Yankees’ Aaron Judge has new fan in Pirates’ Wil Crowe

Wil Crowe’s family history and baseball history collided, and he wanted to know everything he could. He did not have a relationship with Charles Herbert Ruffing — better known as “Red” — who died eight years before Crowe was born.

So in the days before the Pirates reliever was set to visit Yankee Stadium for the first time, he did a deep-dive into his great-great uncle. He had known he was a Hall of Famer; had known about the mining accident that cost him four toes and forced him to give up playing the field, so he transitioned to being a pitcher; had known about a lot of his life, but not everything.

“I read more into it a couple days ago before coming, just to know more about him — as much as I could,” Crowe told Post Sports+ on Wednesday. “I think it’s really cool. I knew the broad scheme of it all, but it’s really neat. He’s one of the Yankees greats.”

Hours before Tuesday’s game in The Bronx, the Pirates righty, along with his wife, Hilary, and their young son, Koa Ruffing Crowe — “Hopefully the baseball juju can wear off on him,” Wil said about the middle name — visited Monument Park to see their ancestor’s plaque.

“It was awesome,” Crowe said. “It was a day — the beginning of the day — was something I’ll never forget.”

Despite having a 3-1 count on Aaron Judge, Pirates reliever Will Crowe tried to go after the Yankees slugger, only to give up Judge’s 60th homer Tuesday night.

He wouldn’t mind forgetting the end.

The Pirates closer entered in the ninth inning with an 8-4 lead that he flushed in the course of five batters. The history books will not care too much about the walk-off grand slam he surrendered to Giancarlo Stanton, but they will remember Crowe’s first at-bat of the night.

Crowe fell behind, 3-1, to Judge and refused to give in.

“We’re trying to play the odds here,” said Crowe, a 28-year-old in his third big-league season. “He’s hitting .316, which is great in baseball, but it’s still whatever percent of the time [68.4] he’s getting out.”

Crowe threw a sinker — a pitch that had only been hit out of the park once this season — to Judge, and it got too much of the plate. The Yankees superstar rocketed it 430 feet to left field, blast No. 60 that tied him with Babe Ruth for second-most in a season in American League history.

On Wednesday, during the Yankees’ 14-2 victory over the Pirates, No. 61 did not come. Roger Maris’ AL and club record lives for another day because Judge merely went 2-for-4 with a pair of roped doubles and a walk, bringing his league-best average up to .317.

If and when the home run record falls, Judge might be happiest — but Crowe won’t be far behind.

New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge #99 rounds the bases on his 60th home run of the season to tie Babe Ruth’s record during the 9th inning.
Judge rounds the bases for home run No. 60, which has fans and opposing pitchers now waiting for the moment he ties Roger Maris’ record.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

“I hope someone [a non-Pirate] in the next three days … gives up the next one. Then I can stop seeing myself on the TV and stuff,” said Crowe, who appreciates history, but does not want to be remembered for dingers allowed. “The next one’s more important than the last one. So … I might be in the history books, [but] as soon as he hits the next one, I think I’m going to be cleared out.”

Crowe, whose grandfather was Ruffing’s nephew, will remember his few games at Yankee Stadium because of the chance it provided to brush up with his own familial history. Ruffing played from 1930-45 — excluding ‘43 and ‘44, when he served in World War II — with the Yankees. In 22 major league seasons that also included years with the Red Sox and White Sox, he won 273 games.

Crowe read up on Ruffing’s legend, absorbed his more than 3,000 innings pitched, then played a role in the spread of Judge’s.

Yankee Pitcher Red Ruffing in Pitching Position
Before Crowe made his own history at Yankee Stadium, he visited Monument Park to see the plaque set in honor of his great-great uncle, Hall of Famer Red Ruffing.
Corbis via Getty Images

“It’s cool to watch from afar,” Crowe said before Wednesday night’s game about Judge, who now will begin a four-game home set against the Red Sox. “I don’t want to be a part of it again, that’s for sure. So I hope he breaks all the records this year, but let it not be against us tonight.”

He was spared, and now one more person is cheering for Judge to blast another.

Today’s back page

The back cover of the New York Post on September 22, 2022.
New York Post

The fight for 61

Judge failing to connect on home run No. 61 left plenty of fans looking for history — or, more specifically, a piece of history that would be valuable — out of luck.

Fans, many of whom arrived with gloves, were ready to jostle for Judge’s home run. It’s unclear how much No. 61 would go for on the open market, but Barry Bonds’ record-setting 73rd homer sold for $450,000 in 2003.

Fans fought for No. 60 in a dogpile in the bleachers on Tuesday, and a fan named Mike Kessler emerged with the ball. The 20-year-old then traded it back to Judge for some signed balls, a bat and a group photo.

Kessler was kind. Not everyone may be when Judge’s next homer lands. A few fans with seats in the bleachers or in the outfield stands were ready to fight for No. 61 — and we do mean fight.

“We’re in the bleachers,” said 24-year-old Mike Carbone of Hoboken. “There’s no rules in the bleachers.”

New York Yankees fans hold a sign thanking Yankee Aaron Judge (99) in the 6th inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Yankee Stadium in New York City on Wednesday, September 21, 2022.
Fans sitting in the bleachers need to be prepared for a fight if they hope to grab hold of Judge’s home run balls for the rest of the season.
John Angelillo/UPI/Shutterstock

He and his brother, Nick — both wearing Judge jerseys — said they purchased bleacher seats Monday. They had a loose plan if the ball came their way: Nick would dive “on the ball like a football player” while Mike would try to peel and throw other fans away from the pile.

Mike said he would pay off college tuition if he corralled the ball. Nick would “run out of the stadium” with the ball, both hoping to barter with the Yankees and Judge for the right price.

Matt Robinson and Dana Anglum, Yankees fans who were visiting from San Diego, had similar hopes.

The couple said they were ready to battle with other fans if the ball came near the left-center-field seats in which they sat.

Dana suggested they should return the ball to Judge if they caught it. “Not without some coin,” answered Matt, who was wearing a Babe Ruth jersey.

She was OK with that.

“We’re about to get married,” Dana said. “We’d like our wedding paid for.”

A sour brew for the Mets

Brandon Nimmo #9 of the New York Mets walks off the field with manager Buck Showalter #11 after being injuried on a play in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers during a game at American Family Field on September 21, 2022 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Brandon Nimmo’s early exit from Wednesday’s loss to the Brewers was not helpful to the Mets’ effort to stay atop the NL East.
Getty Images

The Mets did not lose ground to the Braves on Wednesday, when both teams fell, but it is hard to imagine a more painful day that did not affect the NL East standings.

The Mets watched Atlanta drop a game in Washington in the afternoon, then could not capitalize because their offense could not touch six Milwaukee pitchers, and Drew Smith made his return from the injured list by surrendering a grand slam on his fifth pitch.

More troublesome than the outcome was the fact Brandon Nimmo was pulled in the first inning with left quad tightness. The center fielder did not think he would miss much time, and an MRI exam on Thursday will decide that.

Nearly as concerning was the status of Jeff McNeil, who took several spills in left field — including a hard fall on a home run he attempted to rob — and limped for much of the game. McNeil told reporters after the game he was OK, but he is clearly not 100 percent.

The Mets, already without Starling Marte, cannot afford to lose many other players or many other games.