Old timers such as myself, and baseball historians certainly remember Frank Howard. During his playing days, first with the LA Dodgers and then on to his glory years with the then Washington Senators in the late 1960s, Howard was considered a mountain of a man.
Indeed he was. At six foot seven and weighing in somewhere between 235 and 250, he dwarfed all the other players on the field.
When Howard would come up to the plate to hit, the stick in his hands more resembled a little league bat than that of a major leaguer. And oh my, when he "got hold" of one he could hit it the proverbial mile.
Alas, he was woefully slow of foot, and pretty much a defensive liability when playing the field. Little range, a below average throwing arm, almost oafish. Still, he had a long and distinguished career in the big leagues.
Enter one Aaron Judge, currently a rookie for the NY Yankees. Though he doesn't seem to possess the physical intimidating presence Howard once did, he's actually a bigger man. Also six foot seven, but about 280 pounds. A strange phenomenon, but very real.
And that same Aaron Judge is absolutely tearing it up for the Yankees this year. At the All-Star break, barely half way through the season, AJ was batting over .300, had 30 home runs, and 66 RBIs. And BTW, he can hit it a mile too. That's not even counting the fact he won the Home Run Derby at the All-Star festivities.
Thing is, he's a definite plus in the other aspects of the game. Great range in the outfield, a superior throwing arm, and speed galore for a man his size.
What he has accomplished (so far) in this, his rookie season, is better than any other Yankee EVER did. That includes names like Mantle, Maris, Berra, DiMaggio, a regular murderer's row during their hey-days.
It should be noted that one George Herman (Babe) Ruth was never a Yankee rookie. He broke in with the Red Sox -- as a pitcher no less. Then somebody finally figured out he could hit a little -- make that a lot -- so it would probably be a good idea to have his bat in the line-up every day. What happened after that, as we know, became baseball legend.
Nevertheless, Aaron Judge has taken the baseball world by storm. True, while you don't get to the Major Leagues unless you're pretty good, nobody saw this coming. Did I mention tearing it up?
Unless a serious injury befalls him (you never know), or Judge swoons into a colossal slump for the rest of the year (highly unlikely), he's not only an absolute lock for Rookie of the Year, but likely the MVP of the American League. At his current pace, he's on his way to hitting 50-some home runs, 110-120 RBIs, batting over .300, and is a defensive asset as the Yankee right fielder. Throw in enough speed to steal a base here and there and this is a talent that doesn't come along just every day or year.
On top of it all, he appears to be a genuinely nice guy. Not full of himself like so many others. Humble instead of arrogant. More "aw shucks" than "look at me".
While there will always be those that despise the Yankees for various reasons, it's almost impossible not to like this young man. He's the "real deal" in more ways than one. A poster child for baseball and the heroics it sometimes offers.
Here come Da Judge? Well, not exactly. He's already arrived, in a very big way.
And here's hoping he continues to tear it up.
As they say, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy......