Meet Roger Maris, The True Home Run King

Roger Maris hit his 61st home run on 10/1/61, a record that still stands.

With Alex Rodriguez joining the list of tarnished home run hitters, a list that already includes Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and so many others, the deeds of a slugger from baseball’s past is gaining increasing respect in many circles.

That slugger is Roger Maris.

Although Maris wasn’t one of the great all-time power hitters or a Hall of Famer, for one glorious season he was the best there ever was.

In 1961, Roger Maris snapped  Babe Ruth’s 34-year old single-season home run record of 60 when he homered on the final day of the season against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium..

Now, 48 years later, 61 still stands as the American League record.  And the three National Leaguers who broke 61 — McGwire, Sosa and Bonds — were all swinging for the fenches with, shall we say, enhanced attributes.

Throw in A-Rod, who hit 52, 57 and 47 during the Texas years when he admittedly was using steroids….and later hit 54 as a Yankee in 2007, when who’s to say whether or not he was using….and you have a fraud foursome. The four phonies.

61 in 61
Maris eclipsed Ruth’s record in 1961 in spite of incredible pressure — from Mickey Mantle, who hit 54 himself that season; from the Yankee fans who were rooting for both The Mick and The Babe, and from baseball commissioner Ford Frick ,who put the asterisk next to Roger’s name.

Conflict of interest? Quite likely. Frick was once Ruth’s ghost writer and had a problem with Maris breaking the record in a 162-game season.

Aside from 61, Maris never hit more than 39 home runs in a season (in 1960) and finished his career with just .275 home runs and a .260 average. An accomplished right-fielder and smart base-runner, Maris was the American League MVP in 60 and 61, and wound up playing in six World Series in his final eight years, winning it all with the Yankees in 61 and 62 and the Cardinals in 67.

And he did it the old-fashioned way….on hard work, a sweet swing, Budweiser and cigarettes.

In other words, Roger Maris earned it.


3 Comments on “Meet Roger Maris, The True Home Run King”

  1. mdbirdlover says:

    Maris is the man.
    Hey sportslifer, great article.
    Have you ever seen Billy Crystal’s movie “61”
    Great baseball movie.

  2. sportslifer says:

    Hello Baltimore Bird Lover. Roger Maris was a reluctant hero, often overlooked in baseball history. But his 1961 season should not go unrecognized, especially in light of the steroid issue. I did see 61, in fact I went to a Yankee game years ago where they gave out 61 caps. The actor who played Maris was a dead ringer for Roger.

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