In baseball, epicness is a matter of numbers.
Few sports in America are so obsessed with statistics.
The last nights in the baseball league prove it, in which Aaron Judge, the star ballplayer of the New York Yankees, was chasing a historic record set in the fall of 1961. The long-awaited brand has arrived this Wednesday night.
At age 30, Judge has hit his 61st home run, matching the mark set by another legendary Yankee, Roger Maris.
Yearbooks will date the feat Judge has done in a sport that has only seen five players hit 60 home runs in a season.
It was a long wait for sports fans.
Judge, a power hitter who plays right field, spent several days hunting for the mark.
But no one wanted to be the pitcher who hit a historic home run.
He didn't make it against the Pirates, one of the worst teams in the league, the MLB;
nor against the Boston Red Sox, staunch rivals of the Yankees.
This one came with the Toronto Blue Jays, the only team in the competition that plays in Canada.
The 61st came with a ball coming off the arm of reliever Tim Mayza.
Judge's career had caused a real furore.
Every time he visited the batter's box, the game was delayed a few seconds because the umpires had to change balls.
Since he hit his 60th home run on Sept. 20, the league has mandated that Judge be pitched only specialty balls.
These were regulations, but they were marked with a secret system that will allow validating the ball that has ended up in the hands of a fan.
This one has in his hands a treasure of one of the favorite sports of the Americans.
And it is a very valuable treasure, as baseball collectibles prove.
The mark took eight games to arrive.
The network that broadcasts the Yankees reported that the hunt for Judge increased ratings.
Against the Pirates, the YES channel scored the best viewership since 2018. The number of viewers that have been plugged into the games this season has grown 23% compared to 2021. Judge passed more than 30 times at bat since he connected the home run 60. What he had the most were walks, they were 12, 38% of his offensive appearances.
This was an increase from the 15% he recorded in previous matches.
The expectation was also able to with the ticket prices.
Thousands of fans flocked to the scalping in recent games hoping to get a seat in the stadium to witness home run 61. The favorite area, in Yankee Stadium, was in the bleachers behind the outfield, where it is more likely to catch one of the balls coming out of the diamond.
A pair of tickets in this area sold for as much as $1,132, according to resale site SeatGeek.
The last tickets in those sections were on sale Thursday for $500, five times the average price to see the Bronx Bombers.
Judge now heads a list of illustrious men in baseball.
Tied with Maris with 61 homers, he trails legends like Babe Ruth, who held the record in three seasons (1920, 1927 and 1928), Mickey Mantle, Hank Greenberg and Jimmie Foxx.
All of them members of the Hall of Fame.
More recently, Ken Griffey Jr., from Seattle, who managed to connect 56 home runs in two consecutive seasons (1997 and 1998), slipped into the select group of the American league.
Since 2000, only three players have hit more than 54 home runs: David
Ortiz (2006), Alex Rodríguez (2002 and 2007) and José Bautista, in 2010.
Roger Maris, left, poses with Sal Durante, who caught the player's 61st home run on Oct. 1, 1961.AP
Judge is closing out a dream season.
He not only touches the Olympus of baseball with his brand, but he is the favorite to be the best player of the season.
He leads in home runs, runs and RBIs, in addition to other records.
If he also achieves the first position in batting average, this campaign will be marked by what is known as the triple crown, a feat that no player has achieved since 2012. The Yankees qualified last week, for the sixth consecutive year, to the postseason after defeating Boston.
The mark matched by Judge has a nuance.
It only represents the players of the American league, created 121 years ago.
In the other league, the national league, the home run record is even higher.
It's in the hands of Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, two players whose reputations are tarnished by the anabolic scandal that rocked MLB at the turn of the 20th century, dealing a blow to the credibility of one of America's most beloved sports. Only Bonds, McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Maris, Babe Ruth and Aaron Judge have hit 60 home runs in the history of the sport.
Although a banned substance since 1991, the league authorities only started doping tests for steroids in 2003. This is why the national league record has a big asterisk on it.
Albert Pujols borders on legend
The 2022 season has left an offense to remember.
In addition to Judge's mark, there is another future Hall of Famer who has made history this year (to be a member you must have played at least ten seasons and be retired five years).
Dominican Albert Pujols got his 699th and 700th balls out of the park on Friday night. The veteran player, one of the most respected in the league after 21 seasons, joins the exclusive 700 home run club.
It's a milestone that only three people have reached before him: Barry Bonds, with 762;
Hank Aaron, with 755 and Babe Ruth, with 714. Pujols also has 3,000 hits, something only Atlanta Braves legend Aaron shares.
Unlike Judge, who has several years to go, Pujols is in the twilight of his career.
At 42, he has said this is his last year in MLB, a career he started with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2001, where he was rookie of the year.
This is the same team with which he will bid farewell to baseball after donning the uniforms of Los Angeles and the Dodgers, with whom he homered twice off two different pitchers, Andrew Heaney and Phillip Bikford, in an 11-0 blowout.
The Los Angeles fans, however, gave him a standing ovation in the second largest stadium in the country.
Some voices have tried to convince Pujols to postpone his firing.
Several analysts believe the versatile player, who has held the positions of outfielder, first baseman and third baseman, could overtake Babe Ruth on the home run list if he plays another year.
The hits against the Dodgers represented his 20th and 21st home runs of the season.
An 11-time All-Star, Pujols has a .261 batting average, his best since 2016. In 2006 he hit 49 home runs, but his dream year came three years later, when he led the league in runs and
Mark McGwire, who mentored Pujols when he arrived in St. Louis, believes Pujols is a new version of Hank Aaron, one of the greatest players to ever step on the diamond.
Aaron, like Pujols, never hit more than 50 home runs in a season, but his power in the batter's box is indisputable.
Proof of this is that they are part of the list.
And Albert is also the only Latino in a sport with almost 30% foreigners.
Albert Pujols is applauded at Dodger Stadium after hitting his 700th home run. Ashley Landis (AP)
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