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 144:
Aaron Judge through Game 144 of 2022: 57 HR
Team Game 144: 9/16 — 2-for-4, 2 1B, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K
Judge remains one homer clear of Roger Maris’ pace, unable to homer in game one in Milwaukee. He did manage one of the most non-Judge like hits possible with his second-inning single:
Everything just goes Aaron Judge's waypic.twitter.com/8yvbGHTsh5— Yankees Videos (@snyyankees) September 17, 2022
Even on a quiet night, Judge still manage to reach base three times, but it wasn’t enough in a frustrating loss.
Roger Maris through Game 144 of 1961: 56 HR
Team Game 144: 9/10 (1) — 1-for-3, 1 1B, 2 RBI, 1 BB
This marked the beginning of a rare cold stretch during Maris’ 1961, with Maris cooling off after a red-hot stretch that saw him homer in three out of four games. Maris did contribute a two-run single that gave the Yankees a 4-2 lead in the second, and they would go on to defeat Cleveland 7-6 in the front end of a doubleheader.
Babe Ruth through Game 144 of 1927: 53 HR
Team Game 144: 9/17 (1) — 0-for-1, 1 R, 3 BB
Not much Ruth could do here; if the opponent doesn’t want to pitch to you, you can’t hit all that many homers. Ruth would ultimately lead the majors in walks in 1927, with Lou Gehrig finishing runner-up in both the walks and homers categories. The Yankees squeezed out a 3-2 win over the White Sox in the first of a doubleheader, thanks to a complete game from Urban Shocker that featured zero walks and one strikeout.
Barry Bonds through Game 144 of 2001: 63 HR
Team Game 144: 9/9 — 3-for-5, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R, 1 BB, 1 K
Just a spectacular game for Bonds. Playing his last game at Coors Field for the season, Bonds took full advantage, smashing three bombs to shoot his total to 63:
While his first homer was the kind of majestic high fly we associate with him, Bonds absolutely smoked his second and third dingers, with each clearing the right field wall in what felt like less than a second. Bonds only recorded 99 plate appearances between 2001 and 2004 at Coors, but in those 99, he hit .453/.576/1.027 (yes, that’s a slugging over 1.000, not an OPS), with 12 dingers.
Mark McGwire through Game 144 of 1998: 61 HR
Team Game 144: 9/7 — 2-for-4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R
The main takeaway I’ve found from working through this series is just how damn fun the ‘98 chase seemed to be. McGwire didn’t sit on 60 homers for long, tying Roger Maris’ record of 61 homers with a bomb down the left-field line:
Magically, this came against the Cubs, with Sammy Sosa looking on from right field. In the clip above, you can see Sosa give a small fist pump of encouragement to his rival as McGwire rounded the bases.
Sammy Sosa through Game 144 of 1998: 58 HR
Team Game 144: 9/7 — 1-for-5, 1 1B, 3 K
Sosa had to watch McGwire become the first man since Maris to hit 61 homers, and he wasn’t able to make up any ground in the overall chase, managing only a single in a 3-2 loss to St. Louis. Sammy would eventually tighten up the race again, but only one of them was going to be able to get to Maris first, and it was McGwire.