I liked Aaron Judge from the very start of his career. What's not to like about the 6'7", 280-pound New York Yankee superstar? He is no doubt one of the best all around baseball players ever. He hits a baseball like a laser, exiting the ball park at around 115 miles per hour. He has great speed and a cannon for a throwing arm. He's a freak of nature....an amazing athlete who just happens to be a wonderful person and, by the way, he's steroid free.
Aaron Judge is also on the brink of rewriting the American League history books.
As of today, Judge has 61 home runs tying the record held by the late Roger Maris for the last 61 years. Maris hit 61 dingers in 1961, breaking the record held by Babe Ruth that stood for 34 years before Maris and his teammate Mickey Mantle assaulted the record with Mantle falling short with 54 homers and Maris breaking the record on the last day of the season.
1961 is the season I became a huge Yankee fan and it was due to the "Race With Ruth." I was 10 years old and was already a Mickey Mantle fan but when it became evident that Maris actually had a chance to break Ruth's record, I became a Maris fan. I followed the box scores in the papers, which was the only way you could get information until the national media picked up on the story in September. When the season was ending NBC televised the Yankees' game with Baltimore as Maris faced the Orioles' Jack Fisher. Maris hit number 60 against Fisher as Curt Gowdy made the call. Five days later Maris took Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard deep for number 61, giving him the record....or did it?
Since Maris broke the record in 162 games rather than the 154 game schedule that faced Ruth, Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick announced there would be an asterisk by Maris' 61 but a few years later that was lifted and Maris owned the record all alone. The home run chase of 1961 was the subject of an HBO movie a few years ago that was produced by long time Yankee fan Billy Crystal . 61* is still the best baseball movie I have ever seen.
I hope that youngsters who worship Aaron Judge will become baseball fans as I did in 1961. Judge is adopted.... and to watch his parents beam with pride each and every time he comes to the plate is so heartwarming. This week when he hit number 61 tying Maris' record, it made me tear up as he pointed to his mom as he crossed home plate. That's what baseball is all about. Not records....not winning....but love and family. Parents and grandparents loading up to watch their young players play in a weekend tournament, despite rainy conditions being forecast or traveling around to watch your adopted son chase baseball immortality.
Baseball has always been considered to be the most "romantic" sport of them all. With all the traditions and great stories surrounding the game it has always been very special. Enjoy this moment as Aaron Judge chases baseball history. It's more than just a game....it's life.