It was just a little past 10:30 at the new Yankee Stadium, on Aaron Judge’s side of 161st St., when Judge hit No. 60 to left field off a Pirates reliever named Wil Crowe, and the Stadium, the capital of baseball history, had now seen more. And in this moment, nearly 100 years after Babe Ruth first hit 60 as a Yankee, as Judge gets ready now to take his swing at Roger Maris’ all-time Yankee mark of 61, somehow this became all the times in the last 100 years when the Yankee looked and felt like the biggest baseball team in the world. All because of the man with the biggest number any Yankee has ever had, No. 99.
Judge has been on this remarkable tear since the middle of July, this two-month tear when it sometimes seemed as if he were hitting a home run every single day and sometimes more than that, when it seemed as if nobody could get him out, and sometimes seems as if he was all the Yankees had.
This was a stretch of baseball when Judge looked as dominant and dangerous as any hitter the Yankees have ever had. He was Ruth and he was Mickey Mantle in his Triple Crown MVP year of 1956. He was Roger Maris in ‘61, when he was the one to catch and pass The Babe, even if he didn’t do it as quickly as Aaron Judge has done it in a season full of magic and thunder.
It would have been a night to remember at the Stadium even if the Yankees had lost to the Pirates, because of No. 60. But the Yankees were not going to lose to the Pirates. That was not the way the story was going to be written on this night. Because after Judge’s home run brought the Yankees to within 8-5, the Yankees seemed to load the bases in a blink after that, loaded the bases with nobody out. Then Giancarlo Stanton – who had come within one home run of 60 when he was with the Marlins in 2017, before he got to New York – hit a walk-off grand slam to win the game 9-8 for the Yankees. Another big guy doing that. Making a dramatic swing of his own.
These two big men, 6-6 and 6-7. Big swings from them. Big night. Best of the whole season. One of those Yankee Stadium moments that seemed to have been written in the stars. It all started with their biggest star, in all ways, Aaron Judge, hitting No. 60 over the left field wall.
The Yankees did feel as much like the Yankees in that bottom of the 9th as they have in a long time, and that includes everything they did in compiling that 64-28 record going into the All-Star Break, and looking for all the world as if they really were halfway to the Canyon of Heroes. Great things can still happen in that place, the way they always have, on either side of 161st St.
Now there are three Yankees in history who have gotten to 60: First it was Ruth in 1927 when hi ’27 Yankees became part of the permanent language of baseball, when that was how you measured greatness in baseball. They were the frame of reference. You said somebody was playing or acting like the ‘27 Yankees. Then came Roger Maris to hit 61 in ‘61. Now 61 years later, here comes Aaron Judge. He gets to 60 and now there is no telling how many he can hit between now and the last day of the regular season.
“He hit his 60th,” Paul O’Neill, the old Yankee star, said on the television broadcast. “I never thought I’d get to see that.”
The same year Stanton was hitting 59 for the Marlins, Judge set the all-time rookie record for home runs by hitting 52 for the Yankees, before Pete Alonso came along to hit one more than that for the Mets. There were too many seasons shortened by injuries after that, and you wondered if 52 was the most he would ever hit. Only now comes this kind of home run season for Judge, when he has hit 20 more home runs, exactly, than his closest competition in baseball, because Kyle Schwarber hit No. 40 for the Phillies last night. That is some season. And Judge has seen him his 40, and raised him 20 more. No. 60 last night in the bottom of the ninth, bottom of summer at Yankee Stadium.
It is the season when a giant of a ballplayer has taken his place with giants like Ruth and Maris and of course The Mick, who twice hit more than 50 in his career, once in that Triple Crown year of ‘56, then in ‘61 when he got to 54 and then watched Maris keep going.
“At the time, it was just a solo shot in the ninth,” Judge would say of his historic home run later.
“You never imagine as a kid getting mentioned with (Ruth and Maris and Mantle),” he said in the interview room.
“I don’t think about numbers,” he said again.
Everybody else has. He was a Yankee chasing Ruth and Maris, chasing history at Yankee Stadium, where the best baseball history has been made for over 100 years, since Ruth got to New York. Judge was hitting home runs like this in the place where Ruth had once invented the home run in baseball. Aaron Judge didn’t just get to 60 last night. He got to The Babe. Oh, baby. Oh, what a night.