On a magical night in the Bronx, Aaron Judge puts more history within his reach

NEW YORK — In the midst of one of the most remarkable and historic home runs in more than a decade, the Aaron Judge to the level achieved by baseball royalty, The Yankees The slugger chose not to rejoice or be happy or indulge in that moment. And about an hour later, the Yankees’ slugger celebrated his 60th home run of his spectacular 2022 season Tuesday night, lamenting the fact that he hadn’t hit it earlier in the game, when the bases were loaded. were done, unlike when he walked them in the bottom of the ninth inning with them empty and New York trailing. Pittsburgh Pirates.

“I was kicking myself as I ran around the bases,” Judge said. “Like, man, you idiot, you should have done this a while ago.”

Finally, encouraged by his teammates and manager, Judge offered those who had stuck around Yankee Stadium a more half-hearted curtain call than his magic. It was more out of duty than desire. All season long, as he’s chased the ghosts and the numbers they’ve been associated with, the kind of things that matter a lot in the baseball world but little among umpires, he’s been relentless in his insistence. He insisted that the team replaces the individual. To him, it all felt strange, frustrating, wrong – another round number reached, but his team still down by three runs and just three outs away from another loss, just as when He scored 50 runs.

Something just happened. Anthony Rizzo Base reached, and then Gleyber Torresand then Josh Donaldsonand stepped forward Giancarlo StantonAnd Do it Left the changeup too high, and Stanton sent it on a line drive over the left field wall. This time, Judge seemed to be the first out of the dugout, there to greet his teammates at home plate to celebrate an improbable 9-8 victory that clinched a night. made it important to the rest of the world and made it fruitful for him. , too

As wild as it is to believe that Judge thinks this way — that he’s so team-focused, so tunnel-minded, that he doesn’t allow himself to enjoy the moment unless his teammates are. Nothing to celebrate either — everyone around swears it’s true. That he is truly mechanical in his convictions is a personality reversal for the man whose one-time record he tied on Tuesday.

When Babe Ruth hit his 60th home run in 1927 to break his own mark, he said after the game: “Sixty! Count ’em, 60! Let’s see another son of a B match that.” are!” This was pure Babe: a little arrogant and a lot bombastic, appreciative even in the moment of his place in history, perhaps because he had become so used to writing it. Ruth’s name was featured so prominently in baseball’s early record books that it felt autobiographical. He was game in the 1920s, and that he continues to play such a prominent role a century later reflects that, for all the flattery, he understood the magnitude of the shadow he cast. had lived.

Others eventually bested the 60 — first Roger Morris in 1961, then Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds, though the latter three were aided by performance-enhancing drugs, a fact that doesn’t invalidate their achievements. As much as it provides important context. through which they can be seen. Roth’s record came before the merger. Maris’ was before the game went international. Each sign has its own baggage.

Which is part of the reason why judges excuse themselves by talking about numbers. He only said “60” once in a news conference after the game. He said “Team” at least 10 times. He may involve himself in the debate about the real record or the correct record. He prefers an almost devotional devotion to the party line he lives by.

“Yankee Stadium, full house, to have a chance to play baseball on a first-place team, that’s what you dream of,” Judge said. “I loved every second of it. Even when we were down, you don’t like to lose, but I knew coming into the top of the lineup, we had a shot to come back here and do something special. I’m trying to enjoy it. Take it all in, take it all in, but I know I’ve still got a job to do every single day out on the field.”

It seems to mean: somehow this life, this reality, does not bother the judge. As much as Ruth added to it, Mars hated it. As he and teammate Mickey Mantle chased Ruth in 1961, Marrs watched his hair fall in clumps, sipping coffee and cigarettes. And as much as he wanted to perform himself, Mars saw his legacy as a burden, saying: “It would have been a lot more fun if I had never hit those 61 home runs. It was all a headache for me.” “

The judge’s head is steady, clear, unwavering. Which is fortunate, because as much as he’ll enjoy hitting the numbers — hitting 61 for Mars’ American League record and 62 to break it — he’s almost accidentally made sure that There will be no clean slate. In addition to owning an unbeaten lead in home runs, Judge’s blast in the ninth pushed his batting average to an AL-best .316. Which means the Yankees remain in their final 15 games of the season and are one division away from the AL East title and now lead by 5½ games. Torontothey will do so with Judge not only Ruth and Mars but the second Triple Crown in the last half century.

This is a guy who has played his entire career in the Bronx. A man who turned down a seven-year contract extension on opening day. Aaron Judge knows the numbers, the accolades, the team’s performance, the pressure of the upcoming free agency that comes with completely different numbers this winter. On Tuesday, he allowed himself to check the names of his ancestors — “You talk about Ruth and Mars and Mantle and all those Yankee greats…” the judge said — but the thought Did not think much in this regard.

The past is about the ego. Now it’s about the team. And the New York Yankees, arguably Aaron Judge’s team, turned in their best win of the season on Tuesday. As Stanton trotted for the grand slam that was, Judge could clear his mind of what could have been, unencumbered.

On the night he hit 60 — yes, baby, count ’em, 60 — he cheered and gloated over a different home run, one by a man of a different height. hit The world can get a remarkable and historic solo shot. Aaron Judge would hit the grand slam that won the Yankees another baseball game.

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