Legend has it that after hitting his 60th home run in 1927, Babe Ruth entered the Yankee Stadium clubhouse and exclaimed “Sixty—count ‘em, sixty—let’s see another son of a [gun] top that!”
Well, this past week Aaron Judge—of similar pinstriped persuasion—matched the Bambino and became the sixth member of the 60 Home Run Club. Three of those long balls came via Twins hurlers Cole Sands, Trevor Megill, & St. Paul’s own Louie Varland. This got me thinking about how Minnesota pitchers of yore fared against other muscled members of that club:
- Babe Ruth (60 HR in 1927): While technically not existing as a franchise in the Roaring Twenties, the Twins’ forerunners—the Washington Senators—were and surrendered eight Ruthian blasts, including #60 off Tom Zachary.
- Roger Maris (61 HR in 1961): In the first year of “Twins proper”, the new MN club spotted the Hibbing-born, North Dakota-raised Maris 4 home runs—two off Pedro Ramos, and one each from Ed Palmquist and Camilo Pascual.
- Mark McGwire (70 HR in 1998; 65 HR in 1999): In that magical—at least at the time—’98 season, Big Mac tagged Mike Trombley once. Funny enough, Gary Gaetti was on base at the time. Fun fact: future Twin Carl Pavano—then a Montreal Expo—actually coughed up McGwire’s final blast that year. In ‘99, the Mac Attack again struck Minnesota just once—and again Trombley was the unlucky recipient of the blow.
- Sammy Sosa (66 HR in 1998; 63 HR in 1999; 64 HR in 2001): Slammin’ Sammy had escalating success against MN pitching. While chasing McGwire in ‘98, he homered off noted TV wordsmith LaTroy Hawkins. In ‘99, Bob Wells & Eric Milton saw his hop-skip out of the batter’s box. Sosa’s ‘01 Twins torment was levied in the direction of Brad Thomas, Juan Rincon, & Wells (again).
- Barry Bonds (73 HR in 2001): While eclipsing McGwire and making fans think “hey, wait a second here...”, Bonds didn’t benefit from Twins pitching. In fact, he hit just one career ding-dong against Minnesota—off Joe Mays in 2003.
I can’t help but cheer for Judge. Despite playing for the team everyone loves to hate, he is controversy-free, looks the part, is ahead of closest competitors by margins not seen since the Babe, and seems like a big kid—always a big smile—playing the game. While baseball does not (sadly) have a grip on the sporting public like in 1998 or 2001, I hope fans are able to appreciate Judge’s dominance—especially in an offensive environment as low as baseball has ever experienced.
I can’t help but think that despite his ‘27 exultations, the Sultan of Swat would not have minded this company...