In 1962, Roger Maris was coming off his record-breaking season and back-to-back American League MVP awards.
After doubling his salary (from $32,000 to $70,000) and knocking off Babe Ruth as the home run champ, Maurice went into ’62 with angry expectations.
And according to Son of Mars, Aaron Judge must have a similar mindset.
“Dad realized he was never going to 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 realize that it was an amazing year and you hit home runs. Can’t go to the park expecting that.”
After chasing records and retaining the spotlight during the offseason, a repeat performance is even more difficult.
“ Took a lot out of him,” Mars Jr. said of his father. “Not just the season, but when it’s over, what Judge has been through. There are a lot of demands on your time and then you have to go back and start over.”
Mars hit 33 homers and drove in 100 runs, as the Yankees won their second consecutive World Series title.
If the Yankees have that kind of success, Mars Jr. said, Judge’s home run numbers won’t matter.
“If Aaron didn’t want the pressure, he wouldn’t have come back to New York,” Mars Jr. said of Judge resigning from a nine-year, $360 million contract with the Yankees this offseason. “But despite being named their captain, he knows that New York’s pressure isn’t going to get any 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, nobody’s going to care. That’s only when you don’t win. He needs to focus on winning championships.
One hurdle Judge likely won’t have to contend with — which Mars did — is fan resentment.
“Aaron is respected in New York,” Mars Jr. said. “Dad wasn’t respected for what he did. His problem was that 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 for the rest of his time in New York.
While Mars Jr. said his father “loved playing in New York, the team, the wins, the pressure and the spotlight,” the media’s attention “was on him.”
But Mars Jr. noted that Judge got a taste of some fans’ ire last October.
“It’s night and day with my dad and Aaron when it comes to the fans, but even Aaron got a little boost in the playoffs.”
It won’t be a problem if Judge produces — even at a slightly lower level — and the Yankees win.
“Where Judge and Dad are alike is in how they approach the game,” Mars Jr. said. “Dad always wanted to be the best teammate to help the team win. He realized his athleticism and his focus would be on his performance and everything else would come. It was more about making the winning plays. He knew that if he did well, the team probably would, and that takes the pressure off you. For Judge, it’s the same thing.”
Marrs became an All-Star for the last time in 1962 before a back injury sidelined him for much of the second half of 1963.
He bounced back with a solid year in 1964, but was hampered by injuries in ’65 and ’66 before being traded to St. Louis before the 1967 season, hitting just 35 homers over his final four seasons.
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