Aaron Judge got it done. He is the king of the American League home run. In a Yankees uniform, no doubt, besting his teammate of yesteryear, Roger Maris.
Maris set the American League single-season record of 61 in 1961, supplanting his own teammate of yesteryear, Babe Ruth.
Judge hit his 62nd longball of 2022 Tuesday against the Texas Rangers.
“I’ve got to thank God for putting me in this position and getting me to where I’m at, the constant support from my family and friends who’ve been with me through it all, coaches from Little League, high school, college that have been here instructing me and helping me out through this whole thing,” Judge told the MLB Network.
Interestingly, Maris’ 1961 season was an anomaly. He wasn’t a prolific home-run hitter. His feat is one for the baseball conspiracy theorist.
But there was a hitter in the 1930s and ’40s who could go yard at any time.
Hank Greenberg and home run history
The famed Detroit Tiger slugger Hank Greenberg. Revisionist history would probably register him as the record holder in 2022. Like Ted Williams, World War II skewed and impacted his career stats.
In 1938, Greenberg went yard 58 times. The superstar high school athlete — ironically from the Bronx — could have logged a few more at-bats — possibly surpassing Babe Ruth’s record of 60 — if it wasn’t for his World War II service. Greenberg jacked 41 dingers in 1940, and then it was off to military training.
Greenberg started his military stint in the spring of 1941, hitting two home runs the day before he reported for active duty. Due to a new law mandating that men older than 28 years of age were not to be drafted, he was discharged on Dec. 5, 1941. But Greenberg enlisted in the Army Air Corps shortly after the invasion of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
The Hall-of-Famer was commissioned as a first lieutenant, serving in the China-Burma-India Theater. He received his discharge on June 14, 1945, and was back in the Tigers’ lineup on July 1, immediately homering.
Greenberg’s final career hit came on Sept. 15, 1947, and you can probably deduce what it was.
Perhaps if Greenberg was active in those years, he might have established a mark above 62 home runs. It seems plausible, considering his longball prowess. And Greenberg, who played less than 10 full seasons, struck out much less than Judge (plate appearance to strikeout ratio).
Like Maris, Judge’s home run stats are a bit incongruous. And Greenberg’s home run patterns are more similar to Barry Bonds, the single-season home run record holder (73).
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The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Greenberg was Jewish and experienced antisemitism during his career. In ’38, he was chasing Ruth’s mythical 60 home runs, and a 2017 MLB.com article postulated that Greenberg’s Jewish ethnicity might have been a factor in why he didn’t eclipse the 60-home run record that year.
“The most intriguing anecdote revolves around the suggestion that opposing teams conspired to keep him from breaking Ruth’s record simply because of his beliefs … Those suspicions apparently picked up steam in September when Greenberg started the month by being walked 11 times in eight games,” the MLB.com article stated.
The article added that Greenberg dismissed this theory.
Whether it was military service, conspiracies or skill set is moot. And though it’s kind of cool to think that Greenberg could have been the American League home run king, reality tells us the moment and record belong to Judge.Read comments