Aaron Judge was the talk of Old Timers Day at Yankee Stadium

Bernie Williams is probably one of the few people in the world who understands. The Yankees outfielder was under the microscope, pondering the possibility of a future off the pinstripe. Hence, he has seen Aaron Judge navigating cautiously this season. Williams hopes that one day the judge will also be remembered as a great Yankee.

“I’m so happy for him, especially since this is such an important year in his career,” Williams said. “I think he senses the allure and greatness of being a Yankee, I think he’s definitely taking that into account. And I think the team should too.” Williams and others gathered at the former Yankee Memorial Park to pay tribute to those who made the franchise and the Bronx giants. The 74th Old Timers Day at Yankee Stadium, the first since 2019 and the coronavirus pandemic, was different. There was no play, just players went outside at Memorial Park and then exited center field during an extended introduction before Saturday’s game.

Not many were there, including Mariano Rivera, Lou Pinella, Doc Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Reggie Jackson and Gary Sheffield, which were due to take place at the National Sports Collectors’ Convention in Atlantic City this weekend.

“There aren’t a lot of people here so I’m a little disappointed that some of my old teammates aren’t here,” said Tino Martinez. “But it’s still great to be here and we know nobody will get hurt today, that’s for sure.”

Instead the discussion among former players was about the historic run the judges are running in their walk year. The Yankees slugger gave them all a closer look on Saturday as he thrashed his 42nd homer of the season in the Bombers 8-2 win over the Royals at the stadium.

Williams can clearly relate to the judge right now.

In 1998, he won the American League batting title and helped the Bombers to the World Series. He turned down a $37.5 million deal from the Yankees during the season, and the Red Sox’s $91.5, seven-year offer made the Yankees’ subsequent $60 million offer foolproof. On the verge of ending his career at Fenway, Williams accepted a seven-year, $89.7 million deal that guaranteed he would retire a Yankee and bring him back for days like Saturday.

“I think it’s hard if you think about it,” Williams said of free agency at the end of the season. “I think as a player that was kind of the last thing on my mind. I was always reminded of contract negotiations or that situation when I was asked about it. I think playing this whole thing It’s a distraction from him… He probably welcomes the opportunity he has to play. So he doesn’t need to talk about it all the time.”

And the judge has definitely poured everything out this season.

He is on pace to break the American League and Yankees franchise’s franchise record of 61 for home runs in a single season. The judges are now on pace to hit 66 homers.

“I think it’s unbelievable. I mean it’s amazing to see what he’s doing. For example last night he scored two home runs when he needed it. That’s not a home run in a 10-0 game.” He’s been great to watch. I’d love to see him win the World Series, more importantly, Martinez said. “I think he’s the kind of guy who, day after day attracts media attention, he won’t let it go to him. He could have cared less about the 62 (home run), but I also hope he gets there as well.

Willie Randolph, who has spent time with Judge as a Spring Training instructor, hopes to get there, but knows it’s going to be tough.

“You’d think it’s attainable, but it would be tough. I’m surprised they’re still pitching him,” Randolph said. “I mean what are you doing? That guy’s 6 foot-7, you don’t notice he’s there. But that’s going to change. And so it’s going to be tough, but I’d love to see him do it.” Are you kidding me? That would be phenomenal.”

And it would not only add to the mystery of Judge’s Yankees career, but it would add more money that he would have to spend to keep him at the pinstripe. The old-timers who mingled with each other ahead of Saturday’s ceremony are hopeful that the judges will one day join the honorable historic players on days like these and at Memorial Park. They all recognize in the judge what they had back in the day.

“Whenever I see him talking on TV, he says just the right things all the time. He is a good ambassador for the team, and I think he will be, if he signs a long-term deal he will probably be in line to get the next captain,” Williams said. “There’s no doubt about it in my mind.”

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