On Wednesday, Aaron Judge hit his 61st home run of the year against the Toronto Blue Jays, setting a 61-year-old Roger Maris single-season record for both the American League and the New York Yankees. Judge recently became the first player to break the 60-home threshold since 2001, when Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa pulled off the feat.
To mark the occasion and celebrate Judge’s brilliant season (it’s possible he could win the Triple Crown), we decided to relive his year-long one-man home run derby by highlighting his 10 most memorable home runs this year. There’s always room for disagreement when it comes to exercises of this nature, but we’ve tried to put together a list that offers something for everyone: historic home runs, giant explosions, key hits, and balls that seem to move at the speed of light.
The home run is in many ways the great unifying religion of this game; come, we say, and join hands, kneeling before the altar of the dinger.
1. No. 61: The judge compares Maris
Date: September 28
Situation: Top seventh; connected; one runner on base
Opponent PitcherCast: Tim Miza, Blue Jays
It had been over a week since Judge hit his 60th home run, but he tied Maris with a hit to left field to break the tie. Statcast measured an exit speed of over 117 mph, making it the hardest home run of the year. Let’s take a look:
2. No. 60: The judge ties up Babe Ruth
Date: September 20
Situation: Bottom ninth; down four; nobody at the base
Opponent PitcherPeople: Wil Crow, Pirates
The referee was clearly sitting on a dead red fastball after he counted to 3-1 and Crowe stayed. To Judge’s credit, he scored by sending the ball deep into left-center field. This home run tied Judge with Babe Ruth for second in single-season history for both the Yankees and the American League. It also kicked off a comeback that saw Giancarlo Stanton end the night with a thrilling Grand Slam.
3. No. 36: The longest of the year
Date: July 22
Situation: Top fifth; up two; nobody at the base
Opponent PitcherPeople: Tyler Wells, Orioles
Judge had already hit a home run once in this game, with Wells in the top of third with a three-time miss. In our opinion, it was the most memorable of the two home runs because it was (and continues to be) the longest of his season. Wells made a 2-1 substitution that turned into Judge’s swing. He got it all by sending the ball about 465 feet into left-center field, where he went through both bullpen.
4. No. 10: First walk
Date: May 10
Situation: Bottom ninth; down two; two on the base
Opponent PitcherCast: Jordan Romano, Blue Jays
It was the first of Judge’s three home runs that season. He trailed Romano 1-2 before feasting on a hanging slider. Judge knew she had left the bat and took a few steps to admire her. A fan sitting in the front row of the second deck did well to get a memento. The win propelled the Yankees to 21-8 in their junior season. The whole summer lay ahead. Times were good, man.
5. No. 28: Bye, Strauss
Date: June 26
Situation: Bottom 10th; connected; corner runners
Opponent PitcherStory by: Seth Martinez, Astros
The referee’s second walk of the season came in a difficult situation. He was trailing 1-0 to Martinez, a hard-hitting right-hander with a low slot who had the shadows working in his favor. Martinez threw a slider that reversed and Judge took full advantage of it. It wasn’t his longest or hardest home run, but he quickly got to the Astros’ bullpen in left center for the win. As a result, the Yankees not only shared their four-game streak with the Astros, but improved their record to 53-20 for the year.
6. No. 39: Barlow Explosion
Date: July 28th
Situation: Bottom ninth; connected; nobody at the base
Opponent PitcherStory by: Scott Barlow, Royals
Judge’s third and final home run. Barlow sent off the previous batter, newly acquired Andrew Benintendi, on four pitches. The referee obviously saw everything he needed to see during that at-bat, jumping on a fastball on the first pitch and smoking it out over the Royals’ bullpen in left center field. The victory improved the Yankees’ record to 67-33. Barlow will also be charged with losing the next game.
7. No. 1: the first of many
Date: April 13
Situation: bottom fifth; down two; nobody at the base
Opponent PitcherCast: Jose Berrios, Blue Jays
The beauty of house chase is that every link in the chain matters. So we had to place Judge’s first home run of the season somewhere. He hit it in the Yankees’ sixth game of the year. Who would have thought that after that he would hit another 60 (and continue to grow)? Accordingly, No. 1 came for the first pitch he saw at that bat. Berrios tossed the lead a little up and a little in, trying to hit it with his hands, but Judge was able to go around him and push him into left field.
8. #15: second deck shot
Date: 22nd of May
Situation: Bottom eighth; down one; nobody at the base
Opponent PitcherStory by: Kendall Graveman
This home run was similar to the one the umpire hit Berrios. With the score at 0-2, Graveman threw a raised lead above the 90s onto the plate and back. That didn’t stop Judge from including him in his second deck. Judge’s home run tied the game, making it one of the most important home runs he hit in terms of added winning probability. Alas, the Yankees lost the final 3-1.
9. No. 41: Big Time
Date: July 29
Situation: Bottom eighth; two ahead; bases loaded
Opponent PitcherStory by: Jackson Kovar
Here we have the most notable of Judge’s two Grand Slams this season. Kovar made a substitution on the first inning that remained. The referee didn’t seem to get it all, but he got enough to move him to the right box. His other Grand Slam, for those who are wondering, happened a few weeks prior against the Pirates left-hander and former teammate Manny Banuelos.
10. #48: (Formerly) Hardest Punch
Date: August 23
Situation: Bottom fourth; connected; nobody at the base
Opponent Pitcher: Taijuan Walker, Mets
Some people like their home runs hitting long, some people like their home runs hitting hard. This is for the second group. The referee smoked a full score sinker on the bottom, inside corner, which cleared the playing field in a hurry. According to Statcast, the official home run exit speed was 115.9 mph.
It remained his heaviest home run of the season to No. 61, as well as his fourth-hardest hit overall.