- Category : Baseball Player
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 2/4 - Hermit / Opportunist
- Definition : Triple Split
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Rulership 3
Roger Eugene Maris (September 10, 1934 – December 14, 1985) was an American professional baseball player. He was a Major League Baseball right fielder for 12 seasons and on four teams, from 1957 through 1968. Maris hit a Major League record 61 home runs during the 1961 season for the New York Yankees, breaking Babe Ruth's single-season record of 60 home runs in 1927.
Maris was a two-time American League Most Valuable Player (1960 and 1961), All-Star (1959-1962), and Gold Glove winner (1960). He appeared in seven World Series, five as a member of the Yankees and two with the St. Louis Cardinals. His accomplishment of 61 home runs in a season came back to the forefront in 1998, when the home run record was broken by two players from the National League, Mark McGwire (70) and Sammy Sosa (66).
Roger Maris was born Roger Eugene Maras on September 10, 1934 in Hibbing, Minnesota, later changing his surname's spelling to Maris, to seem more Anglo. Maris was the son of Rudolph S. (Rudy) Maras and the former Corrine Perkovich, who were both Croatian origin. Roger Maris had a single brother Rudy, who was one year older; Rudy Maris contracted polio in 1961 and died in 1992. Maris' family moved in 1946 to Fargo, where Maris grew up. Maris' parents had a turbulent marriage and divorced in 1960; his father died in 1992. After Maris retired from baseball he moved to Gainesville, Florida, where his mother moved to from Fargo. Corrine died in 2004 at the age of 90.
Maris attended Shanley High School, where he met his future wife, Patricia, in the tenth grade, while both were attending a basketball game. Roger and Rudy both participated in sports while in Fargo, and 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 but spent less than one semester on campus. He returned to Fargo and signed a minor-league baseball contract with the Cleveland Indians.
Minor League Baseball
Maris played for the Indians organization at Fargo-Moorhead in 1953 and moved to Keokuk 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 Keokuk 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 following year.
Major League Baseball
Cleveland Indians (1957-58)
Maris made his major league debut on April 16, 1957 with the Cleveland Indians. On April 18 of that year, 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 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. 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 and finished the 1960 season with a .283 batting average. The Yankees won the American League pennant, the first of five straight pennants in a row, but lost a seven-game World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates due to Bill Mazeroski's dramatic walk-off home run.
In 1961, The American League expanded from 8 to 10 teams. Team rosters were generally watered down as players who would likely have been playing at AAA or lower were now in the majors. The Yankees, however, were left mainly intact. In addition, the season was extended 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."
Home Run record
Maris with 59 home runs after the Yankees' 154th game, 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. 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. However, Maris remained bitter about the experience. Speaking at the 1980 All-Star Game, he 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 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 1963, he played in only 90 games, hitting 23 home runs. Maris was again injured in Game Two of the 1963 World Series after only five home plate appearances.
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.
Major League stats
American League All-Star (1959-1962; 7/8 games)
American League Most Valuable Player (1960-1961)
American League Gold Glove (Outfielder, 1960)
The Sporting News awards
The Sporting News Major League Player of the Year Award (1961)
Major League home run champion (1961-1998)
American League leader in home runs, runs scored, and total bases (1961)
American League leader in RBI's and extra base hits (1960, 1961)
American League leader in slugging average (1960)
American League leader in fielding average as right fielder (1960, 1964)
National League leader in fielding average as right fielder (1967)
American League pennant team (1960–1964)
National League pennant team (1967, 1968)
World Series champion team (1961, 1962, 1967)
American League: Single-season home runs (61, 1961)
Awards, honors, and life after baseball
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.
July 21, 1984: The Yankees retired Maris' number 9 on "Old-Timers Day" and dedicated a new Roger Maris plaque in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. The plaque 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 wearing a Yankee number 9 uniform. Elston Howard (deceased 1980), a teammate of Maris, was also honored with the retirement of his Yankee number 32 and a Monument Park plaque. Former third baseman Graig Nettles, wore number 9 for the Yankees, 1973 through 1983.
September 17, 1999, The United States Postal Service issued its, "Roger Maris, 61 in 61" commemorative stamp.
September 24, 2011: The New York Yankees celebrated the 50th anniversary of Roger Maris' single-season home run record (October 1, 1961) at the original Yankee Stadium during a pregame and on-field ceremony at the new Yankee Stadium (2009-). Maris' American League single-season home run record of 61 home runs remains unbroken.
Hall of Fame eligibility
Golden Era (1947 to 1972)
In 2014, The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) appointed-Historical Overview Committee (10-12 representatives; BBWAA members) will identify 10 Golden Era candidates from the 1947 to 1972 era, for possible election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2015. Election of any of the 10 Golden Era ballot candidates in 2014 requires getting 75% of the 16-member Golden Era Committee vote during its winter meeting in December 2014. Maris is eligible to be identified as a Golden Era candidate in 2014.
Beginning in 2011, the Historical Overview Committee consisting of 10 to 12 veteran BBWAA members (11 in 2011) shall identify 10 Golden Era candidates (from the 1947 to 1972 era) once every 3 years for possible election to the Hall of Fame by the Golden Era Committee. The Golden Era Committee ("The Committee", no longer named the "Veterans Committee"), appointed by the Baseball Hall of Fame's Board of Directors, consists of eight Baseball Hall of Fame members, five executives, and three media members (one media member was a member of both committees in 2011).
Ron Santo was the first and only Golden Era Ballot candidate in 2011 who was elected by the Golden Era Committee on December 5, 2011 to the Hall of Fame for 2012. The voting is based upon the individual's record, ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contribution to the game. Maris, though eligible, was not named ("identified") by the Historical Overview Committee (Screening Committee) to be one of the 10 Golden Era Ballot candidates in 2011.
Illness and death
Maris was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1983. In response to that, Maris organized the annual Roger Maris Celebrity Golf Tournament to raise money for cancer research and treatment.
Maris died 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.
Maris remains a baseball hero in his hometown of Fargo and was a recipient of the State of North Dakota's Roughrider Award. Tributes include Roger Maris Drive, The Roger Maris Cancer Center, the fund raising beneficiary of the annual golf tournament, and the 61 for 61 Home Walk & Run, which is held in conjunction with the 61 for 61 radiothon on KPFX (aka "107.9 The Fox").
In 1984, The Roger Maris Museum opened at the West Acres Shopping Center in Fargo, North Dakota. The museum is dedicated to the life and career of Roger Maris. The museum is open during mall hours with free admission.
Sanford Hospital in Fargo, North Dakota, has a cancer unit named the Roger Maris Cancer Center. Each year various businesses host the "61 for 61" fundraiser for an entire week, and all money raised goes toward the center. Events include a Home Run/Walk, Radiothon, silent auctions, and more.
In 2001, the film 61* about Maris and Mantle's pursuit of the major league'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 "urged" that Roger Maris' 61 home runs be 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."