In 1961, Roger Maris did the unthinkable. He surpassed Babe Ruth as the Major League Baseball (MLB) single-season home run record holder. 61 was his magic number, and this year, 61 was magic again. Exactly 61 years after Maris, New York Yankees’ star outfielder Aaron Judge broke his record, smashing 62 home runs in a single 162-game season. But Aaron Judge is not the MLB record holder; that title, it seems, will forever be held by left fielder Barry Bonds (2001)—no matter how controversial his number 73 may be. Still, Aaron Judge’s season was much more than a career-best.
Just short of winning the triple crown, saying Judge simply set the American League (AL) home run record would be downplaying the most historic season baseball has seen in decades. Finishing only .05 points behind the AL batting champion, Jose Arraez (.316), and 5 RBIs in front of the 2nd place AL finisher Jose Ramirez (126), Aaron Judge has “wins above replacement” (WAR) that is a staggering 1 point higher than 2nd place pitcher and batter Shoei Ohtani (9.6). There was no player in baseball better than Aaron Judge in the 2022 season, and he wasn’t even playing his own position.
The New York Yankees (NYY) only won 99 games in the 2022 MLB season after starting the year as the clear favorite to win. After some rough patches and players who just stopped hitting, Judge was forced to shift over to center field and play a position he hadn’t played since high school. As the great fielder he is, Judge did not skip a beat. Being the most difficult and taxing of all outfield positions, Judge put his body through a more grueling season than ever before. Aaron Judge carried the NYY through their triumphant early-season successes and debilitating mid-season woes. He, once again, was the heart of the Yankees.
Aaron Judge is more than just a player. Regarded as one of the nicest and most selfless guys on the field, Judge took the time to sign hundreds of autographs for kids in Yankee Stadium, and always put the interests of his team before his own. It is no surprise that Judge hit home run number 61 (to tie Maris) the game right after the Yankees officially clinched their playoff spot. The team came first, the historic success came second.
While the regular season has come to an end, and thus Judge’s historic year, baseball fans can look ahead to an offseason that will find Aaron Judge on the market as a free agent. The Yankees, unable to lock down the “big man” (he is 6 '7) in the offseason, will try everything they can, and remain the clear favorite, to bring Judge back to New York. But until he puts those pinstripes on in 2023, who knows where this record player could be making his mark next year.