It’s not true that Yankees slugger Aaron Judge has a pet ox named Babe. It might be true, however, that he has the strength of a thousand men.
In the year of the home run, the rookie who has hit the most homers and the season’s longest captured the Home Run Derby in impressive fashion, delivering in a pressure-packed first round and then toppling Minnesota’s Miguel Sano in the championship.
With the hometown fans rooting on Miami Marlins sluggers Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Bour, Judge played the role of the heel. The fans good-naturedly booed him in the introductions and then watched Judge take out Bour in a first-round battle for the ages — 23 home runs to 22, the fourth- and fifth-highest totals in Home Run Derby history.
Bour had driven the crowd into a frenzy with his 22-homer round, including a timeout to eat a doughnut stuffed in his mouth by Stanton, followed by a dramatic run of seven home runs in seven swings. Judge went next and required extra time to hit the two home runs needed to beat out Bour.
With Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez upsetting Stanton in the first round, 17 home runs to 16, the fans didn’t get the dream matchup of Stanton versus Judge. They also seemed exhausted after a dramatic first round in which all eight players reached double digits in home runs, with four matchups decided by one home run.
The final two rounds were a little anticlimactic. Judge took out fellow rookie Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers in the semifinals with a round that included three 500-foot home runs, including back-to-back shots of 504 and 513 feet — the longest of the night. Judge then faced Sano in the finals, a meeting of the two players with the highest average exit velocity in the regular season.
Sano went first and hit 10 home runs. Judge then blasted 11 home runs in 15 swings, clinching the title with an upper-deck shot to center field. He still had 1:53 left on the clock.
It is, indeed, the year of the Judge.