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The Aaron Judge Home Run Tracker: Game 149

Judge fell feet shy of No. 61 last night, but is still in very good shape.

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 149:

Aaron Judge through Game 149 of 2022: 60 HR

Team Game 148: 9/22 — 0-for-2, 3 BB, 1 K

After Red Sox manager Alex Cora claimed that they would pitch to Aaron Judge this weekend, they promptly walked him three times in his first four plate appearances of the four-game series. Neat! Very cool!

If anything could be more annoying than that, the ninth inning raised a good case. With the game and a playoff berth on the line, Judge crushed an offering from Matt Barnes to dead center, further (404 feet) and harder (113 mph) than any other pitch on the night. It would have been out in 13 of the 30 ballparks. Alas, it died in Kiké Hernández’s glove, and we were all left cursing the Fox Sports camera operators. At least the Yankees walked it off anyway.

Roger Maris through Game 149 of 1961: 56 HR

Team Game 149: 9/15 (1) — 0-for-5, 2 K

Poor Roger Maris was the only position player not invited to the parade at Tiger Stadium. Each hitter aside from Maris and pitcher Whitey Ford got at least one hit in an 11-1 blowout, and each of Yogi Berra and Bill “Moose” Skowron went deep. But Maris remained stuck on 56 homers for the fifth game in a row.

Babe Ruth through Game 149 of 1927: 56 HR

Team Game 149: 9/22 — 1-for-5, 1 HR, 2 RBI

Thirty-four years before Maris, though, Babe Ruth faced the Tigers at the same point in the season and continued his scorching-hot September with another bomb in his attempt to chase down his own record for 59 homers in 1921. He made it an important one too (relatively speaking for a juggernaut already at over 100 wins), as an uncharacteristic choke in the top of the ninth turned a 6-4 Yankees lead into a 7-6 deficit.

With the Yankees down to their last licks, shortstop Mark Koenig atoned for his error in the previous half-inning by leading off with a single. That brought up Ruth as the winning run against right-hander Ken Holloway, and the Bambino launched one to right field for his seventh career walk-off homer in pinstripes.

Barry Bonds through Game 149 of 2001: 64 HR

Team Game 149: 9/22 — 1-for-4, 1 2B, 2 K

With 11 homers, Barry Bonds went yard against the Padres in 2001 more than any other team, but they held him in check for back-to-back games as he crept closer to Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. In wake of Brian Lawrence and company keeping him at 1-for-3 on September 21st, Bobby J. Jones led the way the next day, silencing Bonds after a first-inning double down the right-field line. The Giants scored, but San Diego came back to tie it in the seventh on one of the final hits of Tony Gwynn’s Hall of Fame career. Jeremy Fikac struck Bonds out in the eighth, and Mike Darr walked it off for the Padres in extras with a blast to left-center.

Mark McGwire through Game 149 of 1998: 62 HR

Team Game 149: 9/12 — 0-for-3, 1 BB, 3 K

Big Mac’s mini-drought following No. 62 continued in Game 149, his fourth-straight homerless game. At least this time, it was a prime name shutting him down, as Randy Johnson blew McGwire away with three punchouts. He was a tough cookie like that. St. Louis actually scored twice off the Big Unit in the first, but he blanked them the rest of the way and Houston came back to win it.

Sammy Sosa through Game 149 of 1998: 60 HR

Team Game 149: 9/12 — 2-for-3, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB

Slammin’ Sammy joined McGwire and punched his ticket to the 60-homer club in a truly chaotic ballgame. A Sosa walk began a two-run frame for the Cubs in the second, only to see the Brewers roar back against poor Mike Morgan for eight runs in the third, including homers from a terrific trio of Guys To Be Remembered: Jeromy Burnitz, Geoff Jenkins, and Bobby Hughes (OK, maybe not him).

Milwaukee expanded its lead to 10-2 in the fifth, when Chicago began to chip away. First came a solo shot from José Hernández, and an inning later, Gary Gaetti brought in two with a tater of his own. The Brewers countered with two runs in the seventh, but the eventual MVP Sosa fully brought the Cubs back into the game with a three-run bomb for No. 60:

Yeah, that’s the kind of Ruthian shot that’s worth tying the Babe.

Oh, and as for the rest of this slugfest? Glenallen Hill immediately followed Sosa with a homer to make it back-to-back and 12-9, and Tyler Houston pummeled a solo shot in the eighth to cut Milwaukee’s lead to two. That was the margin in the bottom of the ninth, when Sosa was again the catalyst. He and Hill led off with singles against closer Bob Wickman, and after a Gaetti bunt, Houston tied it up with a two-run single. That set the stage for pinch-hitter Orlando Merced, who had only been picked up on September 5th. The veteran picked a good time for his only Cubbie homer, walking it off to complete the eight-run comeback victory.

Take it from someone who is very familiar with those who were there at the time: 1998 was a special year in Chicago.