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Roger Maris

Roger Maris

Position(s):
CF, LF, OF, RF
Born:
September 10, 1934
Bats:
Left
Throws:
Right
Height:
6'
Weight:
197 lbs
Major League Debut:
4-16-1957 with CLE
Allstar Selections:
1960 GG, 1960 MVP, 1961 ML, 1961 MVP

Intro

In 1960, Roger Maris had the misfortune of breaking one of baseball's most celebrated records. That year he blasted 61 homers to eclipse Babe Ruth's single-season mark, and despite the fact that Maris did it wearing Yankee pinstripes, he was never accepted by most fans. Maris, who was a five-tool player, was more than a one-season wonder. The year before he hit the 61 homers, the right fielder won the American League Most Valuable Player Award. He made it two in a row in 1961, helping the Yankes to the World Series title. He teamed with Mickey Mantle to form the famed "M&M Boys" for the Bronx Bombers, and later helped the Cardinals to two pennants and a World Championship.

Unform Number

#32 (1957), #5 (1958), #35 (1958 A's), #3 (1959), #9 (1960-1968)

Replaced By

Essentially, Maris retired shortly after the '68 Series ended. The Cardinals traded Bobby Tolan and Wayne Granger to the Reds to get Vada Pinson to play right field in 1969. The deal was a bad one for St. Louis.

Best Season

Of course he hit the 61 homers (which were actually never marked with an asterisk), but he also drove in 142 runs, scored 132 times, and had a .372 OBP despite a mediocre .269 average. Maris hit 30 homers in Yankee Stadium and 31 on the road; hit 49 gainst RHP and 12 against lefties; and hit .328 with 15 homers and 77 RBI with runners in scoring position. He won his second straight MVP Award. Fortunately, his .105 (2-for-19) average in the Fall Classic did nothing to stop the Yanks from defeating the Reds.

Factoid 1

Roger Maris held the single-season home run record for a longer time (37 years), than did Babe Ruth (34).

Transition

Before 1953 Season: Signed by the Cleveland Indians as an amateur free agent; June 15, 1958: Traded by the Cleveland Indians with Dick Tomanek and Preston Ward to the Kansas City Athletics for Woodie Held and Vic Power; December 11, 1959: Traded by the Kansas City Athletics with Joe DeMaestri and Kent Hadley to the New York Yankees for Don Larsen, Hank Bauer, Norm Siebern, and Marv Throneberry; December 8, 1966: Traded by the New York Yankees to the St. Louis Cardinals for Charley Smith.

Strengths

Ability to pull the ball with authority.

Weaknesses

Maris was a well-rounded player, but there's little evidence that he was a good base stealer.

The Asterisk that Wasn't

It's amazing how many people continue to tell the story that Roger Maris's 61 homers in 1961 were marked with an asterisk by Major League Baseball and Commissioner Ford Frick. Here's an excellent account of the real story, from baseball historian Bill Deane: Maris's record WAS, from 1962 until 1991, listed separately from Ruth's: Roger's as the standard for a 162-game season, Babe's for a 154-game schedule. This situation came about on July 17, 1961, when - with Maris (35) and teammate Mickey Mantle (33) threatening Ruth's record - Commissioner Ford Frick (a former ghost-writer for the Babe) made the following proclamation: "Any player who may hit more than sixty home runs during his club's first 154 games would be recognized as having established a new record. However, if the player does not hit more than sixty until after his club has played 154 games, there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth's record was set under a 154-game schedule and the total of more than sixty was compiled while a 162-game schedule was in effect. "We also would apply the same reasoning if a player should equal Ruth's total of sixty in the first 154 games: he would be recognized as tying Ruth's record. If in more than 154 games, there would be a distinction in the record book." Frick never actually defined "some distinctive mark." In the press conference afterward, New York writer Dick Young suggested an asterisk. But, no such mark ever actually accompanied the record in either of the leading record books, THE SPORTING NEWS's ONE for the BOOK, or the Elias Sports Bureau's LITTLE RED BOOK of BASEBALL. Each had only the footnote, "If the accomplishment was directly benefitted by an increase of scheduled games the record will be annotated with the phrase: (162 game schedule)." It was the first time a commissioner had ever made a ruling involving a baseball record, and many people thought he was out of line, especially since most of the season had already been played. "I think the commissioner shouldn't have made any 154-game ruling when he did," said Maris. "But if Mick breaks it, I hope he does it in 154. The same goes for me." A poll of sportswriters showed support of Frick's ruling by a 37-18 margin. However, after a BBWAA meeting on October 3, the writers went on record to protest the commissioner's involvement. The writers already had established a Records Committee, and Frick's move threatened to make it irrelevant. As Maris later pointed out, he HAD hit his 61 homers in 154 games: the LAST 154 games of the season. "Whether I beat Ruth's record or not is for others to say," he said after campaign was over. "But it gives me a wonderful feeling to know that I'm the only man in history to hit 61 home runs. Nobody can take that away from me." In December, 1961, noted writer Dan Daniel approached Frick on behalf of the BBWAA. "I told the commissioner that the writers resented his involvement in baseball records," Daniel wrote, "and that if his office wanted to continue this involvement, the writers would relinquish custodianship of the records." Frick stood his ground, allowing only that "I should have made no mention of Ruth, and announced that all baseball records made in 162 games would be so listed. I never said anything about asterisks in the record book." And Gabriel Schechter of the Hall of Fame, adds this: When expansion occurred and both leagues went to a 162-game schedule in 1962, it was anticipated that another round of expansion would occur within a few years. Accounts in the Sporting News targeted 1965 or 1966 as the year by which there would be two 12-teams league. When that happened, the plan was to return to a 154-game schedule, with each team playing 14 games against each of the other 11 teams in that league. That is, in 1961 (and in 1962, when a similar situation to Maris/Ruth occurred as Maury Wills challenged Ty Cobb's stolen base record), the powers-that-be believed that a 162-game schedule would exist for only a handful of seasons. This gives a little more weight to their concerns that records set during this aberrant 162-game schedule would be just that -- aberrations deserving some kind of special consideration and treatment.

Notes

According to Retrosheet, Maris was hitting .337 on August 1, 1959. For the remainder of the season he batted .166 (27-for-163) and limped in with a .273 average.

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61*, Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, Home run, New York Yankees, Roger Maris, St. Louis Cardinals
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