Who cares if 62 isn’t a real record?

Sixty-two, as much as anything else, was a reprieve. A bunch of guys hit their 62 homers in a season, but nobody’s ever stuck on 61 for a whole week, and Aaron Judge might be remembered for that. The gap between 60 and 61 had been even longer, but Judge had still looked caged back then: he walked and made solid contact and was generally avoided by pitchers. He was visibly pushing during that mini-drought: swinging and missing balls from his wheelhouse and puffing out his cheeks on putouts for even the slightest public admission of frustration. Six days had passed since 61. It felt a lot longer, the time lengthened by all the live look-ins, all the promises it took this guy or that guy to get another appearance as a judge in this inning or that game. It all added up to hyperconsciousness. It was impossible at all times not to know where Judge was, when he was coming up, and how many home runs he was stuck on. With two games remaining in the regular season, it looked entirely plausible that he would be the guy stuck.

Tuesday night in Texas he got one. Sixty-two.

“Oh, that’s a huge relief,” Judge said after the game. “I think everyone could probably just sit in their seats and watch the ballgame now.” I think given that this was the largest crowd in the young history of the Rangers ballpark, and while it didn’t necessarily look like a Yankees home crowd, it certainly sounded like it, they probably weren’t that attached to the rest of the park interested ball game. (Rangers won 3-2.)

Extremely boring quote, this is the closest Judge has ever admitted to pressuring himself, but it was there. The pressure of a chase — record or not, the attention is real and impossible to ignore, and once an athlete starts consciously thinking about what they’re doing it becomes that much harder to do — has broken some men, even these ones who survived. Roger Maris’ hair came out in tufts at the end of his 1961 season. Mark McGwire took PEDs in 1998, he claimed, not to hit home runs, just to stay healthy and in the lineup every night. Hitting several dozen home runs in a year is a difficult thing, and even harder when you’re trying. It’s worth celebrating.

How much celebration the sign of the judge deserves is debatable. Did we really need to center the sports world around a guy trying to do something Sammy Sosa had already done three times? Do we really call it historic when someone moves up to seventh place on a leaderboard? The “AL record” thing is obviously a euphemism, reflecting a generational gap between the steroid scolds and those who remember how goddamn cool the summer of 1998 was.

I’ve said my part about it – home runs are fun, and home run chases are fun, and I’m content to engage in the excitement of Judge’s chase without thinking too much about what he’s chasing or not chasing, and by all means I’d rather be the person who enjoys a rush of things than the smart guy who proudly declares it’s not worth getting upset about, and I’m also a dirty, unrepentant Yankees fan Naturally I enjoy that – but I can understand the other side. Therefore, in the interest of instilling fan peace, I’ll try to put together a non-exhaustive list of things that are undeniably good about home run #62 that we can all agree on. Please add your own.

• Zack Hample didn’t get it.

• We must never see or hear from Roger Maris Jr. again.

• We must all remember how badly 1998 reigned.

• Bob “Ansel Adams” Nightengale was there to capture the moment for posterity. Put that up in Cooperstown, baby:

• The dreaded Tom Ley had to spend a whole week taunting me and asking if I would “cry” if Judge didn’t hit out.

• No one had to pretend that Gerrit Cole, who broke Ron Guidry’s strikeout record in a single season with the Yankees, should touch us.

• Frankie Lasagna.

• This little slapfight:

• People are talking about baseball! On sport Center and everything!

• God, imagine if it was something like an Astros player.

• The Yankees have bet against their best and most popular player and will either have to pay up front to keep him or could very well lose him.

• It made my mother very happy.

https://defector.com/aaron-judge-who-cares-if-62-isnt-a-real-record/ Who cares if 62 isn’t a real record?

John Verrall

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