Aaron Judge hit his 50th home run of the season off Trevor Cahill in the seventh inning of the Yankees 11-3 win over the Royals on Monday afternoon, passing Mark McGwire’s rookie record set back in 1987.
“It’s been an incredible ride this whole year,” Judge said after the game. “I can’t thank my teammates enough, this organization for putting me in this position. I’m blessed to be here, blessed to get a chance to play this game everyday, so it’s an incredible feeling.”
Judge had hit number 49 four innings earlier off Jakob Junis.
McGwire hit three homers late in 1986 before bursting on the scene 30 years ago. Judge hit his first career homer in his first at-bat on August 13, 2016, the day after Alex Rodriguez played in his final game. Then Judge hit another the next day. He would finish the season with four.
The hope for the Yankees is that Judge will lead the franchise into a new dynasty along with Sanchez and Bird, two teammates who also homered on Monday.
Judge made his first career curtain call after home run number 50, which was followed by Sanchez’s homer. Judge joked in a press conference that he might need to take them more often.
Sadly for any fans with thoughts of selling the ball, Judge got it back. “I’ll probably give it to my parents,” Judge said. “Especially all the sacrifices they made for me throughout the years.”
The team has arrived ahead of most people’s schedules, as they will be in the 2017 playoffs. And a major reason is Judge’s performance.
“It really is incredible,” Joe Girardi said. “I think we’ll appreciate it more when we have a chance to sit down and think about what he’s done this year.”
McGwire’s arrival made the A’s into contenders along with Jose Canseco. Oakland would win three straight AL pennants from 1988-90, and add a division title in 1992, with the highlight being a four-fan sweep if the Giants in the 1989 World Series.
After four in April, McGwire hit 15 homers in May 1987. Five came against the Yankees. He homered in three consecutive games, with blasts off Tim Stoddard, Dennis Rasmussen and Charles Hudson. McGwire came to the Bronx and twice homered off Tommy John on the final day of May.
Judge’s first home run was vital. The Yankees were 1-4 and were trailing 3-2 in the eighth when Judge tied the game with a shot off Mychal Givens. The Bombers went on to win 7-3 and were on their way to a 38-23 start.
Judge hit 10 homers in April, including two in one game against the Orioles in which the Yankees erased an eight-run deficit. He hit seven more in May.
After June 1987, McGwire had 28 homers. After June 2017, Judge had 27.
McGwire hit nine more in July. His 37th came off Don Sutton and tied Al Rosen’s American League Rookie record.
Judge went to Miami and won the home run derby although he would face a two month swoon, hitting a combined 10 runs in July and August.
McGwire only hit three homers in August. His 38th of the season came off Seattle’s Mike Moore. Number 39 was off Sutton, and gave McGwire the new rookie record, passing Wally Berger and Frank Robinson.
Judge also hit three homers in August, including two against the Mets. One was off Robert Gsellman at Citi Field, going 457 feet.
McGwire finished with nine home runs in September. His 48th home run set an A’s record, passing Reggie Jackson’s 1969 mark of 47. Jackson was playing with Oakland in 1987, his last season in the majors. Jackson has talked about how he thought Judge’s power reminded him of past sluggers.
Number 49 for McGwire came off current Red Sox manager John Farrell.
Judge has been on fire in September, hitting 13 home runs. There was a two-homer game in Texas. Another two-homer game against the Orioles. And yet another two-homer game in Toronto on Sunday, in which he hit numbers 47 and 48.
Then numbers 49 and 50 on Monday against Kansas City, meaning Judge has homered against every AL opponent this season.
There’s no telling how Judge’s career will play out. McGwire would pass his rookie total four times in his career, including 70 in 1998. His .289 batting average was one of the highest of his career. And his 161 hits would be his career-high. McGwire won Rookie of the Year and finished sixth in the MVP voting.
Judge leads the league in walks with 119. He also leads with 203 strikeouts. Judge has also stolen eight bases this season, as compared to the 12 McGwire stole in his entire career.
Judge will win Rookie of the Year although Jose Altuve might stand between him and the MVP award.
And there are still six games left for Judge to extend his rookie record.
Of course the Yankees will be in the playoffs, and it’s virtually guaranteed that the Wild Card game will be in the Bronx.
But today is about Judge hitting 49 and 50. “It’s extraordinary,” Judge said about joining other Yankees legends at the 50-homer milestone. “Just getting a chance to play one game with the Yankees is quite an honor.”