Home Run Kings
Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols brought baseball fans to their feet this past season with home run after home run.
Harry How/Getty Images, Matt Pearce/UPI/Shutterstock; Composite Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
Side-by-side image shows Aaron Judge on the left and Albert Pujols on the right, both looking up just after batting.
It’s one thing to watch a YouTube video of a celebrated athlete whose career ended long ago. It’s another to witness legends in the making. Two Major League Baseball players racked up home run after home run before the regular season ended on October 5—making a strong case for legendary status.
On October 4, Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees hit his 62nd home run of the season during a game against the Texas Rangers. With that, Judge surpassed the record set by Roger Maris, who played for the Yankees in the 1960s, for the most single-season home runs in the American League. Only three players—Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa—got more home runs in a single season, and they all played in the National League.
Just a few days earlier, Judge had made headlines for home run number 61. The question of whether he would hit another home run hung in the air in the lead-up to the October 4 game. But Judge said he didn’t let the pressure get to him.
“I tried to enjoy every single moment,” Judge told MLB.com. “I didn’t think about, ‘Hey, they’re all on their feet to see you hit a home run.’ I tried to think about, ‘Hey, they’re here to see an exciting ballgame and see something special.’ Having that mindset helped me stay pretty calm, but there was definitely a little pressure in there.”
Amazingly, Judge isn’t the only home run king of the season. Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals hit his 703rd career home run on October 3. The achievement put Pujols fourth on the career home run list, behind Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), and Babe Ruth (714). It was all the sweeter because Pujols will retire after this season.
Pitcher Jordan Montgomery was in a unique position to have witnessed both Judge’s and Pujols’s amazing seasons. Montgomery began the season with the Yankees and was later traded to the Cardinals. Speaking to MLB.com, Montgomery praised Judge and compared Pujols to baseball superstars of the past.
“[He’s like] Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, or Ty Cobb,” Montgomery marveled. “It’s stuff that you’re never going to hear about ever again.”