Remembering Roger Maris, 50 years later

  • Article by: PAMELA HUEY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 23, 2011 - 9:37 AM

On the last day of the 1961 season, the slugger from Fargo who was born on Minnesota's Iron Range had broken baseball's most sacred record -- 60 home runs by Babe Ruth in 1927.

hide

Roger Maris in 1961.

Photo: Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

On October 1, 1961, Boston rookie righthander Tracy Stallard faced New York's Roger Maris with two out in the fourth inning. "Here's the windup," reported radio broadcaster Phil "Scooter" Rizzuto. "Fast ball hit deep to right. This could be it. Way back there. Holy Cow! He did it! 61 for Maris!" ¶ On the last day of the 1961 season, the slugger from Fargo who was born on Minnesota's Iron Range had broken baseball's most sacred record -- 60 home runs by Babe Ruth in 1927.

A half century has passed since the Yankees' M & M boys -- Maris and Mickey Mantle -- held their home run derby, fixating a nation in an era before steroids. The Yankees will honor Maris' accomplishment with a ceremony prior to Friday night's game against the Red Sox. The slugger triumphed despite the taunts of fans and a relentless, unforgiving and Ruth-biased New York media. An injury-riddled Mantle stalled at 54.

In the upper-deck stands behind home plate that autumn day, Pat Maris sat with other Yankee wives. For good measure, she had said a prayer to St. Jude that morning, and her prayer was answered. She watched her husband round the bases as the crowd cheered -- no fist pumping, just a business-like jog. She remembers how his teammates had to push him out of the dugout to tip his hat.

"You could feel the excitement," Pat Maris said last week from her Gainesville, Fla., home. "It was the last day of the season. We were all hoping that he would hit it. ... When he did, it was a big blur. Everybody stood on their feet, cheered and watched it go out."

But it was a stressful time. Commissioner Ford Frick ruled that Maris needed to break Ruth's record in 154 games or he would have an asterisk by his name denoting the new, expanded 162-game season. (In the end, there never was an asterisk.) Pat Maris almost didn't make it to Yankee Stadium for that final game to see her Fargo Shanley High School sweetheart play.

The growing family lived in Raytown, Mo., a Kansas City suburb, while her husband shared a New York City apartment with Mantle and teammate Bob Cerv. She had given birth to their third son and fourth child, Randy, in late August.

"He was the only one who came early so somebody must have been helping me out," she said.

After the game, Pat Maris waited for her now very famous husband.

"He was always the first one at work and the last one to leave," she said.

Pat Maris and her six grown children, who plan to be in Yankee Stadium Friday night, celebrated the 50th anniversary at the annual Roger Maris Celebrity Golf Tournament in Fargo in June. The slugger died of cancer in 1985 at 51, and the tournament raises money for the Roger Maris Cancer Center.

After all the laudatory remarks, jokes and a 50th anniversary cake, sportscaster Bob Costas made a passionate case -- via video -- for Maris' inclusion into the Baseball Hall of Fame .

"He is the legitimate single-season home run king just as Hank Aaron is the legitimate career home run king. His record has stood now for 50 years, and I don't see anybody approaching it without using steroids anytime soon."

Pamela Huey • 612-673-7044

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Toronto 95 4th Qtr 5:07
Indiana 81
Cleveland 75 3rd Qtr 0:32
Detroit 62
Milwaukee 62 3rd Qtr 6:02
Miami 67
Memphis 24 2nd Qtr 12:00
Dallas 24
Chicago 9:30 PM
Golden State
Washington 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
NY Rangers 0 3rd Prd 13:58
NY Islanders 2
Arizona 3 3rd Prd 14:50
Philadelphia 3
Winnipeg 3 3rd Prd 10:43
Pittsburgh 4
Washington 2 3rd Prd 11:04
Columbus 4
Tampa Bay 2 2nd Prd 1:14
Carolina 3
Dallas 2 2nd Prd 4:19
Montreal 3
Detroit 5 2nd Prd 2:23
Florida 3
Colorado 1 2nd Prd 16:49
Nashville 0
Buffalo 0 1st Prd 19:20
Calgary 0
Minnesota 8:30 PM
Edmonton
Anaheim 9:00 PM
Vancouver
Ball State 47 FINAL
Akron 59
Northern Ill 46 FINAL
Bowling Green 56
Western Mich 71 FINAL
Buffalo 77
Ohio 40 FINAL
Eastern Mich 76
Xavier 64 2nd Half 0:28
Georgetown 53
Vanderbilt 62 FINAL
Georgia 70
West Virginia 55 2nd Half 2:09
Kansas State 49
Central Mich 53 2nd Half 0:12
Kent State 63
Saint Josephs 48 FINAL
La Salle 53
Nebraska 44 FINAL
Michigan 58
Miami-Ohio 65 FINAL
Toledo 70
Tulsa 62 FINAL
Tulane 55
George Washington 48 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 72
Pittsburgh 64 1st OT 2:57
Virginia Tech 65
Indiana State 36 2nd Half
Evansville 40
Tabor College 30 2nd Half 16:20
Oral Roberts 51
Florida 6 1st Half 17:15
Alabama 2
Tennessee 0 1st Half 18:16
Arkansas 4
Texas A&M 3 1st Half 17:52
Auburn 0
Baylor 2 1st Half 17:22
Oklahoma State 4
DePaul 0 Postponed
Providence 0
Michigan State 0 Postponed
Rutgers 0
Wyoming 2 1st Half 17:51
Utah State 2
Fresno State 2 1st Half 17:35
San Diego St 3
UNLV 9:00 PM
Nevada
SD Christian 9:00 PM
CS-Bakersfield
Colorado State 10:00 PM
Boise State
Temple 71 FINAL
UCF 54
Campbell 42 FINAL
Presbyterian 51
Coastal Carolina 65 FINAL
High Point 73
Gardner-Webb 49 FINAL
Radford 59
UNC-Asheville 58 FINAL
Liberty 62
Winthrop 63 FINAL
Longwood 62
Columbia International 33 FINAL
Charleston Southern 74
Tulane 26 2nd Half
Houston 18
(3) Baylor 56 2nd Half 16:00
TCU 42
Navy 32 2nd Half 16:17
American Univ 40
Valparaiso 21 2nd Half 17:10
Illinois-Chicago 26
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How optimistic are you about the 2015 Twins?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close