By Michael Brooks
Editor's note: This column was written the morning before Albert Pujols joined the 700 home run club. Aaron Judge is sitting at 61, with seven games remaining, although there is a possibility the Saturday and Sunday game could get cancelled due to bad weather.
Before anyone starts yelling at me, I know, I know, it’s football season.
Baseball has always been my true sports love. Don’t get me wrong, I like football a lot too, but for me there is just something about the crack of the bat, the blur of the fastball, and the movement on a great breaking pitch that will always amaze me.
However, for the last few years, my interest in baseball has dropped, to where I went from watching every day to only checking the box score the next morning.
Until about a month ago. What changed? Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols. Two superstar players, one in his prime and the other in his 22nd and final major league season.
As I write this on Thursday morning, Judge is one homer shy of tying Roger Maris’ American League record 61 home runs. Pujols, one of the best hitters of my generation, is two homers shy of joining the very exclusive 700 home run club, a feat so rare, only three players in the 146-year history of major league baseball have ever reached it: Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth. By the time you read this, they both may have already hit their milestone big fly.
This brought my interest all the way back. I remember the Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa home run race in 1998 vividly. I was in college and working at The Home Depot. When the ‘98 season advanced to September, everyone wanted to know ‘did either of them homer today?’ They were making announcements over the speakers at Home Depot, when one did hit one. My college roommate and I would call the other if one was at work and give an update (yeah, call not text. Y’all remember the days when you had a text limit and had to pay if you went above your limit—or you could wait and text after 7 p.m.?)
For the last month, I’ve been waking up and checking Google to see ‘did either of them homer today?’
Hopefully by the time you read this, they both will have reached their marks.
Around July, I was talking to a fellow baseball-loving friend (he’s a Yankee, but I put up with it) and I asked if he thought Judge would hit 62 or Pujols would hit 700. At the time, Pujols looked like he would be lucky to get to 690. Judge was on, and is still on, a pace to break the mark, so of course, we both thought Judge.
But then Pujols was granted an honorary place on the Home Run Derby during the All-Star game activities. Everyone was happy to see him get a shot at it one more time. Shockingly, he put on a show, knocking out a heavily favored opponent, Kyle Schwarber, in round one, followed by narrowly losing to Juan Soto—the eventual champ—in round two.
Since that amazing display, Pujols seemed to come alive and suddenly started crushing the ball again like he was his old self.
Now they both should get there.
And I am right there with them, rooting for a Yankee and a Cardinal, just like I rooted for a Cardinal and a Cub over two decades ago.