Guest Author - Carol Taller
Roger Maris was an American League baseball player that broke Babe Ruth’s home run record of 60 home runs in a season. Maris hit 61 home runs in 1961 and held onto the title record for 37 years until Mark McGwire hit his 62nd home run of the season.
Maris played professional baseball for twelve seasons, from 1957 – 1968. He played in seven World Series, and won three of them. He played the right field and wore the number 9 which New York Yankees retired in his honor.
Maris was born on September 14, 1934 and died on December 14, 1985. His parents were Croatian immigrants and he grew up on North Dakota. He participated in many sports but he excelled in football. He was recruited to play football with the University of Oklahoma and left college after one semester. He then signed a contract with Cleveland Indians’ minor league baseball team.
Maris played his first major league game in 1957 with the Cleveland Indians. The following year he was traded to the Kansas City Athletics and in 1959 he was traded to the New York Yankees.
His first year with the New York Yankees he led the team in slugging percentage, runs batted in and extra base hits. He finished second in home runs; coming in right behind teammate Mickey Mantle.
The Yankees 1961 season was full of power hitters. Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Roger Maris, and Bill Skowron were all building up a home run hitting record that earned them the nickname of “Murder’s Row.”
As the season progressed, it appeared that either Mantle or Maris might break Ruth’s 34 year old record and this sparked a great deal of media coverage regarding the two players. The press favored Mantle until he injured himself and then the only hope to break the title was left to Maris.
Maris hit his 61st home run of the season on October 1, 1961 in the fourth inning of the last game of the season against the Boston Red Sox. It was a very stressful season for Maris, and he questioned if it was worth the effort. Maris suffered a few injuries during the next few seasons and was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals.
He played two seasons with the Cardinals and was appreciated as a talented player there. He will be remembered as an exceptional hitter and outfielder with a career total of 275 home runs. Upon retirement Gussie Busch, head of the Cardinals and of Anheuser-Bush, set Maris career up with a beer distributorship career.
Maris was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1983. He died in 1985 at M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston, Texas.