Roger Maris Jr. and his brother Kevin watched Aaron Judge hit his 60th home run from the Steinbrenner suite at Yankee Stadium as guests of the Yankees on Tuesday night.
They were joined by their brother Richard and sister Sandra on Wednesday as Judge came close, but did not tie their late father Roger Maris’ 61-year-old American League and Yankees record of 61 home runs set in 1961.
The family was back on Thursday night as the Yankees opened a four-game series against the Red Sox with Judge sitting on the doorstep of history.
Roger Maris Jr., in a telephone interview on Thursday afternoon, said the family spent time in the Steinbrenner suite with Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman, Joe Torre, Bucky Dent and even Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari, a friend of Cashman’s.
“We got to see everybody with the Yankees and their organization,” he told Newsday.
Well, not everybody. Maris Jr. said he has never met Judge and that the siblings plan to hold off doing so until if and when Judge ties or passes their father’s record.
“We don’t want to be a distraction,” Maris Jr. said. “We told the Yankees that we’d rather just meet him after he does it. There’s no sense in trying to get in his way of what he’s trying to do. Once he does what he does, I think we’re all going to get together at that point in time. Prior to that, no point in being a distraction. The Yankees asked us if we wanted to go on the field or the clubhouse, dugout, whatever, but we’d just as soon let him do his thing and enjoy his run and not be any kind of distraction.”
Judge’s 60th was not only one for the history books as he tied Babe Ruth’s 1927 total that was eclipsed by Maris 34 years later. It also started an improbable Yankees rally.
The Yankees were trailing the Pirates by four runs when Judge led off the ninth with a majestic home run to left. Four batters later, Giancarlo Stanton gave the Yankees a 9-8 victory with a walk-off grand slam.
“That was just a crazy night, period,” Maris Jr. said. “The way the whole thing went down. That whole game, and then for him to hit his 60th and start that big rally and the game to finish the way it did, I don’t know how many games in Yankee Stadium have been that exciting and had that much action in them. That was pretty much about the pinnacle in what you can see when you want to go in the baseball game.”
On Wednesday, Judge came close to No. 61. He lined a fifth-inning ground-rule double into the leftfield corner that one-hopped the fence just inside the foul pole. The sellout crowd of 46,175 and everyone in the Steinbrenner suite thought the low line drive had a chance off the bat. (Judge said he knew it didn’t.)
For Maris Jr., it was a flashback to Sept. 8, 1998, when Mark McGwire hit a low line drive at Busch Stadium in St. Louis that did have enough juice – pun intended – to squeak over the leftfield fence for his 62nd home run.
“Actually thought that was going to be a ditto of the McGwire 62, the way it went off the bat and went out there so fast,” Maris Jr. said. “But it didn’t have enough lift on it.”
Maris Jr. said the family plans to attend the entire series against the Red Sox if needed to see Judge make history. The Yankees play in Toronto on Monday.
If Judge is still at 60 after Sunday night, “I think we’ll play it by ear,” Maris Jr. said. “I would be shocked if he doesn’t do it before then. Not an easy feat, obviously. We’ll see what happens. But the way he’s hitting the ball, seeing the ball, it’s just a matter of if he could just get underneath it and get the launch angle and it’s gone.”