It’s the top of the first inning on October 4th in the second game of a double header. It’s a 1 – 1 count to Aaron Judge. Jesus Tinoco winds up to throw the pitch.
It’s the type of crack that means a batter barreled up the ball; a high quality hit. Cue Michael Kay.
“High fly ball. Deep left. There it goes, soaring into history! He’s done it! He has done it! 62! Aaron Judge is the American League single season home run leader! The A.L. king! Case closed!”
We have a new name in the record books.
Hello. My name is Stephen Barnes. I have lived in New Jersey my whole life, have been a Yankee fan since I could really process anything, my favorite baseball player is Bernie Williams, and there is nothing like doing the YMCA during the 7th inning stretch at the stadium. You may have heard me on the Bleacher Brawls podcast during our combined shows, Yankees episodes, and the Doug and Barnes Show on our twitter spaces. All of the episodes are archived on the site, have a listen.
With the high volume of cheers, lights flashing for pictures, and me yelling in my house (which evidently woke up my 1 month old newborn), came a sigh of relief. The record setting home run for Aaron Judge came in the penultimate game of the season; and let me tell you, it couldn’t have come at a better time. The New York Yankees wound up losing that game to the Texas Rangers. However, the loss didn’t feel like a loss at all. It felt like a victory.
During that loss, not one, but two New York Yankees records were broken. A single season home run record for both the Yankees and the American League were set, but Gerrit Cole also broke the New York Yankees single season strikeout record, ending the season with 257 to overtake Ron Guidry’s 248. The first time in MLB history that a team had both a player with 60+ home runs and a player with 250+ strikeouts in the same season. Mighty impressive, if you ask me.
It was just a spectacular, fun, and at times a very stressful year to watch as a Yankee fan. I don’t really remember a season like this one. From the amazing start of 64 – 28, to the dreadful summer slip up, to ending the season with a final record of 99 – 63. From watching players like Matt Carpenter dominate, to watching Joey Gallo struggle and eventually get shipped off, to watching Oswaldo Cabrera and Oswald Peraza come into the majors to be contributing members to the team. From watching the Yankees go after and get Andrew Benintendi, to trading away Jordan Montgomery to get Harrison Bader. Something has always been going on this season.
It brings me back to what has really capped off the season as a whole; Aaron Judge breaking Roger Maris’ home run record for the New York Yankees and the American League. Aaron Judge is a Yankee through and through, and as a fanbase, we all hope Yankees management does whatever they need to do to get him to sign the contract to stay in pinstripes. Aaron, to me, has felt like the most true Yankee since Derek Jeter. Quietly gets things done, stays out of the media for off the field antics, a great face for the franchise. What other player on the team would you want to represent your ball club and possibly the rest of baseball?!
Watching this season for Judge brought me back to my childhood in 1998, watching Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa duke it out for the home run record. That year was special because two players were chasing the same thing, and that will be one of my favorite seasons of all time (not to mention the Yankees won the world series that year, but we’ll save that for another time).
Then it brought me back to 2001, watching Barry Bonds single handedly dominate the league and break McGwire’s record from just 3 years prior, but not breaking it….shattering it! (It was also one of the WORST years, as the Yankees lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks. I’ve deeply buried that memory.)
So now we are here, 2022, Aaron Judge breaks the American League home run record, not the Major League record. Some old school guys will call Aaron Judge the home run leader because of the allegations surrounding Barry Bonds, but I will just call it the American League home run record.
Home run records like this are hard to come by now in the post-steroid era, and I think it’s just hard to come by in general because pitching has gotten so much better. This is a record that I think will stay in the Yankee record books and the American League record books for a long time. I have a gut feeling that I won’t be alive to see it broken. It’s been a special one for me.
I remember when Aaron Judge debuted in 2016, hearing all the hype about him, and wishing I could write a baseball column or speak on a podcast back then! Because I was all in on this guy. You know the t-shirts with the player names and numbers on the back? I have a feeling I was the first person to have an Aaron Judge 99, because I had to create a customized name and number online since he wasn’t even on the big league roster yet! I still have it, and wear it till this day.
Aaron Judge, if you ever somehow come across this column, thanks for an awesome season. You had us all worried there at the end that it wouldn’t happen. But from me, speaking on behalf of the rest of the New York Yankees fanbase, thank you for an awesome season, and congratulations.
Good luck in the playoffs and please resign with the Yankees.