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.
Jake, Madison, and I have been doing this post every day for the past week as the Yankees have played games and tweaked the necessary check-in points. However, the Yankees were off yesterday, so all is stagnant with Judge and the usual suspects — Roger Maris ‘61, Barry Bonds ‘01, etc. Nonetheless, we’ve enjoyed peaking in on how Judge’s pace at 51 bombs compares to these historic campaigns, so for the offday, we’ll do the same with a few other notable seasons.
Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa followed up their iconic 1998 chase for 62 with an oft-forgotten sequel in ‘99, as they each surpassed Maris again: 65 for “Big Mac” and 63 for “Slammin’ Sammy.” Due to injuries and early retirement, that was McGwire’s last true hurrah, but Sosa clubbed 64 dingers in 2001, though he once again* finished second to a home run king (Bonds). And while Judge’s now-teammate Giancarlo Stanton couldn’t quite reach 60 during his MVP 2017 with the Marlins, his 59 marks the closest that anyone has come to that threshold since Bonds. (Plus, there’s actually quality video of him!)
*In one of my favorite fun facts, none of Sosa’s record three 60-homer years ever led the league, though he did win crowns with “only” 50 and 49 in 2000 and 2002, respectively.
Giancarlo Stanton through Game 131 of 2017: 51 HR
Team Game 131: 8/29 — 1-for-3, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB (1 IBB), 1 SF, 1 K
Two days after becoming the first Marlins player to ever cross the 50-homer plateau, Giancarlo Stanton was at it again. It was a cold, wet night in DC and Max Scherzer had held him hitless the previous day, but Edwin Jackson was no Max Scherzer. In his first at-bat, Stanton went deep for No. 51. Later on, he launched a ball 386 feet in a bid for No. 52, but it died at the left-center-field warning track, so he had to settle for a sacrifice fly.
The Marlins lost, 7-3. They were lousy in 2017, so don’t expect to hear much about in-game heroics from this under-.500 team.
Mark McGwire through Game 131 of 1999: 51 HR
Team Game 131: 8/29 — 0-for-4, 2 BB (1 IBB), 1 K
Mark McGwire had impressively matched his 1998 home run pace with 50 through his first 118 games of ‘99, but this was around when he faltered — by his standards, anyway. McGwire cracked just 5 in his next 20 games, and this was one of those blank nights. John Smoltz held him hitless as the Braves won in 12 innings on Chipper Jones’ homer.
Sammy Sosa through Game 131 of 1999: 55 HR
Team Game 131: 8/31 — 1-for-3, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K
Sammy Sosa was on fire after the ‘99 All-Star break, belting a ridiculous 25 homers in 48 games to bring him to 55 through the end of August. That pace through 131 is only surpassed in MLB history by 2001 Bonds, though a merely adequate September slowed him down. This was Sosa’s 15th and final bomb of August, a ninth-inning shot at old Qualcomm Stadium off Andy Ashby, who shook it off to finish his complete game.
Sammy Sosa through Game 131 of 2001: 52 HR
Team Game 131: 8/28 — 2-for-6, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB (1 IBB), 2 K
Sammy just loved months of absurd homer totals. He famously walloped a record 20 in June of ‘98, hit 15 in August of ‘99 (as noted above), and then smacked 17 in August of ‘01. Remarkably, he was just four homers behind Bonds after this first-inning missile against future teammate Ryan Dempster. Alas, it did not continue.
As a a reminder, here’s how the most familiar big-homer seasons fared through 131 games, with Madison’s excerpt on Judge from yesterday included.
Aaron Judge through Game 131 of 2022: 51 HR
Team Game 131: 8/31 — 0-for-2, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 SB
“It was probably asking for too much to see Judge hit a home run in three straight games, but you never know with a slugger this good. Alas, Judge did not manage to do so, working a couple of walks and stealing a base in the ninth inning instead. Judge was the tying run in that instance, but the Yankees couldn’t do anything after he got to second base and dropped another nail-biter.”