Maris Jr. Not Emotional During Judge’s Historic Slugfest of 2022
Roger Maris Jr. was hoping for New York Yankees' slugger Aaron Judge to break the American League single-season home run rercord in the Bronx in 2022.
"I am not an emotional person at all. I try to live in the moment. I don't try to live in or dwell on things that have already happened," said Maris earlier this week in an exchange of emails.
Roger Maris, a former Yankee who collected two MVP awards while wearing pinstripes for seven seasons during the 1960's, earned the home run record in 1961. On the last day of the season, on October 1, during his second at-bat of the game between the Yankees and Boston Red Sox, Maris clubbed his 61st round-tripper off of rookie pitcher Tracy Stallard.
Babe Ruth, also as a Yankee in 1927, set a new American League record for home runs with 60.
61 years later Judge stands alone as the American League single-season home run king.
As Judge came closer to Maris' record, Roger Jr. became increasingly interested in the game of baseball again.
"The 2022 season definitely had me following more baseball than usual. Judge hit 13 home runs in July and started out August with a home run to put him on pace to hit 67 home runs for the season," explained Maris Jr.
Maris Jr. tells it was at that point he started following Judge and the Yankees every game.
"I was thinking it was going to be 1998 all over again, and we are going to see dad's record broken. I thought how ironic this would be that we are going to possibly witness dad's home run record get surpassed in New York after watching McGwire do it in St. Louis."
During Maris' dozen years in pro ball, his final two seasons (1967 & 1968) were with the Cardinals.
Maris Jr. doesn't hesitate when sizing up Judge's talents. He strongly feels that Judge was PED-free, and if he were to break the record, Maris believed that the Yankee captain should be recognized as the major league single-season home run champ.
After Judge had broken the record, Maris Jr. had much to think about. Flying home to Florida after a 15-day trip which included 12 games in two different countries (Judge hit his 61st home run in Toronto), he knew that that the previous two weeks had been incredible.
"I saw the Yankees clinch the East. I got to spend time with so many great people from the Yankees family; baseball royalty. To be present when Aaron tied dad's record in Toronto was amazing. Getting to meet Aaron and spend time with he and his family was special. I was also thinking that it was unfortunate that Aaron didn't hit 62 in New York. I know that I wanted it to happen in the "Big Apple". Hitting 62 in New York would have been a crazy time."
Maris Jr. was thinking that Judge would break the record while the Yankees were playing in Texas. Time was running out. Hitting a home run is arguably the hardest thing to do in baseball, espcially if that is what you are trying so hard to do.
For the Maris family, having their dad, grandfather, and uncle back in baseball headlines brought about a renewal of understanding just how important a player the former Yankee is remembered as.
"For the grandchildren it was a chance to have them realize what a big deal their grandpa's record was, and how big of a media event it must have been for him, when he hit his 61st. They have all heard and read stories about the 1961 season but to see it all unfold during the 2022 season that was something they won't forget."
Maris Jr. says that since both Judge and Giancarlo Stanton entered the American League he has followed their careers. He felt that the record would be broken by one of them if not both at some point.
"Following Aaron during the 2022 season and rooting for him to give dad's record his best shot was something that gave me mixed emotions. I felt that is Dad's record was to be broken that it would be great is it was a Yankee ; someone who played right field, wore number 99, and played the game the right way."
Speaking as a son, first, then as a baseball fan, Maris Jr. admits that it was hard to see Roger's record broken.
Judge hit his 62nd home run in Arlington, Texas' Globe Life Field against right hander Jesus Tinoco on October 4, 2022.
Roger Maris passed in 1985.
Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter from the Mohawk Valley, now living in Florida. He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted via email at Don@icechipsdiamonddust.com.