A blast against Texas vaulted Judge past Roger Maris for the American League’s single-season record, rekindling enthusiasm for a milestone spoiled by the steroid era.
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By David Waldstein
A little over 100 years ago, a charismatic and portly slugger named Babe Ruth began swatting balls over outfield fences by volume, helping establish the home run as one of the most coveted individual achievements in sports, and the Yankees as the most honored franchise.
Ruth’s records, including 60 home runs in 1927, became sacred milestones, cherished for decades by millions. In 1961, Roger Maris, as humble and retiring as Ruth was gregarious, broke the single-season record when he hit 61 homers, also for the Yankees.
Now Aaron Judge, as physically imposing as Ruth and as modest as Maris, has passed them both, homering against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field on Tuesday to reach 62 for the season, setting a new American League record.
From Ruth to Maris and now Judge, the A.L.’s single-season home run record is stitched together in pinstripes.
Of course, long before Judge made it to the majors, Maris’s and Ruth’s marks had fallen in the National League, swallowed up six different times by musclebound, drug-assisted sluggers whose achievements were debated and disputed, at times even questioned under oath by Congress. The most coveted individual achievement in the sport had been publicly muddied and baseball’s reputation smeared amid revelations that it was all a sham, accomplished with the aid of a chemist’s vial.
Judge, a mammoth slugger who stands 6 feet 7 inches and weighs 282 pounds, has played his entire career in an era in which players are tested for performance-enhancing drugs. While no player can be guaranteed to be clean, Judge’s accomplishments in the testing era have helped restore enthusiasm among many fans for a benchmark that had lost much of its luster.
Single-Season Home Run Leaders
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