Hate the Yankees, Love Judge

“Hating” any sports team is purely irrational.  But it is also purely visceral, purely inevitable, purely elemental.  Growing up in Boston as a kid and a baseball fan, my perspective was shaped by the fate of the Red Sox, a team that was often a contender but at most “second best.”  Usually it was the Yankees who were “best.”  The Sox were in the ’46 Series but lost to the Cardinals.  The Sox could have made it a “Subway Series” in ’48 but lost the one-game playoff by starting a dubious journeyman pitcher.  The Sox had a one-game lead in 1949, going into Yankee Stadium for the last two games of the season, and lost them both.  Even the respective heroes, the Yankees’ Joe DiMaggio and the Sox’ Ted Williams, created a contrast between the suave, graceful Yankee outfielder who embodied sprezzatura, and the focused, antisocial Sox slugger who once symbolically spit at all the sportswriters (whom he sneeringly called the “Knights of the Keyboard”) and never tipped his cap to the fans.

So the Yankees were, and remain, the archetypal nemesis.  Why would anybody NOT hate the Yankees?  They had been too good for too long in my formative years.  In the fourteen years between 1949 and 1962 they won the World Series 9 times and lost it thrice.  They won the pennant, then, 12 times in 14 years.  True, times have since altered, and the Yankees have lost the Series twice in this century while the Sox have won it (ahem!) four times.  But consider the league record for the most home runs in a single season.  A New York Yankee has held that record ever since 1920, for one hundred and two years in a row.   And now a new Yankee is about to unseat an older Yankee as the all-time league single-season home run champion.  Since 1901, two Philadelphia Athletics (Nap Lajoie and Socks Seybold) held it for 18 years, and a member of the Red Sox (George H. Ruth) held it for one single lousy season.  Why, once again, would anybody NOT hate the Yankees?

“Here come de Judge!”

And now, to quote Pigmeat Markham’s famous line from “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In,” the hit comedy TV show from the ‘60s, “here come de Judge.”  Aaron Judge, that is.  Yankee slugger extraordinaire, a big guy (6’7”, 282) with a smooth, powerful swing.  With 15 games left, Judge has pulled even with Ruth’s 1927 record of 60 (and has done so within the 154 games Ruth had to work with; Judge will have 162).  The astonishing thing, in this era of swinging for the fences (leading to more overall home runs and more strikeouts), is that Judge surpasses his peers easily.  Second behind his 60 homers in the AL is Yordan Alvarez with 37.  The NL leader is Kyle Schwarber (who was both a Nat and a Red Sox last year) with 40.   Judge has hit half again as many (50% more) as Schwarber.  And while Ruth played in an era when starting pitchers were less accomplished and were seldom removed from games, Judge, along with Schwarber and all his peers, is looking almost exclusively at fresh arms and near-100 m.p.h. “heat” regularly.   As a measure of overall batting prowess, it is notable that Judge leads Schwarber with fewer strikeouts (159 to 183), more walks (93 to 73), and a far better batting average (.316 to .215)!  So what’s not to like?  Aaron Judge is far and away the best slugger in the major leagues this season, and my hat’s off to him!  Even though he is a Yankee.

© Arnold Bradford, 2022

1 thought on “Hate the Yankees, Love Judge

  1. Arn, As always, you offer a good piece of writing. I’ve never heard of Mr. Judge, but now I’ll pay attention to him. Thanks and love 💕 Sandy

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