Holy Cow He Did It! See Ya!

Last night Aaron Judge hit his 61st home run of the 2022 season and tied Roger Maris for the American League single-season home run record. The momentous blast over the leftfield wall in Toronto occurred in the top of the seventh inning against Blue Jay lefty Tim Mayza. The home run propelled the Yankees to an 8-3 victory over the Blue Jays.

Judge’s home run ironically came 61 years after the Maris record which was set in 1961. The ball bounced back onto the playing field where it was retrieved and given to Judge. He in turn gave the historic baseball to his mom in a touching moment.

This historic event has specific meaning for me. As a nine-year-old I was fortunate enough to attend the game in 1961 where Maris hit his 61st. Pictured above is the ticket stub from that game that my brother saved. Back then our dad made it his mission to take us to at least one Yankee game every year. The trek over to Yankee Stadium from New Jersey wasn’t always an easy one especially for my dad who worked in construction and the summer and early fall were extremely busy for him. But we made it to that game. The last game of the 1961 season. And it will forever be etched in our memories.

Congrats to Aaron Judge for his tremendous achievement and to Roger Maris for all the memories. And thanks, dad.

Judge Joins the Elite Yet Controversial 60 Home Run Club

Last night Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees became only the sixth major leaguer to hit or surpass 60 home runs in a single season.

Only Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds have accomplished that incredible feat.

Babe Ruth had 60 home runs in 1927 with the Yankees.

Roger Maris 61 in 1961 with the Yankees.

Mark McGwire 70 in 1998 and 65 in 1999 with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Sammy Sosa 66 in 1998, 63 in 1999 and 64 in 2001 with the Chicago Cubs.

Barry Bonds has the Major League record with 73 which he hit in 2001 with the San Francisco Giants.

Judge now holds the American League single season record for most home runs by a right-handed batter. Jimmy Foxx hit 58 for the Philadelphia Athletics and Hank Greenberg had 58 in 1938 for the Detroit Tigers.

Although the 60-home run mark has been a milestone for nearly a century those who have achieved it have done so with a certain amount of controversy.

Ruth achieved his feat during an era when some of the greatest baseball players were not allowed to play in the major leagues due to racial segregation.

Maris reached 60 home runs only after the majors extended the season from 154 games to 162. Thus, giving him more games than Ruth.

McGwire, Sosa and Bonds all reached the 60-home run mark during the steroid era. McGwire has admitted that he used steroids to improve his power numbers. Though there is much evidence to the contrary Sosa and Bonds have not admitted steroid use.

To this point Judge’s pursuit of the single season home run record has been met with tremendous excitement and no controversy. We’ll see how far he goes. I for one will be rooting for him.

The 49ers of Major League Baseball

A lot has been made of Aaron Judge’s remarkable season. He recently blew past the 50-home run mark and all eyes are upon him as he heads towards 60. But what about all those sluggers who made it all the way to 49 home runs and never got to that milestone number 50.

A review of the 49er’s list includes some of baseball’s best hitters.

Lou Gehrig

Lou Gehrig reached 49 twice in 1934 and 1936, as did Harmon Killebrew in 1964 and 1969.

Frank Robinson

Frank Robinson hit 49 home runs in his 1966 Triple Crown season. Ted Kluszewski blasted 49 in 1954. Larry Walker clubbed 49 round trippers in 1997.

The slugfest year of 2001, when Barry Bonds led the way with his record shattering 73 home runs, also provided 3 members of the 49ers Club; Shawn Green, Todd Helton and Jim Thome.

Eugenio Suarez who is still active hit 49 homers in 2019.

And finally, there is future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols who has belted 40 or more home runs in seven seasons topping out with 49 in 2006.

Albert Pujols

Quite an extraordinary, though overlooked achievement, by a group of some great Major League sluggers.

Baseball and All Its Charms

August is a great month for baseball. The winter sports have totally petered out. Football is grinding through a sweltering preseason just hoping no major stars will get injured. And with baseball heating up and embracing the steamy, sunny days and warm, sultry nights, I was ready.

First there were softball playoffs. I’m in two leagues, an over age 60’s league and an over 70’s league. In the 60’s league our team lost in the best of three semi-finals. Although we lost, we did our best and had just as much fun playing as we did celebrating the end of another season with a couple cool ones and great conversation later at Rocky’s Bar.

Our 70′ team lost both ends of a Thursday morning double-header—game two of which was shortened to five innings due to the increasing mid-day heat.  We were sure we would have won had we gone the full seven though none of us complained as we retired to the shade of a broad oak tree debating what could have been.

Next came a Friday night trip to Yankee Stadium with my daughter, her boyfriend and her boyfriend’s father. It was a belated Father’s Day present and an absolutely wonderful way to spend a warm summer night. As we watched the game, we swapped stories about the many previous games we attended over the years. Although the Yanks were slumping and got shutout, the Big Ballpark in the Bronx never looked better. And along with our stories, the fan cam scenes of our jubilant and uninhibited fellow Yankee aficionados made the evening memorable and entertaining. 

Yankee Stadium resplendent under a New York City sunset.

I was back at the Stadium on Sunday with two of my buddies as we celebrated our upcoming seventieth birthdays. This day there was more success on the field though some serious trepidation on line prior to the game. My friend Al, who was in charge of the tickets, had trouble locating them on his smartphone. As my other friend, the none-soon-to-be-septuagenarian Jeff, growled about the ravages of technology, I was of absolutely no help futilely fumbling with my phone looking for the e-tickets I was sure I had somewhere in my troves of undeleted emails. Somehow Al eventually found the tickets, we made it inside and we were treated to an exciting game decided by a late inning rocket of a home run by an unlikely source, the light-hitting Andrew Benintendi. All was right with the world has the Bombers’ losing streak came to an end.

That’s Aaron Judge of course from whom Benintendi stole the spotlight.

Although baseball’s charms can best be experienced in a warm summer breeze, they can also be enjoyed on the couch in front of the TV in some AC. And that’s how I partook of the pleasures of watching women’s softball and the Little League World Series. Both are fast paced and highly entertaining versions of the national pastime featuring plenty of sensational plays and high drama but without the drawn out starts and stops that slow down the major league game. However, the question remains; when watching the Little League World Series, we know we are watching potential major leaguers but why are we not when watching these extremely athletic and talented women softball players?

I continued my August coach potato routine by watching The Captain, the ESPN documentary about Derek Jeter. As a Yankee fan ya gotta love Jeter and the series is highly entertaining. But Jeter’s entire theme is that, in baseball, winning is everything, and he sure did a lot of it leading the Yankees to five World Championships. But as you have been reading in this post and in my blog, baseball is about a lot more than just winning. 

Then on Thursday I attended a minor league game with my three high school buddies. We hadn’t all been together for 20 years. If you haven’t been to a minor league baseball game on a warm summer night, do it! Inexpensive, plenty of tasty food, not too crowded, good quality play. Really, you should try it. I’m serious! And go with family and friends. We spent most of the night reminiscing about the bygone days as we sat at a comfortable concession stand table sipping on beer and soft drinks. And yes, there was a ball game going on in the background. A pretty darn good one as a dramatic ninth inning game-tying double sent us into extra inning. But that was not the point. We had seen thousands of games over the years but this time old friends Tony, Bruce, Neil and I were once again together and that was what mattered.  

That’s Yankees’ star prospect Anthony Volpe with the Somerset Patriots

Finally on the last Friday of the month I enjoyed the last of my August baseball charms. My friend Frank arranged a visit at the home of his friend Cal who has an impressive collection of baseball memorabilia. I know Frank through my father-in-law Herb who passed away at the age of 99 a year ago. Herb and Frank became friends because they were, what else? big baseball fans, and Frank wanted to make sure I got to see Cal’s basement baseball museum. We were not disappointed. Cal had every manner of baseball relics from autographed baseballs and photos, to gloves and bats, to programs, yearbooks and vintage baseball cards. But what was best about Cal’s collection was not so such the individual items but the stories behind them. We listened with rapt attention to Cal’s tales, each more enthralling than the previous one. As our visit came to a close the inevitable question was posed to Cal. “How much is all this worth?” He didn’t hesitate to answer. “I don’t think of my collection in those terms. What is important to me is being able to show these items to baseball fans like you and to tell my stories.”

Although he didn’t actually say it, we knew what he meant. To Cal each item in his collection is priceless.