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Article:Baltimore and the Orioles Stopped Roger Maris

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by Harold Friend

April Phast has been a Baltimore Orioles fans since the St. Louis Browns moved to the city that a television series helped put on the map. April was pleased that her city of Baltimore and her team, the Orioles, helped prevent Roger Maris from hitting 60 home runs in 154 games.

Bob Turley and Don Larsen

In 1954, Baltimore once again had a major league baseball team. I was only 13 years old and a girl, but I loved baseball. At that time, the Yankees were just another team to me, but that soon changed when my team foolishly traded Bullet Bob Turley and Don Larsen to them.

Roger Maris Was One of My Favorite Enemies

When he was with the Cleveland Indians and then the Kansas City Athletics, Roger Maris was one of my favorite enemies. He was a great, underrated defensive player who had excellent speed, a great arm, and he hit with power. When Kansas City traded him to the Yankees for an over-the-hill Hank Bauer, Norm Siebern, Don Larsen, and Marvelous Marv Throneberry, I felt almost the way I had felt when we traded the Yankees Bob Turley.

Great Season for Many

Maris had a great 1960 season, and then the American League expanded to 10 teams in 1961. American League pitching was diluted, which was reflected by the fact that many players, including Maris, Mickey Mantle, Norm Cash, Rocky Colavito, Al Kaline, Jim Gentile, and Jimmy Piersall had outstanding offensive seasons. Maris and Mantle challenged Babe Ruth's home run record, which is where the city of Baltimore and the Orioles came into play.

Detroit Was Close

The 1961 Yankees were great, but the Yankees have perpetuated the myth that they were unchallenged. As late as Sept. 1, the Detroit Tigers were within one and one-half games of first place, but that is not what I want to talk about.

A Rainy Twin Bill

The Yankees came to Baltimore for a twilight doubleheader on July 17. I was among the 44,332 fans who saw Whitey Ford shut us out in the first game, 5-0. Ford struck out nine and went the distance. Maris entered the game with 35 home runs. Mantle was on his tail with 32, and drew closer when he hit one in the opener.

It started raining in the third inning of the first game. Play continued, and by the sixth inning, the rain had almost stopped. The showers continued, but the nightcap started on time.

Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, and Clete Boyer Lose Home Runs

The Yankees took a 4-1 lead on home runs by Maris, Mantle, and Clete Boyer. Maris' was a prodigious blast into the right field bleachers, but with the Yankees batting in the fifth inning, it started to pour. I was happy and rooted for the rain, especially since it looked as if the only way the Orioles could avoid a sweep was for the game to be called.

There was thunder, there was lightning, and there was Yankees' announcer Phil Rizzuto, who was terrified by lightning, running out of the broadcast booth, looking for a safe place to hide. The umpires waited 65 minutes before calling the game, which washed away the Yankees' home runs.

Maris and Mantle were upset, but Mickey always had a sense of humor. He told reporters that losing the home run would bother him, but he really felt sorry for Clete Boyer. "Roger and I hit a lot of home runs. I feel sorry for Clete because he doesn't hit too many."

Roger's Last Chance

The weather in Baltimore took away a Maris home run, but a few months later, on Sept. 20, the Yankees were back. It was the Yankees' 154th game, and Maris needed two home runs to tie Ruth's record. Without the July 17 lost home run, Roger would have needed only one, but if that game had counted, then this game would have been the Yankees' 155th, which meant that Roger would have finished 154 games with 59 home runs.

Only Babe Ruth and Roger Maris

Facing Milt Pappas in the first inning, Maris could only manage a short fly ball to right field. With a 2-1 count in the third inning, Maris hit a Pappas delivery into the right field bleachers. The ball cleared a 14 foot wall, which was 380 feet away. Maris became only player besides Babe Ruth to hit 59 home runs in a 154 game season.

Dick Hall, who was a converted outfielder, fanned Roger in the fourth. In the seventh, Maris hit a deep drive down the right field line that was long enough for a home run, but it was foul by about 10 feet. He then hit a deep fly ball that right fielder Earl Robinson caught in front of the railing in right center field.

Hoyt Wilhelm Ends It

To the ninth inning. Roger's last chance. Hoyt Wilhelm, who is the last pitcher to hurl a complete game no-hitter against the Yankees, was on the mound. Wilhelm fooled Maris badly on a knuckle ball. All that he could do was hit a soft ground ball between the mound and first that Wilhelm fielded.

I had such mixed emotions. My team had stopped one Yankees' player from breaking another Yankees' record. That was good. The bad part was that the Yankees clinched the pennant. That was bad, but the clinching had been inevitable for a few weeks.

Almost 50 years have passed since Maris hit 61 home runs in a 162 game season. Two players, one in 1998 and another in 2001, claim that they hold the record, but wise fans like me know that Roger Maris holds the single season home record.

References:

Baseball Reference

1961 New York Yankees at Retrosheet

By JOSEPH M. SHEEHAN Special to The New York Times. (1961, July 18). BOMBERS TRIUMPH WITH 6-HITTER, 5-0 :Mantle Connects in Opener -- He, Maris Lose Homers When Rain Ends Finale. New York Times (1923-Current file),p. 20. Retrieved January 27, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 101471029).

By JOHN DREBINGER Special to The New York Times.. (1961, September 21). Yanks Win Pennant; Maris Hits His 59th :Yanks Clinch Pennant; Maris Hits 59th Homer but Misses 154-Game Mark. New York Times (1857-Current file),1. Retrieved January 27, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 97246557).


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