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If we can remember the last time baseball was the most popular sport in any year, we won’t get past the 1998 season. The race to become the all-time single season home run king was in full effect.
Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire and Ken Griffey Jr. (honorable mention Tino Martinez) were locked in a season long battle for long ball supremacy. McGwire and then eventually Sosa would surpass the record of 61 homers set by Roger Maris (New York Yankees 1961).
McGwire would set a ridiculous mark of 70 long balls. Sosa would hit 66 and take home National League MVP honors. That season is what I call the pinnacle of home runs in the modern era. Accurately named in my opinion because everything was downhill from there.
Home runs started flying out at a cartoon like rate. Soon, the numbers would become so skewed people stopped caring. Soon, home runs became married to steroids. You couldn’t say one word without thinking the other.
I could go in depth about this time but I’d rather fast forward to the present day 2017. For today, home run fever is back.
A Home run Prodigy:
Aaron Judge has captivated fans of baseball from every city. His home runs have eyes glued to every at bat.
The winner of the 2017 Home Run Derby is also the newly crowned Yankees all-time rookie home run record holder. He slapped 30 bombs before the All-Star break.
With every clap of thunder off his bat, we are interested to see how far it travels. Now we are checking box scores to see if the kid hit another one.
With his rate of air mail packages, thoughts of historical home run records start to creep into our minds. Judge has a great chance to catch the all-time rookie home run record of 49 set by the aforementioned McGwire.
Should we dare think about the overall American League record still held by Maris?
There’s no doubt in my mind that we will be paying attention.
I’m not saying he will single handedly bring back every fan of baseball who stopped watching. I’m not saying he will single handedly rid fans of the bad taste they felt in their mouth a decade or so ago.
I’m telling you he’s having a big hand in getting everybody interested in home run numbers again. You might not have to go way back to 1998 to think about a home run race but it’s definitely nowhere near recent.
Judge can hit for power, hit for average and field his position (well too). Those attributes and his number totals should earn him rookie of the year honors.
Aaron Judge sends massive home runs over the fence and that’s what America is tuning in too see. Now tell me when was the last time you could say that?