Welcome back to the Aaron Judge Home Run Record Tracker! We’re taking a daily look at where Aaron Judge’s monster season tracks compared to some of the other historic single-season home run leaders in anticipation of Judge potentially joining their ranks. We’ll be going by Team Game because not every player’s seasons were in sync with the calendar days and everyone didn’t play all of the team’s games, which makes this our universal standard. Let’s run through Game 159:
Aaron Judge through Game 159 of 2022: 61 HR
Team Game 159: 10/3 — 1-for-4, 1 K
I was recapping the game last night and already noted this, but I’ll just repeat it: Even though I really wanted to see Aaron Judge reach No. 62, it was pretty funny that the two players around him in the batting order homered in the eighth. Marwin Gonzalez and Giancarlo Stanton may have gone deep, but Judge never came close. His one hit was a check-swing that he beat out for an infield hit; not exactly a dinger! Judge has just three more games to set a new American League record.
Roger Maris through Game 159 of 1961: 60 HR
Team Game 159: 9/26 — 2-for-4, 1 HR, 1 RBI
Much like Aaron Judge 61 years later, it took Roger Maris a little time for him to equal the previous American League home run record. He had been stuck on 59 bombs since September 20th, but after singling in the first, he avenged his oh-fer against Jack Fisher by launching a third-inning solo shot for No. 60:
“Sixty! Count ‘em, 60! Let’s see some other son of a bitch match that!”
That’s what Ruth said after breaking his own record and setting a new plateau for single-season home run heroics in 1927. Well, for just the second time in MLB history, a player had had clubbed 60 bombs, and with all due respect to the Babe’s achievements on the diamond, this time it was accomplished by a much better person. Maris couldn’t break the Babe’s record on this night (he flew out to right twice afterward) though, and it would take another few days for No. 61 to come to fruition.
Babe Ruth in 1927: 60 HR
Barry Bonds through Game 159 of 2001: 70 HR
Team Game 159: 10/4 — 1-for-2, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 3 BB (1 IBB)
Maris wasn’t the only single-season slugger to tie a historic home run record in Game 159. Opposing teams had kept Barry Bonds homerless for three whole games, and that simply wouldn’t do. The Astros were approaching a playoff berth but hadn’t clinched it yet, so they mostly pitched around Bonds on this night.
By the ninth inning though, the Giants had a commanding 9-2 lead, and the Astros had turned to rookie Wilfredo Rodríguez in the second of what would be just two career games. He was a lefty, but that wasn’t enough to stop Bonds.
Rodríguez’s pitch might have even been a little high, but given the opportunity to jump on something that could conceivably be hittable, Bonds capitalized for No. 70. The majestic blow sailed all the way to the second deck at what was then called Enron Field (lol), tying Mark McGwire’s 1998 record with three games to go.
Mark McGwire through Game 159 of 1998: 65 HR
Team Game 159: 9/23 — 1-for-3, 2 BB
Despite what ClickHole might have you believe, Randy Johnson never gave up a single homer to McGwire or Sammy Sosa throughout the 1998 season. He’s popped up quite a few times on our Home Run Tracker journey, but in this game, he actually only fared so well against McGwire. Johnson walked McGwire in his first two plate appearances and surrendered a single to him in the fifth. The beefy Cardinals slugger then took Johnson to the warning track in the seventh, but the ball settled in Moises Alou’s glove. Dominant closer Billy Wagner was in for the ninth and McGwire again hit one in the air, but again, it found an Astros outfielder’s glove.
The Astros won, 7-1, but you know who did go deep off Johnson for St. Louis? Former Yankee Pat Kelly. Alrighty then!
Sammy Sosa through Game 159 of 1998: 65 HR
Team Game 159: 9/23 — 2-for-2, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 3 BB
Fighting for their first postseason appearance in nine years, the Cubs needed every win that they could get down the stretch, and the National League MVP did his part to keep them in ballgames. The Cubs might have fallen on September 23rd in pretty depressing fashion (they blew a 7-0 lead after six to the Brewers and lost on a walk-off when Brant Brown dropped a fly ball), but Sosa was perfect at the plate. He walked three times, and in the two official at-bats he got at County Stadium, he homered.
Just like that, Sosa was tied with McGwire at 65 home runs apiece as both teams prepared for their final planned series of the regular season.