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New York Yankees superstar Aaron Judge has hit his 61st home run in a season, more than any Major League Baseball player in two decades and good enough to tie an American League record set there more than six decades old.
The record hit came from a full pitch in the seventh inning of Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays, hovering over the left field fence.
The judge’s home run equals the AL’s enduring record, which was set by Yankee Roger Maris in 1961. The milestone persisted even through baseball’s “steroid era” of the late 1990s and the early 2000s when performance-enhancing drugs were common and other home run records. fell left and right. (Before this season, the player closest to breaking the AL record was Alex Rodriguez, who hit 57 HR as a Texas Ranger in 2002. Rodriguez later admitted to using steroids that year.)
In the 61 years since Maris set the record, his mark has been erased six times by three different players. This includes the all-time single-season record, set at 73 by Barry Bonds in 2001.
But all three – Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire – have played in the National League, leaving the record open for American League players ever since.
Judge has seemed like a contender to break the record since the start of his career, when he homered in his very first MLB game and became the first rookie to clear 50 HRs. But he struggled with injuries for several seasons thereafter.
Now, at 30, Judge is enjoying a resurgence: He has more home runs, more hits and more RBIs than any previous season, and his .314 batting average is the highest of all time.
The judge has maybe 26 more trips to the plate to break the record. The Yankees have seven games remaining to be played before the end of the regular season early next month.