stature. The world can have the remarkable and historic solo recording. Aaron Judge will take the grand slam that the Yankees won one more baseball game.