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Roger Maris breaks home-run record

Roger Maris breaks home-run record

On October 1, 1961, New York Yankee Roger Maris becomes the first-ever major-league baseball player to hit more than 60 home runs in a single season. The great Babe Ruth set the record in 1927; Maris and his teammate Mickey Mantle spent 1961 trying to break it. After hitting 54 homers, Mantle injured his hip in September, leaving Maris to chase the record by himself. Finally, in the last game of the regular season, Maris hit his 61st home run against the Boston Red Sox. (The league-champion Yanks won the game 1-0.)

Maris hit his famous homer on his second at-bat of the day. On his first, he popped out to left field. When he came to the plate again in the fourth, his team had one out and the bases were empty. Maris let two pitches from Boston rookie Tracy Stallard go–one high and outside, one low and inside–before swinging hard at a waist-high fastball.

“An ear-splitting roar went up,” the New York Times reported, as “the crowd sensed that this was it.” The ball was gone, all right–Sal Durante, a 19-year-old Brooklyn truck driver, caught it about 10 rows back in the right-field stands. Maris trotted around the bases, stopping to shake hands with a young boy who’d managed to wriggle past security and onto the field and stepped on home plate. Then he tipped his cap to the crowd, took four bows and returned to his seat on the bench.

He’d hit 61 homers, but his new record wasn’t official. In July, baseball commissioner Ford Frick had announced that he wouldn’t consider Ruth’s record broken unless the player who broke it had hit more than 60 home runs in fewer than 154 games–the number of games Ruth’s Yankees had played in the 1927 season. (By 1961, teams played 162 regular-season games.) Frick had more than a passing interest in the issue: He’d been a good friend of the Babe’s and thought it was his responsibility to guard his legacy as closely as possible. Moreover, he resented the changes he saw in baseball–bulky sluggers, shorter fences, longer seasons, livelier balls. And Frick, like many fans, didn’t quite know what to make of Maris, a Midwesterner of few words who once told a reporter “I was born surly, and I’m going to stay that way.” The ever-disdainful Rogers Hornsby summed up the feelings of many Ruth partisans and Mantle fans when he told anyone who would listen that the young Yankee “has no right to break Ruth’s record.”

And so, as far as Major League Baseball was concerned, he didn’t. While there was never an official asterisk next to any record of Maris’–in fact, the league didn’t even have its own record book until 1995, and of course Frick had no real say over what anybody else put in their record books–the league simply considered Ruth’s and Maris’ to be two separate accomplishments. In 1991, an MLB committee on historical accuracy voted to remove the distinction and award the record fully to Maris, who had died of cancer six years earlier.

In 1998, Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs both broke Maris’ home-run record. Sosa finished the season with 66 and McGwire finished with 70. Barry Bonds now holds the record with 73.

Roger Maris's Misunderstood Quest to Break the Home Run Record

Fifty summers ago, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle were chasing Babe Ruth's record of 60 home runs in a single season, and the country was enthralled. (The overwhelming number of Yankee fans were rooting for Mickey.) It's possible that Americans will never again be as focused on any sporting accomplishment as we were that year. And perhaps because of the intense interest in the season, numerous misconceptions have grown up around the race to 61.

No other season in sports has spawned so many reminiscences, so much commentary, so much myth and legend. Phil Pepe's new book, 1961: The Inside Story of the Maris-Mantle Home Run Chase (Triumph Books, $20) is probably the best thing written about that incredible year. Pepe tries to set the record straight about many of the myths of 1961, one of the most common being that the Maris and Mantle were distant and even hostile towards each other.

Mantle, who had been booed mercilessly for years by Yankees fans even while winning home-run titles and World Series rings, was glad to have the spotlight on Maris. Mickey liked and admired his shy, reserved teammate, and the two actually shared an apartment in Queens with reserve outfielder Bob Cerv. Late in the season, Mantle, suffering from an abscess in his hip joint, pulled hard for Maris to beat Ruth from his hospital bed.

Another urban legend is that the fences at Yankee Stadium were, somehow, shorter for Maris than they were for Ruth. In fact, at the shortest point they were just about the same for both men—296 feet—and, amazingly, neither Ruth nor Maris was particularly helped by the Stadium's short right field porch. The Babe hit 28 of his 60 home runs at home in 1927 with 32 in the other seven American League ballparks Maris had 30 home runs at Yankee Stadium and 31 on the road.

Yet another canard is that expansion—the addition of two new teams, the new Washington Senators and the Los Angeles Angels—somehow "watered down" pitching in 1961. In fact, the AL's batting average in '61 was .256, exactly what it was the year before expansion, and though there were more home runs, the Earned Run Averages were very nearly the same, 3.88 in 1960 and 4.03 in 1961. As a point of comparison, the National League, which did not expand until 1962, actually had a slightly higher batting average, .262, and ERA, 4.04, than the AL in 1961.

But the big one, the mother of all sports myths, is that an asterisk was placed besides Maris's name in the record books because Maris's season was eight games longer. David James Duncan describes it thus in his great novel, The Brothers K:

But what was the reality? As Pepe writes:

There was no asterisk. Not then. Not now. Not ever.

The myth that an asterisk was used to denote that Roger Maris needed expansion and a longer schedule of games to exceed Ruth's single season home run record has been perpetuated in story on and film. But it's not true. It never was. There never was an asterisk. What there was for almost 50 years, however, were two entries in baseball's official record books, as such:

61 Roger E. Maris, AL: NY, 1961 (162 G/S)
60 George H. Ruth, AL. NY, 1927.

So there was no asterisk on the books.

Pepe's account is mostly right, but he missed one very important point: There was no official record book in 1961, either with or without an asterisk.

How was the myth of the asterisk born? As I wrote in my 2002 book, Clearing The Bases, The Greatest Baseball Debates of the Century, it's at least as much the fault of the New York Daily News' Dick Young as of Ford Frick, the commissioner of baseball at the time. Midway through the season, as Maris and several other players were on track to beat Ruth's record, Frick was apparently disturbed that the new 162-game season would give the batters an unfair advantage. On July 17th, Frick called a press conference and made the following ruling:

(Let me interrupt for a moment. Everyone was so obsessed with how many games Ruth and Maris played that no one noticed that Maris actually hit his 60th home run in his 684th plate appearance that season. The Babe didn't hit umber 60 until he had stepped into the batter's box for the 689th time. But let's move on.)

In the late Maury Allen's biography, Roger Maris, a Man for All Seasons, he explains what happened next and how the myth of the asterisk was born. During Frick's press conference, Dick Young called out loud, "Maybe you should use an asterisk on the new record. Everybody does that when there's a difference of opinion." Frick said that he agreed, and many took him at his word: There would, they assumed, be an asterisk next to Maris's name in the record book, or books.

What Pepe and other baseball historians didn't understand is that Frick was not making a ruling but merely stating an opinion. In fact, he had no power to place an asterisk or any other qualifier on anything. There were several record books in use back then, but they were all independent of the commissioner's office. In 1998, Total Baseball was given the job of being the "official" record book of major league baseball. Needless to say, there is no asterisk in Total Baseball's record book next to Maris's entry, nor any double entry.

Amazingly, the mythical asterisk has survived even Ford Frick's denial. Practically no one remembers that Frick wrote an autobiography published by Crown in 1973, Games, Asterisks and People. "No asterisk," he wrote, "has appeared in the official record in connection for that accomplishment." Frick, though, couldn't resist reminding us in his book that "[Maris's] record was set in a 162-game season. The Ruth record of 60 home runs was set in 1927 in a 154-game season." Since practically no one read Frick's book, his denial of the asterisk did nothing to erase it from the collective memory of American baseball fans.

In a bizarre postscript to the asterisk story, in 1991 Commissioner Fay Vincent issued a statement indicating that he supported "The single record thesis," meaning that Maris held the record for most home runs in a season, period. The Committee on Statistical Accuracy, appointed by Vincent, then voted to remove the asterisk from Maris's record. Thus, a commissioner of baseball voiced his support for removing an asterisk that a previous commissioner denied ever having put there in the first place. Probably nothing did more to enhance the myth of the existence of the asterisk as Vincent's "removal" of it.

So far, the combined efforts of two commissioners, Phil Pepe, Maury Allen, and myself have done nothing to obliterate the legend of the asterisk. The irony is that if it had been real, Fay Vincent's pronouncement probably would have done away with it. The fact that is never existed in the first place has made it impossible to erase from our subconscious.

Then, in 2001, Billy Crystal captured the era and the excitement—as well as the misinformation—in his wonderful baseball film, 61*, with Barry Pepper as Roger Maris and Thomas Jayne as Mickey Mantle. And so a new generation of baseball fans has grown up believing in the asterisk that never was.

We'll give the last word to David James Duncan:

The perfect justice of a Hereafter is seldom obtainable in the here, but in the Otherworldy world of baseball lore the Commissioner's asterisk has in fact received an unusually just reward: question a crowd of baseball buffs today and you'll find that Frick, if remembered at all, is remembered solely as the guy who branded Maris's sixty-one homers with the *.

Who broke Roger Maris' home run record?

15 year member
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List of Major League Baseball home run champions:

1998 Mark McGwire St. Louis Cardinals 70
1999 Mark McGwire St. Louis Cardinals 65
2001 Barry Bonds San Francisco Giants 73

NOTE: Sosa finished the 1998 season with sixty-six, but did not win the National League home run title, as McGwire finished his season with seventy homers. Two years later, Sosa would finally get the title with fifty home runs.

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The 1961 season

The 1961 season was a year of change for baseball. The AL expanded from eight to 10 teams with the addition of the Los Angeles Angels and Washington Senators. Both new teams drafted their players from the other AL squad. The perceived result was watered-down rosters for most of the teams because there were now players in the AL who would otherwise be playing in AAA. To maintain a balanced schedule, AL owners extended the season from 154 games to 162 games.

While Roger Maris had established himself as a star Yankees player that first season, the affable Mickey Mantle was still the fan-favorite after winning a couple of MVPs a few seasons before. Mantle and Maris started the season off displaying their power early and often. By mid-season, it looked like one or both players could potentially break the once-unbreakable Babe Ruth record of 60 home runs set 34 years earlier.

The media began pitting Mantle vs. Maris. For fans, it was an easy call to support the hero Mantle over the new guy. To add to the already-building tension, baseball commissioner Ford Frick, who had been a good friend of Ruth’s, announced that unless Ruth’s mark was surpassed in the first 154 games, the new record should be shown with an asterisk, indicating the achievement occurred in a 162-game season. Interestingly, MLB had no direct control over any record books until years later.

Home Run History / McGwire's 62nd breaks baseball's hallowed record

1998-09-09 04:00:00 PDT St. Louis -- History was followed by a big sloppy trip around the bases. This is what happens when joy and relief and adrenaline converge in one transcendent moment. This is what happens when years of speculation and months of scrutiny transform themselves into achievement. This is what happens when a hypothetical world turns real.

Mark McGwire, the man who normally displays the emotional range of Stonehenge, lost it. There is no other way to describe it. He hit the most historic, the most memorable, the most anticipated home run in baseball history and proceeded to miss first base.

This, clearly, was not a rehearsed moment. This is what happens when life becomes so good and so unbelievable that stoicism and reason just won't do. He stumbled. He stopped and stutter- stepped and screamed. He returned to first base and kicked it like a man stomping a bug. He greeted opponents as if they were war heroes and teammates as if they were sustenance.

He grabbed his son Matthew and hugged him so hard that vital organs might need attention. He hit home run No. 62 at 8:18 p.m. CDT last night at Busch Stadium, on a shot to left so low and so hard that nobody, not even McGwire, could believe it was out until it was.

History has never been quicker.

He broke Roger Maris' single-season record of 61, a record that stood for 37 years. The num-

ber -- 61 -- held an epic place in Americana. The most hallowed number in sports was erased on the first pitch McGwire saw in the fourth inning. It came on a pitch from Cubs starter Steve Trachsel, a fastball low and in, a pitch intended for nothing grander than ball one.

"I thought it was going to hit the wall and next thing you know, it disappeared," McGwire said. "I looked up and (first base coach) Dave McKay was jumping and I sort of like, missed one big thing: first base."

The stadium went from the uneasy hush of prehistory to wild abandon. Uniforms converged from everywhere -- security guards from the dugouts, Cardinals from the bullpen, police from the outfield, groundskeepers from the corners. The whole place seemed to spring into a cataclysm of duty and order. The adoration of 50,000 light hearts crashed down on him in incalculable torrents.

"This will get through even the hardest and thickest hearts," said McGwire's friend, Cardinals catcher Tom Lampkin.

The record-breaker came in the 145th game of the season, on September 8 -- far earlier than anyone could have predicted. He hit seven in his last seven games to get it, and his remarkable surge gathered momentum as the attention increased. Every person in America, it seemed, knew his routine: The way he got ready in the dugout the way he worked the cricks out of his neck the way he squinted toward the pitcher like a man trying desperately to read the fine print.

The record was broken with class and respect, two qualities McGwire seemed to gain in dramatic increments over the past month. Nothing could surpass Monday's scene, when he tied the record on his father's birthday and hoisted his son at home plate, but this came close.

"I was trying to imagine what it was going to be like," McGwire said. "I was telling myself, 'I think I'll be floating.' I sure in the heck was floating. . . . I just hope I didn't act foolish."

While McGwire celebrated with his teammates, Chicago's Sammy Sosa, the unlikely but persistent pursuer, made his way in from right field. He waited until the right moment -- his timing has been impeccable throughout this episode -- and attempted to give McGwire a hug. Instead, McGwire lifted him high into the air, showing him off to the crowd.

But McGwire's best moment came when he left the field and entered the stands to pay tribute to the family of Roger Maris. Before the game, McGwire held the bat Maris used to hit No. 61 in 1961, and he said he knew immediately that last night would be the night. He broke a record, he helped save a sport and he resurrected a man's dignity.

Roger Maris

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Roger Maris breaks home-run record - HISTORY

Maris battled Mantle, media and Babe's legacy
By Nick Acocella
Special to ESPN.com

"It fell to Roger Maris to break the sexiest record in professional sports. That will always be the line on Maris' baseball epitaph," says Steve Hirdt of the Elias Sports Bureau on ESPN Classic's SportsCentury show.

Roger Maris, who broke Babe Ruth's record by hitting 61 homers in 1961, will be profiled on Saturday, October 30 at 4 p.m. ET.

While Hank Aaron had to deal with anonymous enemies as he chased Babe Ruth's career home-run record,

Despite his monster '61 season, Maris finished with just 275 homers in his 12-year career.
Roger Maris at least knew his antagonist when he sought to break the Babe's single-season record in 1961. Commissioner Ford Frick's insistence on creating two records ultimately had the opposite effect it pointed up the negligible difference in establishing major league marks broken within the old 154-game schedule and the newer 162-game schedule.

This alteration in perspective, however, did Maris little good in his pursuit of immortality. Quiet and shy, he recoiled from the incessant media attention. The pressure of his drive to beat the Babe so frayed Maris that he began losing his composure and his hair.

The left-handed hitting rightfielder wasn't the people's choice to break the 34-year-old record. Most Yankees fans were rooting for his home-grown teammate, Mickey Mantle. But an infection forced the Mick out of the race in September, and he finished with 54 homers.

Of the 275 homers Maris hit in his 12-year career, 61 came this season. No. 59 was slugged in the Yankees' 154th game to a decision (Game No. 155 overall) off Milt Pappas in Baltimore, Ruth's hometown. He tied Babe with his 60th in Game 158, off Baltimore's Jack Fisher. Maris broke Ruth's record with a blow into the rightfield seats at Yankee Stadium off Boston's Tracy Stallard on the last day of the season.

The crowd was a mere 23,154, many of them packed into the rightfield seats to try for the $5,000 posted for the ball by a Sacramento restaurateur. The modest attendance was attributable to the slighted significance given to the feat by Frick's ruling and by Yankee management's unwillingness to hype the event.

When truck driver Sal Durante sought to give Maris the ball he had caught in the stands, the star declined, insisting that Durante should receive the bounty. He would say later that Durante's generosity meant more to him than the media pressures and the catcalls from the pro-Ruth and pro-Mantle fans.

Maris was born on Sept. 10, 1934, in Hibbing, Minn. When Roger was eight, his family moved to North Dakota, eventually settling in Fargo. Roger and older brother Rudy starred in football and basketball at Shanley High School. In a game as a senior, Roger returned four kickoffs for touchdowns to set a national high school record.

The school, like many in North Dakota, had no baseball program because of the cold weather. But the Maris brothers played American Legion ball, and Roger led his team to a state championship.

While a sophomore at Shanley, Maris met his future wife Pat at a high school basketball game.

Recruited by the legendary Bud Wilkinson to play football at Oklahoma, Maris chose instead to sign with the Cleveland Indians. After four seasons in the minors - with stops at Fargo-Moorhead, Keokuk, Tulsa, Reading and Indianapolis - Maris made his major league debut in 1957 with the Indians, batting .235 with 14 homers and 51 RBI in 116 games.

In June 1958, he was traded to the Kansas City Athletics, a move that was widely seen as a prelude to a second swap, to New York. American League president Will Harridge, already under fire for allowing Kansas City to operate as a "big-league farm club" for the Yankees, was moved to caution the Athletics not to send the outfielder to the Bronx for at least 18 months.

Kansas City owner Arnold Johnson took the pledge, and at one point was on the verge of dealing Maris to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Bill Mazeroski. However, he finally succumbed and in December 1959, he sent the budding star to New York along with two other players for four Yankees, including Hank Bauer and Don Larsen.

In the meantime, Maris had produced a .240 average, 28 homers and 80 RBI in 1958 and .273, 16, and 72 in 1959.

Maris' first year in pinstripes, in 1960, netted him the first of two consecutive MVP awards. The 6-foot, 197-pound outfielder belted 39 homers (one behind Mantle's league-leading 40), led the AL with 112 RBI and a .581 slugging percentage, hit a career-high .283 and won his only Gold Glove. While the Yankees lost the World Series in seven games to the Pirates, Maris hit two homers.

His 1960 performance was quickly eclipsed, however, by the circus atmosphere surrounding his 1961 effort.

Roger Maris (l) and Mickey Mantle's (r) home run race in 1961 even garnered the attention of former President Harry Truman.
Maris began the season unostentatiously, hitting only one homer in April. But then he picked up steam, belting 11 in May and 15 in June. He became the first player in history to hit 50 by the end of August.

Conspicuous was the media caravan that grew longer the closer Maris got to Ruth's fabled number and his increasingly sullen reactions to being the center of national attention. Making everything worse were the Frick ruling and the media-inspired feud with Mantle. The pair shared an apartment in Queens with outfielder Bob Cerv during the season and marveled at the daily reports of their mutual hostility.

Besides finishing with 61 homers - the only time Maris reached 40 - he also led the AL in total bases (366), RBI (142) and runs (132, tied with Mantle) while batting .269. Maris' home-run record lasted 37 years, until Mark McGwire broke it with 70 in 1998.

Maris won the Hickok Belt as the best professional athlete of the year and was voted Sport Magazine's Man of the Year, The Sporting News Player of the Year, the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year and Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year.

Though Maris batted only .105 as the Yankees defeated Cincinnati in the World Series, his ninth-inning homer won the third game, 3-2.

In 1962, Maris' numbers dropped considerably - 33 homers, 100 RBI and .256 batting average - though he was named to the All-Star team for a fourth straight year. In Game 7 of the World Series, he ran down Willie Mays' ninth-inning, two-out double and held Matty Alou at third. When Ralph Terry retired Willie McCovey, the Yankees were 1-0 winners and world champions again.

While injuries limited him to 90 games in 1963, he did manage 23 homers and 53 RBI as the Yankees won their fourth straight pennant. The following year was a slight improvement (a .281 average, his second highest with the Yankees, 26 homers and 71 RBI). In the World Series, his last with the Yankees, he hit .200 with one homer as New York lost to St. Louis.

But 1965 was a disaster as a hand injury sidelined him for all but 46 games (.239, eight homers). The next season, he rebounded to play 119 games but batted only .233 with 13 homers. That December, Maris was dealt to the Cardinals for third baseman Charley Smith.

With his power gone, Maris hit only 14 homers with 100 RBI in his two seasons as a part-time rightfielder for St. Louis. However, he flourished in the 1967 World Series, batting .385 with seven RBI as the Cardinals defeated Boston in seven games. In the 1968 World Series, he hit only .158 with one RBI as the Cardinals lost to Detroit in seven.

Maris, who retired with a .260 average and 851 RBI, had wanted to quit after 1967, but St. Louis owner Gussie Busch persuaded him to stay another season by offering him an Anheuser-Busch distributorship in Gainesville, Fla. Running it with his brother Rudy, the deal made Roger a wealthy man.

He moved to Gainesville, where he and Pat raised their six children (Roger Jr., Kevin, Randy, Richard, Susan and Sandra). The Yankees retired his No. 9 on July 21, 1984.

Seventeen months later, on Dec. 14, 1985, he died of lymphatic cancer in Houston. Roger Maris was 51.


Mickey Mantle joined the Yankees in 1951. [5] Roger Maris joined the Yankees, becoming Mickey Mantle's teammate in 1960, when the Kansas City Athletics traded Maris with Kent Hadley and Joe DeMaestri in exchange for Marv Throneberry, Norm Siebern, Hank Bauer, and Don Larsen. [6] [7] Mantle played center field, while Maris played right field.

During the 1960 season, Mantle led the American League (AL) with 40 home runs, while Maris finished with 39. [6] Maris led the AL with 112 runs batted in (RBI) and a .581 slugging percentage. He also had a .283 batting average, the highest of his career, and won a Gold Glove Award. [6] Maris won the 1960 AL Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award [8] with 72% of the vote, while Mantle finished runner-up in the vote, placing just behind Maris with 71%. [9]

Near the beginning of the season, New York Yankees manager Ralph Houk decided to switch Mantle and Maris around in the batting order, having Maris bat third and Mantle cleanup instead of vice versa. [10] This is cited as an advantage for Maris, as opposition pitchers were reluctant to pitch around him, as this would result in Mantle coming up to the plate to bat. [10] As a result, pitchers gave Maris better pitches to hit for fear of walking him. [10] At first, the batting order switch appeared to have little effect on Maris, who hit only one home run in April. [6] However, he gained momentum in the home run race in May and June, slugging 11 and 15 home runs, respectively. [6] On the other hand, Mantle started off the season strong, hitting 14 home runs by the end of May and 11 homers in June. [11] At the end of June, it became clear that both M&M Boys were on pace to challenge Babe Ruth's 1927 single-season home run record. [11] However, their chances of breaking Ruth's record were dealt a heavy blow on July 17, when Ford Frick, the Commissioner of Baseball, ruled that a player would have to hit more than 60 home runs in 154 games [b] in order to break Ruth's record. [10] [11] [12] Frick, who was a good friend of Ruth and served as his ghostwriter, [10] [11] added that a "distinctive mark" would have to be added should the record be broken after 154 games. [11] [12]

With the pressure intensifying over the newfound need to break the record within the time limit, [10] Maris passed Mantle on August 15 for the final time that year and led the home run race for the rest of the season. [11] Maris then became the first player in history to join the 50 home run club by the end of August. [6] At the start of September, the race for the single-season record was still extremely close, with Maris having hit 56 home runs to Mantle's 53. [10] However, Mantle was forced to pull out of the race after succumbing to an abscess in his hip joint [12] caused from an injection that was supposed to cure him of a flu. [10] Though most fans supported Mantle [12] and vociferously rooted against Maris, [13] [14] [15] it was the latter player who was now left to break Ruth's record alone.

Maris had a total of 58 home runs when the Yankees' played their 154th game of the season against the Baltimore Orioles. [10] He homered just once in the game, falling two short of setting a new and recognized single-season home run record. Ironically, Maris hit his 60th home run in fewer plate appearances (684) than Babe Ruth (689). [11] [12] This made Frick's ruling nonsensical, since games played "matter less" than the number of opportunities presented to a batter. [11] On October 1, the final day of the season, only 23,154 people were in attendance at Yankee Stadium to see Maris hit his 61st home run of the season against Tracy Stallard of the Boston Red Sox. [6] Frick's ruling back in July, coupled with the Yankees' reluctance to highlight the event, are cited as reasons for the surprisingly low attendance. [6]

Sal Durante, the man who caught Maris' 61st home run ball, offered to return it to Maris. [6] Maris politely declined and even encouraged Durante to sell the memorabilia in order to earn some money. [6] Durante sold the ball for $5,000 to a restaurateur, who gave the ball to Maris. Maris donated the ball to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 1973. [16]

Mantle returned from injury later that season, thus enabling both M&M Boys to participate in the 1961 World Series. Though Maris and Mantle's batting averages throughout the series were a mere .105 [6] and .167, [17] the Yankees were able to defeat the Cincinnati Reds, [6] 4 games to 1. [17] At the end of the season, Maris won the AL MVP Award for the second consecutive year. The voting points and percentage of votes for the M&M Boys were exactly the same as in 1960, with Maris garnering 202 points to Mantle's 198 points. [9]

Mantle was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1974 on his first ballot appearance. [18] On the other hand, Maris never met the 75% threshold required for induction into the Hall and was eliminated from future BBWAA voting in 1988, his 15th and final time on the ballot, where he garnered 43.1% of the vote (the highest vote percentage he received). [19] [20] Nevertheless, the Yankees honored both Mantle and Maris by retiring their numbers and presenting them with plaques that hang in Monument Park. [21] [22]

In 1991, thirty years after Maris hit 61 home runs, commissioner Fay Vincent ruled that there be only one single-season home run record and that any notation beside Maris' record (denoting that he hit 61 home runs in a 162-game season) be eliminated. [23] Maris died six years earlier in 1985. [24] Thus, he never knew the record was his.

During their record-breaking season of 1961, the M&M Boys became the only teammates to join the 50 home run club in the same season, hitting a combined 115 home runs to break the single-season record for home runs by a pair of teammates. [3] [4] This record was previously held by Yankee sluggers Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, who hit 60 and 47 home runs, respectively, in 1927. [4] In addition, Mantle and Maris combined to record 269 RBI. [4]

Contrary to popular belief, the M&M Boys were actually close friends and no hostility existed between the two of them. [6] [12] [25] The two shared an apartment in Queens with fellow outfielder Bob Cerv during the 1961 season [6] and when Mantle suffered an injury towards the end of the season, he openly rooted for Maris from his hospital bed in the latter's quest to break Ruth's single-season home run record. [12] [25] The stories of a feud developing between the M&M Boys during the 1961 season were inspired due to the media hype surrounding their quest to break Ruth's record. [6]

Mantle and Maris engaged in a business partnership. The two endorsed Mantle–Maris wear, a line of clothing apparel for men and boys. [26] They appeared in Safe at Home!, a movie released in April 1962. [27]

The M&M Boys are viewed as one of the greatest offensive pair of teammates in the history of the game. [4] Furthermore, the combined 115 home runs between the two during the 1961 season is considered a "bona fide untouchable" record. [4] This is due to the fact that the likelihood of two teammates performing exceptionally well in a season is "surprisingly rare." [4]

Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame
Yankee team leader
American League record
# Position in the lineup
AB At-bats
H Hits
HR Home runs
RBI Runs batted in
BA Batting average
OBP On-base percentage
SLG Slugging percentage
# Player Position Games AB H HR RBI BA OBP SLG Ref
3 Roger Maris Right fielder 161 590 159 61 141 .269 .372 .620 [1]
4 Mickey Mantle Center fielder 153 514 163 54 128 .317 .448 .687 [2]

The movie 61* was directed by avid Yankees fan Billy Crystal and released in 2001, the 40th anniversary of Maris' record-breaking season. It recounts both Mantle (portrayed by Thomas Jane) and Maris' (depicted by Barry Pepper) journey during the 1961 season in their quest to break Babe Ruth's single-season home run record of 60. [28]

Kevin McReynolds and Carmelo Martínez, starting outfielders for the 1984 San Diego Padres, were dubbed the "M&M Boys" after the Yankees duo. [29] [30] [31] The Padres that season reached the World Series for the first time in the franchise's history, with McReynolds sharing the team lead with 20 home runs and Martinez adding 66 RBIs. [32]

The usage of the nickname has resurfaced and has been utilized by broadcasters, analysts, and the print media to refer to the Minnesota Twins 3 and 4 hitting tandem of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, [33] who won the American League MVP Award in 2009 and 2006, respectively. [8] Mauer's batting prowess (uncharacteristic of a catcher) earned him three batting championships (2006, 2008 and 2009) [34] and four Silver Slugger Awards (2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010), [35] while his stellar defense enabled him to win three consecutive Gold Glove Awards from 2008 to 2010. [36] This has been complemented with the power of Morneau, which has earned him a spot at the 2008 Home Run Derby (which he subsequently won) [37] and runner-up in the 2008 American League MVP voting. [38] The success of both Mauer and Morneau has begun to garner comparisons for the two teammates to the old Yankees tandem. However, Morneau has expressed some minor disdain for the term, feeling the comparison is being applied too soon. [39]

Victor Martinez and J. D. Martinez starting for the 2014 Detroit Tigers were dubbed the "M&M Boys" by Tigers broadcaster Rod Allen. [ citation needed ]

Sal Durante meets Roger Maris

When Durante caught Roger Maris’ record-setting ball, stadium security surrounded Durante and told him that Maris would want the ball. Durante agreed, saying “Fine, but I want to give it to him personally,” according to The Seattle Times. Security escorted Durante to where Maris and his family were gathered.

“Somebody said, ‘Hey, Rog, the kid wants to give you the ball personally.’ So I walked up to him and said, ‘Here’s the ball, Roger.’” As Durante was walking away, Maris, after autographing the ball, gave it back to Durante and said, “Keep it, kid. Put it up for auction. Somebody will pay you a lot of money for the ball. He’ll keep it for a couple of days and then give it to me.”

Durante sold the ball to a man named Sam Gordon, a California restaurateur, for $5,000. Gordon then turned the ball over to Maris. Four weeks later, Durante and Rosemarie were married and Gordon paid for their honeymoon.

A case for Roger Maris in the Hall of Fame

Those who argue against enshrining Maris in the MLB Hall of Fame also make some compelling points. They often point out that Maris really only had a few good seasons, as in two or three. The rest of his career was more or less average. While Maris did manage to swat 61 homers in 1961, his second-highest amount in a season was just 39.

The other major knock against Maris’s candidacy has to do with his durability and longevity. The outfielder spent a lot of his career dealing with injuries. He topped 140 games in only four of his seasons. Over the course of a dozen MLB seasons, Maris played in just 1463 total games — on the very low end for a Hall of Fame candidate.

Roger Maris and the Great Home Run Chase

Sixty years ago, Americans were captivated by objects in orbit. The space race between the United States and Soviet Union was heating up as cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to circle the earth and astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American to journey into outer space.

And while President John F. Kennedy was telling the world our goal was to land a man on the moon before the end of the decade, two muscular men in New York Yankee pinstripes were launching baseballs over outfield walls across the land at a prolific pace never witnessed before.

The great home run chase of 1961 between Bronx Bombers Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle — and the ghost of late Yankee slugger Babe Ruth — became so enthralling that even non-baseball fans took notice. The “M&M Boys” were pictured on the cover of Life magazine, made appearances on prime-time television shows, and were asked to play themselves in the movie “That Touch of Mink,” starring Doris Day and Cary Grant. News organizations from England and Japan sent reporters to chronicle this very American sports phenomenon, and legendary television anchor Walter Cronkite provided nightly updates of Mantle and Maris on the CBS Evening News.

“It really was a transcendent event,’’ said Tony Kubek, an All-Star shortstop on that team who would later enjoy a long run as an award-winning baseball broadcaster. 𠇊s the summer progressed and it became apparent that one or both of them were going to break Babe’s single-season home run record, people couldn’t wait to grab the morning paper to see if Mickey or Roger had added to their totals.”

And like any great drama it gripped you to the very end.

At exactly 2:43 the afternoon of Oct. 1 in the final game of the � season, the story achieved a Hollywood climax as Maris smashed home run No. 61 into the right field stands at Yankee Stadium to eclipse by one the most hallowed record in all of sports. Kubek was in the dugout with his teammates, and the scene remains vivid all these decades later.

“Unlike Mickey or Ruth, who hit these high-soaring, majestic home runs, Roger tended to be a line-drive hitter,’’ Kubek recalled. “So, when he hit it, you didn’t know if it was going to wind up being a single to right just over the second-baseman’s head or if it was going to rise and sail over the fence. It wasn’t until you got off the bench and onto that first step of the dugout that you realized Rog had gotten all of this one and it was going to carry into the seats.

“While he rounded the bases, you felt so proud of him because we had witnessed first-hand the incredible pressure he had endured. The thing I’ll remember most is that after he touched third and began heading for home, our third base coach, Frank Crosetti, shook his hand and slapped him on the back. Now, Frank never did that before with anyone. He would clap, of course, when one of us hit a homer, but that was usually the extent of it. But this was such a historic moment that he couldn’t resist doing more.

𠇊nd the thing that’s really neat about that gesture is that Crosetti had been a teammate of Ruth’s back in 1927 when the Babe set the original record. And Crosetti had been a Yankee ever since. So, he was the thread connecting the two. History had come full circle.”

(From left) Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle and Tony Kubek. 

Underwood Archives/Getty Images

And Maris felt a great sense of accomplishment — and relief.

“I couldn’t even think as I went around the bases,’’ he recounted after depositing a 2-0 pitch from Boston Red Sox starter Tracy Stallard eight rows beyond the right field wall. “I couldn’t tell you what crossed my mind. I don’t think anything did. I was in a fog. I was all fogged out from a very, very hectic season and an extremely difficult month.”

It clearly had been a tale of two seasons — the best and worst of times for Roger Eugene Maris, who died 36 years ago at age 51.

The shy, taciturn slugger from Fargo, N.D. had never wanted to be a Yankee in the first place. It didn’t matter to him that they were perennial World Series participants or that the Big Ballpark in the Bronx featured a short right-field porch tailor-made for his home run swing. The introverted Maris would have been content to remain with the Kansas City Athletics for the remainder of his career, but the Yankees were in need of a left-handed power-hitter to add the finishing touches to what would become one of the finest teams in baseball annals.

So, after the 1959 season, they traded a boatload of players, including World Series perfecto pitcher Don Larsen, to the A’s in exchange for Maris. These were the days before free agency, leaving the 26-year-old right fielder with just two options: play in New York or don’t play at all.

Reluctantly, he signed with the Yankees and wound up winning the American League MVP after batting .283 with 39 homers and 112 RBI in 1960. On his way to St. Petersburg, Fla. the following spring, his car broke down and there was concern his wife, Pat, had suffered a miscarriage. Those fears were allayed, but the strain of the ordeal may have contributed to Maris’ slow start in �.

In mid-May, Yankee President Dan Topping called him into his office. Maris was batting only .210 at the time with just four home runs, and the Yankees were only two games above .500, already trailing Detroit by five games. Maris figured he was going to be traded, but that wasn’t the case at all. Topping told him to settle down, to swing for the fences and not worry about his average.

Relieved to learn he wouldn’t be sent packing for the third time in four years, and batting third in the order, just in front of Mantle, Maris went on a tear. He clubbed seven homers in May and 15 more in June to raise his total to 27, putting him slightly ahead of Ruth and two in front of Mantle.

“Watching those two was like watching two thoroughbreds go neck and neck,’’ said the late Clete Boyer, the Yankees third baseman that season. “Roger would hit one, then Mickey would hit two. Then Roger would hit two and Mickey would hit one. It was unbelievable. I couldn’t wait to get to the ballpark to watch those guys play their own game of home run derby.”

Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle

Transcendential Graphics/Getty Images

Several times that season, the M&M Boys homered back to back, prompting Yankee catcher Yogi Berra’s humorous “It’s déjà vu all over again” line.

But what should have been the most enjoyable season of Maris’ career wound up being the most stressful year of his life. Not only was he forced to battle AL pitchers, but also the commissioner of baseball and many sportswriters and fans who appeared to be rooting against him from that moment in late June when it appeared he and Mantle had a legitimate shot at the record.

The league had added eight games to the schedule that season to accommodate two expansion teams. This prompted Commissioner Ford Frick, Ruth’s former ghostwriter and friend, to decree in July that the Babe’s record would have to be broken in 154 games or else there would be two marks listed in the record book. Widely syndicated New York Daily News columnist Dick Young wrote that an 𠇊sterisk” would be used to distinguish a new record.

As the race gained steam, more and more fans and writers began siding with Mantle because he had been with the team for a decade, as opposed to Maris, who wasn’t perceived as a “true Yankee” because he was in just his second season in the Bronx. The media entourage covering the team swelled to nearly 100 reporters by the start of September, and the competition for exclusive stories became fierce. This led to erroneous reporting, including fabricated stories that the M&M Boys couldn’t stand one another.

“Nothing could have been further from the truth,’’ said Boyer. “Mickey and Roger became the best of friends. Why would they have lived together (in an apartment in Queens) if they didn’t like one another? I mean, come on.”

Mantle, who had felt the wrath of fans and sportswriters for much of his career, did his best to help Maris deal with the intense pressure. Near the end of the chase, Maris actually began losing clumps of hair because of all the stress.

“I’m going nuts, Mick,’’ he confided after one game. “I can’t stand much more of this.” The Yankees centerfielder put his arm around Maris’ shoulder and said: “You’ll just have to learn to take it, Rog. There’s no escape. You can do this.”

A hip infection took Mantle out of the race in mid-September, and although Maris didn’t break the record in 154 games, he did do it on the last day of the regular season, in front of a crowd of 23,154 fans, many of who crammed into the lower right-field stands.

Maris’ record lasted 37 years, three years longer than Ruth’s mark. Mark McGwire established a new record of 70 in 1998. And three years later, Barry Bonds extended the record to 73. But many believe those numbers, along with Sammy Sosa’s seasons of 66, 63 and 64 homers, are tainted because they occurred during baseball’s steroid era.

Regardless of what the record book says, Kubek will always look back on that summer fondly.

“I had a front-row seat for one of the greatest seasons and moments in baseball history,’’ he said. “It was truly unforgettable.”

Watch the video: Roger Maris breaks Ruths record 1961 (January 2022).