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The Aaron Judge Home Run Tracker: Game 162

After taking 161 games to break the AL home run record, Judge sat for the season finale.

Dan Brink

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 162:

Aaron Judge through Game 162 of 2022: 62 HR

Team Game 162: 10/5 — DNP

Judge had slogged his way through the final weeks of this season to get to the record-breaking 62nd homer, and it was clear that with nothing to play for in the finale, there was little point to being out there. Judge had been pulled the at-bat after he mashed his home run in yesterday’s game, and he rested completely for this one. Congrats Aaron, and now it’s off to the postseason for these Yankees.

Roger Maris through Game 162 of 1961: 60 HR

Team Game 162: 9/30 — 1-for-3, 1 BB

At the end of a season-long chase of his own, Maris played his 162nd game still seeking the tie-breaking homer that would elevate him above Babe Ruth. That elusive mark evaded him in this outing, however, as Maris earned a single and a walk but no home run. Ruth’s record was matched, but it would go unbroken another year ... or would it?

The Yankees played a 163rd game in the ‘61 season thanks to a tie earlier in the year that needed to be resolved, and that gave Maris one more shot at history. And sure enough, in the fourth inning came to the plate and hit this bomb off of Boston’s Tracy Stallard:

Maris hit his 61st homer in the ‘61 season, breaking Ruth’s record after decades as the untouchable home run king. Maris wouldn’t press the charge on the career home run mark like some of the later contenders, but his marvelous season enjoyed a decades-long run of its own as the best for any power hitter.

Babe Ruth in 1927: 60 HR

Ruth’s remarkable 1927 ended after the Yankees155th game of the regular season.

Barry Bonds through Game 162 of 2001: 73 HR

Team Game 162: 10/7 — 2-for-4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R

Bonds also had a leisurely penultimate game to his historic season, but unlike Judge he came back out for the season finale for one last show even though nothing was on the line. Perhaps it was fate, because in his first at-bat he managed to crack this shot:

Bonds’ season was truly an unreal accomplishment, and it managed to stand out amidst a pile of untouchable seasons that Bonds put together with the bat. He treated the San Francisco crowd to one last performance before finally taking a bow, and 73 home runs remains to this day the Major League Baseball single-season record.

Mark McGwire through Game 162 of 1998: 68 HR

Team Game 162: 9/262-for-5, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 1 K

McGwire had blown past Maris’ record, but he just couldn’t put away Sammy Sosa to claim the title for single-season home run king. It came all the way down to the wire, where in the final game of the regular season McGwire belted two shots to finally pull away. Sitting at 68 homers, McGwire passed Sosa and would become the champion of a season-long race ... but he wasn’t done. McGwire also played in a 163rd game, and a new milestone was within reach.

McGwire blasted a ball in his second at-bat of the night to climb to 69 homers, and sat just one away from an inconceivable 70 in a single season. Two at-bats later, facing Carl Pavano in the seventh inning of a tie game, McGwire did this:

Unreal. It was McGwire’s last at-bat of the ‘98 season, and it was as fitting of an end to the great chase as there could have been. Bonds usurped McGwire just three years later, but at the time it appeared like baseball had just established a towering record. McGwire hit five home runs in three games to accomplish the feat on the final day of the year, and it was a remarkable run all the way through.

Sammy Sosa through Game 162 of 1998: 66 HR

Team Game 162: 9/27 — 2-for-5, 1 RBI, 1 K

Sosa gave it everything he had to keep pace with Big Mac, tying the race multiple times at the end (and even briefly leading!), but there was no hope in the end. Sosa entered the day knowing he was two behind McGwire, and once he started expanding that lead in his own game Sosa didn’t stand a chance. He did have a good performance, and oddly enough Sosa would also get a 163rd game (this one an actual addition as opposed to a makeup) thanks to the Cubs and Giants both getting walked off and facing a deadlock for the NL Wild Card.

So, Sosa jumped back in for one more game. There was no chance of keeping the race alive, even with McGwire’s season done — a four-homer game was simply too tall of a task, especially in a game to decide who goes onto the postseason. The Cubs did win that game to advance, so Sosa got the last laugh in making it to October while McGwire didn’t even if he was eliminated in the NLDS shortly after. Sosa even wound up winning NL MVP over McGwire, remarkably, thanks to a lead in RBI and runs as well as playing the more challenging defensive position.

That does it for our Aaron Judge Home Run Tracker! We hope you enjoyed following along as the Yankees’ MVP (and hopefully league MVP) pushed his way up the leaderboards throughout the end of the season. At times it looked like Judge could even challenge the pace of Sosa or McGwire, but in the end he accomplished the remarkable feat of setting a new American League and Yankee franchise record for homers in a season after 61 years.