NEW YORK (AFP) — New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge blasted his 61st home run of the season to equal the legendary Roger Maris’ longstanding American League record.
Judge, who has been motoring towards Maris’s record all season, had been stuck on 60 home runs after failing to homer in seven straight games and 33 at bats.
But the 30-year-old power-hitter ended his drought in spectacular fashion on Wednesday, crushing a 394-foot two-run homer on a 3-2 count from Toronto pitcher Tim Mayza in the seventh inning to give New York a 5-3 lead.
Judge’s record-tying blast brought the Rogers Centre crowd to its feet for a rousing ovation as Yankees players gathered at home plate to congratulate the right fielder as he rounded the bases.
“I was just trying to start a rally and get something going,” Judge said.
“Luckily, I got a pitch over the plate and was able to put a good swing on it.”
“I was hoping it got over the fence. I didn’t know at first. It’s an incredible honor. There’s a lot of emotions. It took me a bit longer than I wanted it to. But it’s something pretty special.”
Judge added that he had been taken aback to be greeted by his teammates at home plate.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” Judge said after the Yankees 8-3 victory.
“You never know what the guys are going to do.”
“But seeing the love from my teammates, who I show up to work with every single day, to be able to share that moment with them is tough to describe.”
“I’m playing a kids’ game. I love these moments. Those are the moments you live for,” Judge said.
Yankees legend Maris — whose son Roger Maris Jr. was on hand to witness Judge’s homer — set his single season American League record of 61 home runs in the 1961 season.
That record stood as the best single season home record tally for all of Major League Baseball before it was surpassed multiple times by Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire during baseball’s notorious steroid era in the late 1990s.
Barry Bonds, who was also heavily implicated in the infamous Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative drug scandal, holds the outright single season record of 73 home runs set in 2001.