In 1962, Roger Maris was coming off his record-breaking season and back-to-back American League MVP awards.
After more than doubling his salary (from $32,000 to $70,000) and knocking off Babe Ruth as the home run champ, Maris went into ‘62 with tempered expectations.
And according to Maris’ son, Aaron Judge should have a similar mindset.
“Dad realized he was never gonna do what he did in 1961 again,’’ Roger Maris Jr. said. “That year was an anomaly. I think Aaron realizes that, too. It’s not that he’s not capable of doing it, but you have to understand it was an amazing year and you can’t go to the park expecting to hit home runs.”
Following the pursuit of the record and the spotlight lingering throughout the offseason, a repeat performance is even more difficult.
“ took a lot out of him,’’ Maris Jr. said of his father. “Not just the season, but when it ended, he went through what Judge has gone through. There’s a lot of demands on your time and then you turn around and have to get started again.’’
Maris went on to hit 33 homers and drive in 100 runs, as the Yankees won their second consecutive World Series title.
If the Yankees have the same kind of success, Maris Jr. said, Judge’s home run total won’t matter as much.
“If Aaron didn’t want the pressure, he wouldn’t have come back to New York,’’ Maris Jr. said of Judge resigning with the Yankees on a nine-year, $360 million contract this offseason. “But even with him being named captain, he knows the pressure of New York is not going to get worse than last year. If he does what he’s been doing, plays winning baseball and they win, it doesn’t matter if he hits 20 home runs, no one is going to care. It’s only when you don’t win. He needs to focus on winning a championship.”
One obstacle Judge likely won’t have to contend with – that Maris did – is the displeasure of the fans.
“Aaron is revered in New York,’’ Maris Jr. said. “Dad wasn’t revered for doing what he did. His problem was people didn’t want to see him get the record. He came back in ‘62 and had to deal with that and the press. It stayed with him the rest of his time in New York.”
While Maris Jr. said his father “loved playing in New York, the team, winning, the pressure and the spotlight,” the media attention “wore on him.”
But Maris Jr. noted Judge got a taste of some fans’ wrath last October.
“It’s night and day when it comes to the fans with my dad and Aaron, but even Aaron got booed in the playoffs a little bit.”
That won’t be an issue if Judge produces – even at a slightly lower level – and the Yankees win.
“Where Judge and dad are similar is in how they approach the game,’’ Maris Jr. said. “Dad always wanted to be the best teammate he could be to help the team win. He felt his athleticism and his focus would take care of his performance and everything else would come. It was more about making winning plays. He knew if he did well, the team probably would, too, and that takes pressure off you. For Judge, it’s the same thing.”
Maris ended up being an All-Star for the final time in 1962 before a back injury sidelined him for long stretches in the second half of 1963.
He rebounded with a solid year in 1964, but was hampered by injuries in ‘65 and ‘66 before being traded to St. Louis prior to the 1967 season, hitting just 35 homers over his final four seasons.