Fans got what they wanted at Globe Life Field last night. They came to see slugger Aaron Judge hit his 62nd home run, and he delivered.
Just like in a courtroom, the 38,832 fans in attendance all rose when the Yankee outfielder came to the plate in the first inning to face the Rangers’ Jesus Tinoco. Judge sent Tinoco’s third pitch, an 88mph slider, 391 feet over the left field wall. The fans erupted. Judge-ment day had finally arrived.
Earlier in the day, the 30,533 fans who had come to the first game of a very rare double-header, left disappointed at having not witnessed history. They even booed when Judge grounded out in his final at bat in the ninth.
Because it was a split double-header, the stadium was cleared of fans following the first game. A new crowd was then ushered in about 90 minutes before the start of the second game.
They didn’t have to wait long to witness history as Judge hit his record-breaking home run five minutes into the game, surpassing former Yankee Roger Maris’ record of 61 home runs 61 years ago.
The ball landed in Seat 3, Row 1, Section 31 in the lower deck, where it was caught by Rangers fan Cory Youmans of Dallas, who was immediately surrounded by Rangers security and escorted through the ballpark concourse to get the ball authenticated. It was marked with “C13” for authentication purposes. Every time Judge came to bat after that, the home plate umpire was given a new set of baseballs with the authentication mark.
Following the game, Judge faced a horde of reporters, the majority from New York and nationwide, in the Rangers’ media interview room. Also present were his parents, Patty and Wayne Judge, who adopted baby Aaron the day after he was born in 1992.
“There was definitely a little pressure, but I tried to enjoy it,” Judge said of his pursuit that began on April 13, when he hit his first home run of the season off the Blue Jays’ Jose Berrios in Yankee Stadium.
When he hit Tinoco’s pitch, Judge said he had a good feeling off the bat.
“I just didn’t know where it was going to land or what it was going to hit,” he said. “There was a good sense of relief once I saw it in that fan’s glove.”
While he acknowledged that he would like to have the ball, he said that it is a souvenir for the fan “who made a great catch and has every right to it.”
When I asked Judge what he knew about Tinoco, whom he was facing for the first time in his career, he mentioned the pitcher’s nasty sinker and equally nasty slider.
“When I found out he was starting and saw what he did the night before,” Judge told me, “I’m thinking this isn’t a good match to start the game with a guy with that kind of velocity. Let me go out there and see what happens.”
And what happened will be talked about for years to come
Meanwhile, Tinoco, who gave up the historic home run, said, “It’s part of the game. I am always going to compete and challenge the batter. I am a pitcher. I competed. He hit it. I congratulate him.”
Also congratulating Judge was Rangers interim manager Tony Beasley.
“My hat goes off to him,” Beasley said. “He earned it. He got a pitch he could handle. This is a huge moment in baseball. We have to respect that.”
The 30-year-old Judge, who was already in the Rangers record books for hitting the last home run at Globe Life Park, the Rangers’ old home, got congratulatory messages from many celebrities, including Hall of Famer Derek Jeter and President Joe Biden.
“It is really a great honor,” Judge said.
Ironically, there is something about the number 9. It was worn by Roger Maris, and Judge wears 99. They both play right field, which in the baseball score book is position No. 9.
On the night that No. 99 hit home run number 62, the Yankees’ season record was 99 wins and 62 losses.
By the way, the Rangers won the game 3-2, snapping a seven-game losing streak. Few will remember that, but we all will remember the historic home run hit at Globe Life field that night.
Ozzie Garza has been writing about the Rangers for more than 20 years and is a frequent contributor to the Fort Worth Weekly.