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Aaron Judge closes in on the real home run record: Roger Maris’s.

Bonds, Sosa and McGwire have more home runs in a season that Maris. But those three played during the steroids era.

Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees has hit 60 home runs so far this season. That's one fewer than the record Roger Maris set in 1961. Three other players have hit more since then, but their careers are tainted by their connection to performance-enhancing drugs. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Aaron Judge, the 6-foot, 7-inch slugger for the New York Yankees, is closing in on Major League Baseball’s record for home runs in a single season. Judge has 60 homers with 15 games to play after Tuesday night’s games.

But wait, I can hear kids who love baseball asking, “Isn’t the record for most home runs hit in a single season 73? Set by Barry Bonds in 2001.” Judge is terrific, but he probably won’t hit 13 home runs in 15 games.

That’s true, but I think Judge is chasing the real record of 61 home runs set by another New York Yankee outfielder, Roger Maris, in 1961. Let me explain.

Only five players — Babe Ruth, Maris, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds — have hit 60 or more home runs in a single Major League Baseball (MLB) season. But Bonds, McGwire and Sosa cheated when they hit their marks.

Those three players took illegal performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) such as steroids to help them become stronger and hit the ball farther. McGwire admitted he took PEDs at times during his 16-year career.

Bonds and Sosa have never admitted they knowingly took PEDs. However, Bonds was one of 89 players named in the 2007 Mitchell Report, the results of an independent investigation about PED use in baseball. The New York Times reported in 2009 that Sosa was among 104 MLB players who tested positive in 2003 for PEDs.

Bonds (762 career home runs), Sosa (609) and McGwire (583) have Hall of Fame statistics, but none of them has been inducted because of the fact or widespread suspicion that they took PEDs during their careers.

Just as some people don’t like to talk to kids about the shameful parts of United States history such as slavery, segregation and the nation’s treatment of Native Americans, some baseball fans don’t like to discuss PEDs and how they affected the game and its records.

But I think it’s important to talk to kids about the good and the bad in American history and baseball history, so we can learn lessons from the past.

From around the late 1980s to the early 2000s, MLB did not do enough to prevent its players from taking PEDs. As a result, many players — not just Bonds, Sosa and McGwire — cheated by taking these drugs.

The leaders of MLB finally began testing for PEDs in 2003 and now punish players who test positive for illegal drugs. It is interesting that no player until Judge has hit 60 home runs since MLB began testing.

But what about the records set with the help of PEDs? Sorry, but it’s hard for me to accept that a “record” set by a cheater is a real record.

I think the real single-season home run record is Maris’s 61 in 1961, and I am rooting for Judge to beat it.

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