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Maris in 1960
September 10, 1934|
|Died: December 14, 1985
|April 16, 1957, for the Cleveland Indians|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 29, 1968, for the St. Louis Cardinals|
|Runs batted in||850|
|Career highlights and awards|
Roger Eugene Maris (September 10, 1934 – December 14, 1985) was an American professional baseball player who played four seasons in the minor leagues and twelve seasons in the major leagues. Maris played right field on four Major League Baseball (MLB) teams, from 1957 through 1968.
Maris set the MLB record for home runs during the 1961 season with 61, breaking Babe Ruth's single-season record of 60 home runs in 1927. This record was challenged by then-baseball commissioner Ford Frick (who had been a friend of Babe Ruth), who said that Maris needed to break the record in 154 games instead of the current schedule of 162 games. His accomplishment of 61 home runs in a season came back to the forefront in 1998, when the home run record was broken by Mark McGwire and later that same year by Sammy Sosa.
Maris began playing in the minor leagues in 1953. He reached the major leagues in 1957 playing for the Cleveland Indians. He was traded to the Kansas City Athletics during the 1958 season, and to the New York Yankees after the 1959 season. He finished his MLB career playing for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1967 and 1968. Maris was an American League (AL) All-Star from 1959 through 1962,[a] an AL Most Valuable Player in 1960 and 1961, and an AL Gold Glove Award winner in 1960. Maris appeared in seven World Series, five as a member of the Yankees and two with the Cardinals.
- 1 Early years
- 2 Professional baseball
- 3 Later years and death
- 4 MLB stats, awards, achievements, and records
- 5 Other awards and honors
- 6 Hall of Fame candidacy
- 7 Legacy
- 8 Appearances in other media
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 External links
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Roger Eugene Maras was born on September 10, 1934 in Hibbing, Minnesota, later changing his surname to Maris. Maris' parents, Rudolph S. "Rudy" Maras and Corrine (née Perkovich), were both of Croatian origin. Roger had a brother, Rudy (known as "Buddy") who was a year older. Rudy developed polio in 1951.
The Maras family moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota in 1942 and to Fargo, North Dakota in 1946, where he attended Fargo Central High School. Maris' parents had a turbulent marriage and divorced in 1960. His father died in Fargo in 1992 at age 81. After Maris retired from baseball he moved to Gainesville, Florida, where his mother moved to from Fargo. Corrine Maras died in 2004 at the age of 90.
Maris transferred to Shanley High School at Fargo in 1950, and graduated from there in June 1952. He met his future wife, Patricia, in the tenth grade, while both were attending a high school basketball game. Roger and Rudy Maris Jr. both participated in sports including American Legion baseball during the summers while in Fargo. In 1950, Roger led his North Dakota legion team to the state championship. He was a standout player with the Fargo-Moorhead Twins of the Northern League in 1952. In football, Roger still holds the official high school record for most return touchdowns in a game, with four (two kickoff returns, one punt return, and one interception return).
Maris was recruited to play football at the University of Oklahoma. He decided to go there, but after visiting the campus, he returned to Fargo where he wanted to stay the most and be near his brother who was sick with polio. He decided finally on a baseball career. In 1953, he was invited to the Cleveland Indians tryout camp where he was viewed by the Cleveland Indians general manager, Hank Greenberg (he hit 58 home runs for the Detroit Tigers in 1938). Greenberg afterwards sent a representative to Fargo to sign Maris. Maris, age 18, then signed a contract for $15,000 with the Cleveland Indians of the American League which included a $10,000 bonus from them if he made it to the major leagues.
Maris started playing for the Indians minor league organization at Fargo (Fargo-Moorhead Twins) in 1953 (after being sent to and beginning spring training in Daytona, Florida) where he was named rookie of the year in the Fargo-Moorhead Twin's Northern League, and moved to Keokuk, Iowa the next season. In the minor leagues, he showed a talent for both offense and defense. He tied for the Illinois–Indiana–Iowa League lead in putouts by an outfielder with 305 while playing for the Keokuk Kernels in 1954. Meanwhile, in four minor league seasons from 1953 to 1956, Maris hit .303 with 78 home runs. In Game 2 of the 1956 Junior World Series, Maris would set a record by getting seven runs batted in. With the five teams that Maris played for in the minors, the clubs' won loss records would improve from the previous season – a clear indication of Maris' talent and value.
Cleveland Indians (1957–58)
Maris made his major league debut on April 16, 1957 with the Cleveland Indians. Two days later, he hit the first home run of his career, a grand slam off Tigers pitcher Jack Crimian at Briggs Stadium in Detroit. He finished his rookie season with 14 home runs. In 1958, after playing in 51 games and hitting 9 home runs, he was traded to the Kansas City Athletics.
Kansas City Athletics (1958–59)
Maris was traded to the Kansas City Athletics with Dick Tomanek and Preston Ward for Vic Power and Woodie Held. He played in 99 games and hit 19 home runs. In 1959, he hit 16 home runs and represented the A's in the 1959 All-Star Game (played in second game) in spite of missing 45 games due to an appendix operation.
In the late 1950s, Kansas City frequently traded their best young players to the New York Yankees – a practice which led them to be referred to as the Yankees' "major league farm team" – and Maris was no exception. In a seven-player deal in December 1959, he was sent to the Yankees with Kent Hadley and Joe DeMaestri in exchange for Marv Throneberry, Norm Siebern, Hank Bauer, and Don Larsen.
New York Yankees (1960-66)
Maris hit a single, double, and two home runs in his first game as a Yankee outfielder in 1960. In his first season with the Yankees, he led the American League in slugging percentage, runs batted in, and extra base hits. He hit 39 home runs, one home run behind teammate Mickey Mantle. He won the American League's Most Valuable Player award and was recognized as an outstanding defensive outfielder with a Gold Glove Award. He was named to the American League All-Star roster (played in two games) and finished the 1960 season with a .283 batting average. The Yankees won the American League pennant, the first of five consecutive pennants, but lost a seven-game World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates culminating in Bill Mazeroski's dramatic walk-off home run.
In 1961, The American League expanded from 8 to 10 teams. In the expansion draft, the newly created Los Angeles Angels and Washington Senators  were restricted to drafting players from AL rosters. The perceived result was that American League team rosters had become watered down as players who would otherwise have been playing at AAA if not lower were now in the AL. The Yankees, however, were left mainly intact. In order to maintain a balanced schedule, AL owners extended the season from 154 games to 162 games. On January 23, 1961, an Associated Press reporter asked Maris whether the schedule changes might threaten Babe Ruth's single-season home run record; Maris replied, "Nobody will touch it... Look up the records and you'll see that it's a rare year when anybody hits 50 homers, let alone 60."
Yankee home runs began to come at a record pace. One famous photograph lined up six 1961 Yankees, including Mantle, Maris, Yogi Berra, and Bill Skowron, under the nickname "Murderers Row", because they hit a combined 165 home runs the previous season (The title "Murderers Row", originally coined in 1918, had most famously been used to refer to the 1927 Yankees). As mid-season approached, it seemed quite possible that either Maris or Mantle, or perhaps both, would break Ruth's 34-year-old home run record. Unlike the home run race of 1998, where both Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were given extensive positive media coverage in their pursuit of Maris' record, sportswriters in 1961 began to play the "M&M Boys" against each other, inventing a rivalry where none existed, as Yogi Berra has told multiple interviewers.
Five years earlier, in 1956, the New York press had been protective of Ruth when Mantle challenged Ruth's record for most of the season. When Mantle fell short, finishing with 52, there seemed to be a collective sigh of relief from the New York traditionalists. The New York press had not been kind to Mantle in his early years with the team; he struck out frequently, was injury prone, was a true "hick" from Oklahoma, and was perceived as being distinctly inferior to his predecessor in center field, Joe DiMaggio. Mantle, however, over the course of time (with a little help from his friend and teammate Whitey Ford, a native of New York's Borough of Queens), had gotten better at "schmoozing" with the New York media, and consequently gained the favor of the press. This was a talent that Maris, a blunt-spoken Upper Midwesterner, never attempted to cultivate. Maris was perceived as surly during his time on the Yankees.
More and more, the Yankees became "Mickey Mantle's team" and Maris was ostracized as an "outsider" and "not a true Yankee." The press at that time seemed to be rooting for Mantle and belittling Maris. Mantle, however, was felled by a hip infection causing hospitalization late in the season, leaving Maris as the single remaining player with the opportunity to break Ruth's home run record.
On top of his lack of popular press coverage, Maris' chase for 61 homers hit another roadblock totally out of his control: along with adding two teams to the league, Major League Baseball had added eight more games to the schedule. In the middle of the season, baseball commissioner Ford Frick (one of Babe Ruth's closest friends) announced that unless Ruth's record was broken in the first 154 games of the season, the new record would be shown in the record books as having been set in 162 games while the previous record set in 154 games would also be shown. It is an urban legend that an asterisk (*) would be used to distinguish the new record, sparked by a question given to Commissioner Frick from New York sportswriter Dick Young.
Nash and Zullo argued in The Baseball Hall of Shame that Frick made the ruling because the former newspaper reporter had been a close friend of Ruth's. Furthermore, Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby – himself a lifetime .358 batter – compared Ruth's 1927 batting average of .356 to Maris' .269 clip of 1961 and said, "It would be a disappointment if Ruth's home run record were bested by a .270 hitter". (Hornsby, however, was not easy to impress; while scouting for the Mets, the best report he could muster for any current player was "Looks like a major-leaguer." The assessment referred to Mickey Mantle.) Maris downplayed the challenge, saying, "I'm not trying to be Babe Ruth; I'm trying to hit sixty-one home runs and be Roger Maris." This sentiment would be echoed in 1973–1974, when Hank Aaron, in pursuit of Ruth's career home run record, said, "I don't want people to forget Babe Ruth. I just want them to remember Henry Aaron."
Maris had 59 home runs after the Yankees' 154th game and failed to beat Ruth's 60 home runs within the original season length. Maris hit his 61st home run on October 1, 1961, in the fourth inning of the last game of the season, at Yankee Stadium in front of 23,154 fans. Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard gave up the record home run, which was caught by fan Sal Durante in the right field bleachers. No asterisk was subsequently used in any record books; Major League Baseball itself then had no official record book, and Frick later acknowledged that there never was official qualification of Maris' accomplishment. The Guinness Book of World Records did however differentiate the two records as distinct and separate for a number of years. However, Maris remained bitter about the experience. Speaking at the 1980 All-Star Game, Maris said, "They acted as though I was doing something wrong, poisoning the record books or something. Do you know what I have to show for 61 home runs? Nothing. Exactly nothing." Despite all the controversy and criticism, Maris was awarded the 1961 Hickok Belt as the top professional athlete of the year, and won the American League's MVP Award for the second straight year. It is said, however, that the stress of pursuing the record was so great for Maris that his hair occasionally fell out in clumps during the season. Later, Maris even surmised that it might have been better all along had he not broken the record or even threatened it at all.
In 1962, Maris made his fourth consecutive All-Star team appearance and his seventh and final All-Star game appearance (1959–62, two All-Star games were played per season). His fine defensive skills were often overlooked. He made a game-saving play in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 1962 World Series against the San Francisco Giants. With the Yankees leading 1-0 and Matty Alou on first, Willie Mays doubled toward the right-field line. Maris cut off the ball and made a strong throw to prevent Alou from scoring the tying run; the play set up Willie McCovey's series-ending line drive to second baseman Bobby Richardson, capping what would prove to be the final World Series victory for the "old" Yankees.
In 1964, he rebounded, appearing in 141 games, batting .281 with 26 home runs. Maris hit a home run in Game 6 of the 1964 World Series. But in 1965, his physical problems returned, and he had off-season surgery to remove a bone chip in his hand. In 1966, the Yankees' and Maris' fortunes continued to decline as he played most of the season with a misdiagnosed broken bone in his hand. The oft-injured Maris was questioned by the organization, media and fans. He was traded on December 8, 1966 to the St. Louis Cardinals.
St. Louis Cardinals (1967–68)
Maris was traded by the Yankees to the St. Louis Cardinals for Charley Smith. Maris played his final two seasons with the Cardinals, helping to win the 1967 and 1968 pennants. He was outstanding in the 1967 World Series, hitting .385 with one home run and seven RBIs. It was the best performance of his seven career World Series. Maris hit his 275th and final regular season home run on September 5, 1968. It was his 25th career two-run homer.
Later years and death
Maris and his brother owned and operated Maris Distributing in the 1970s and 80s, the Budweiser beer distributorship in Gainesville, Florida (and Ocala, Florida), where he moved after retiring from baseball after the 1968 season. Gussie Busch, who owned both the Cardinals and Anheuser-Busch, got Maris started into the beer business. Maris also coached baseball at Gainesville's Oak Hall High School, which named its baseball field after him in 1990.
Maris was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1983. In response, Maris organized the annual Roger Maris Celebrity Golf Tournament to raise money for cancer research and treatment.
Maris died at age 51 on December 14, 1985 at M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston, Texas. A Roman Catholic, he was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Fargo, North Dakota. Fellow major league player Ken Hunt was interred several feet away from Maris in 1997.
MLB stats, awards, achievements, and records
- AL Most Valuable Player (1960–1961)
- AL Gold Glove (1960)
- All-Star: 1959, 1960 (2 games), 1961 (2 games), 1962 (2 games)
- MLB single season home run champion (1961–1998)
- AL leader in home runs, runs scored, and total bases (1961)
- AL leader in RBIs and extra base hits (1960, 1961)
- AL leader in slugging average (1960)
- AL leader in fielding average as right fielder (1960, 1964)
- NL leader in fielding average as right fielder (1967)
- AL pennant champion team (1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964)
- NL pennant champion team (1967, 1968)
- World Series champion team (1961, 1962, 1967)
- AL: Single-season home runs (61, 1961)
Other awards and honors
|Roger Maris's number 9 was retired by the N.Y. Yankees in 1984.|
Maris received The Sporting News Major League Player of the Year Award (1961)
A Roger Eugene Maris plaque dedication and #9 retirement ceremony in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium was held on July 22, 1984 (Old-Timers' Day). The inscribed plaque which is subtitled "Against All Odds", calls Maris, "A great player and author of one of the most remarkable chapters in the history of major league baseball." Maris participated in the ceremony in front of his plaque wearing a Yankee number 9 uniform. Elston Howard (#32), a teammate of Maris, was honored with Maris.
On September 22, 2011, the Yankees celebrated the 50th anniversary of Roger Maris' single-season home run record at Yankee Stadium. Additionally, on September 24, the Ride of Fame honored Maris' memory by dedicating a double decker tour bus to him in New York City.
Hall of Fame candidacy
Maris has not been elected to the Hall of Fame.
Sportswriter Greg Hansen criticized baseball writers in the St. Petersburg Independent in 1977 for excluding Maris from the Baseball Hall of Fame by him only receiving 72 votes that year, writing that there were many Hall of Fame outfielders who had never won two MVP awards and that no one else had ever hit 61 home runs in a season ... "To show you what an injustice this is to the man, Maris finished just a notch ahead of Harvey Kuenn, for crying out loud."' Hansen wrote that Maris had resented the media's intrusion on his privacy; he said that Maris's tense relationship with the media had affected the voting. Hansen also wrote, Maris had commented to him by phone after the voting and said to him that he knew he would never get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, "I'll leave the Hall of Fame to the geniuses that vote on it. I will never get in. I have always known that. I will not argue with you about why or why not I should be elected."
In 2011, George Vecsey of The New York Times called Maris "a terrific player for a few brief years." He wrote that while Maris had two seasons where he played at Hall of Fame caliber, and while Maris played in an era that was not influenced by performance-enhancing substances, he did not believe that Maris had career statistics worthy of induction.
The Baseball Hall of Fame established a Golden Era Committee (replaced the Veterans Committee) in 2010 to vote on the possible Hall of Fame induction of previously overlooked candidates who were active in baseball between 1947 and 1972. Beginning in 2011, this committee votes every three years on ten candidates from the era selected by the Baseball Writers' Association of America's (BBWAA) Historical Overview Committee. Maris did not appear on Golden Era Committee ballot in 2011 and 2014 (one former player was voted to the Hall of Fame in 2011 and no one was voted to the Hall of Fame by the committee in 2014, for the 2015 induction).
Tributes include: The Roger Maris Museum which opened in 1984 at the West Acres Shopping Center in Fargo and is dedicated to the life and career of Roger Maris (no admission fee), the Roger Maris Cancer Center at Sanford Hospital in Fargo (the fund raising beneficiary of the annual golf tournament), the 61 for 61 Home Walk & Run, which is held in conjunction with the 61 for 61 radiothon on KPFX-"107.9, The Fox (also raises money for the Maris Cancer Center), Roger Maris Drive, and more.
In 2001, the film 61* about Maris and Mantle's pursuit of MLB's single season home run record was first broadcast. Many of the unpleasant aspects of Maris' season were addressed, including the hate mail, death threats, and his stress-induced hair loss. In addition, the film delved into the relationship between Maris and Mantle, portraying them as friends more than rivals. Mantle was depicted defending Maris to the New York media, and Maris was shown trying to influence the hard-living Mantle to look after himself better. Maris was played by Barry Pepper, while Thomas Jane played Mantle.
In 2005, in light of accusations of steroid use against the three players who had, by then, hit more than 61 home runs in a season (Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds), the North Dakota Senate wrote to Major League Baseball and that Roger Maris' 61 home runs are being recognized as the single season record. Newman Signs Inc., which holds the naming rights to Newman Outdoor Field in Fargo, continues to use billboard signage to declare Maris is the "legitimate home run king."
Appearances in other media
Maris and Mantle starred in a 1962 film, Safe at Home!, playing themselves. That year, Maris, Mantle, and Yankee teammate Yogi Berra also made appearances in the film, That Touch of Mink, starring Cary Grant and Doris Day.
- Maris–McGwire–Sosa pair
- List of Major League Baseball home run records
- 50 home run club
- List of Major League Baseball career home run leaders
- List of Major League Baseball annual runs batted in leaders
- List of Major League Baseball annual home run leaders
- List of Major League Baseball annual runs scored leaders
- MLB held two All-Star Games in 1959, 60, 61, and 62.
- "How Much Better and More Honest Roger Maris Seems Today". travel-watch.com.
- Karlgaard, Rich (April 10, 2006). "Roger Maris Belongs in the Hall". Forbes.com.
- "Top 10 Championship Teams: No. 4, 1961". Yesnetwork.com. January 20, 2010.
- State son worth remembering, The Bismarck Tribune, October 15, 2005; retrieved November 23, 2014.
- Roger Maris's mother dead at 90, UPI.com; accessed August 12, 2016.
- Mickey Mantle America's Prodigal son by Tony Castro
- North Dakota Studies (October 15, 1968), Sports News 1968, "Maris Retires from Baseball After Final Successful Season"  Retrieved November 23, 2014
- "Tales from the Record Book".
- Clavin, Tom; Peary, Danny (2010). Roger Maris: Baseball's Reluctant Hero. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4165-8928-0.
- Jeff Katz,The Kansas City A's and the Wrong Half of the Yankees: How the Yankees Controlled Two of the Eight American League Franchises During the 1950s, Maple Street Press, 2007, ISBN 0-9777436-5-9
- Reading Eagle via Google News Archive Search
- The Washington Senators that took the field in 1961 were an expansion team, having replaced the original Senators franchise that had re-located to Minnesota and become the Minnesota Twins.
- The National League expanded in a similar manner to the American League in 1962, one year after the AL expansion.
- "October 1, 1961 Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees Box Score and Play by Play". Sports Reference, LLC via Retrosheet. Retrieved November 2, 2008.
- Sportsdata: Midsummer Classics: Celebrating MLB's All-Star Game, 1959–1962, "all players who were named to the AL or NL roster were credited with one appearance per season."
- "Roger Maris Postseason Batting Gamelogs - Baseball-Reference.com".
- Friend, Harold. "New York Yankees, the Media and Some Fans Questioned Roger Maris' Injuries".
- "Roger Maris Statistics and History - Baseball-Reference.com".
- "Roger Maris Career Home Runs - Baseball-Reference.com".
- "Ken Hunt (1934 - 1997) - Find A Grave Photos".
- Baseball-Reference.Com: The Sporting News Major League Player of the Year Award 
- "The Man Who Beat The Babe". Waycross Journal-Herald. July 24, 1984. p. 6. Retrieved April 18, 2012.
- "US Stamp Gallery >> Roger Maris 61 in '61".
- Maris/Mantle '61 tribute moved to Saturday MLB Blogs. September 23, 2011.
- Hansen, Greg (February 1, 1977). "Roger Maris". Evening Independent. Retrieved December 3, 2014.
- Vecsey, George (August 20, 2011). "50 years later, Maris's 61-homer season looks even better". The New York Times. Retrieved December 3, 2014.
- "Golden Era Committee candidates announced". Baseball Hall of Fame. Retrieved December 3, 2014.
- Bloom, Barry. "Santo, Hodges among 10 on Golden Era ballot". MLB.com. Retrieved December 3, 2014.
- The American Legion Department of North Dakota, Baseball Hall of Fame, Roger Maris 
- 61 for 61,
- "North Dakota Senate backs Maris resolution". NBCSports.com. Associated Press. April 4, 2005.
- Bob Von Sternberg (February 5, 2010). "Billboards tout the 61 in '61 clubbed by Maris, "Fargo's golden boy"". Star Tribune.
- Lieber, Leslie (April 29, 1962). "Mantle and Maris Bat Out a Movie".
- "That Touch of Mink (1962) - IMDbPro".
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