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Roger Maris

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Full Name: Roger Eugene Maris Primary Position: OF,RF
Height/Weight: 6' 0"/197 First Game: April 16, 1957
Birthdate: September 10, 1934 Final Game: September 29, 1968
Birthplace: Hibbing, Minnesota MLB Experience: 12 years
Died: December 14, 1985
Deathplace: Houston, Texas
Bat/Throw: Left/Right


Biography

Roger Maris (Roger Eugene Maris) was born on September 10, 1934 in Hibbing, Minnesota. He made his Major League debut on April 16, 1957 for the Cleveland Indians. In 1957, his rookie year, he hit .235 with 14 home runs and 51 RBI. Maris played for the Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Athletics, New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals over the course of his 12 year career.

Most people believe that Roger Maris's best season was 1961, when he slugged 61 home runs and knocked in 142 runs. That mark of 61 home runs stood as a Major League record until it was broken by Mark McGwire in 1998.

Early life

The son of Croatian immigrants, he was born as Roger Eugene Maras (he later changed his last name to Maris) in Hibbing, Minnesota. He grew up in Grand Forks and Fargo, North Dakota where he attended Shanley High School. A gifted athlete, Maris participated in many sports while in Fargo.

At an early age, Maris exhibited an independent, no-nonsense personality. Recruited to play football at the University of Oklahoma, he arrived by bus in Norman and found no one from the university there to greet him. He turned around and went back to Fargo.

Professional career

Early years

Even in the minor leagues, Maris showed 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 (1953–1956) Maris hit .303 with 78 home runs.

Maris made his major league debut in 1957 with the Cleveland Indians. The next year, he was traded to the Kansas City Athletics, whom he represented in the All-Star Game in 1959 in spite of missing 45 games due to an appendix operation.

Kansas City frequently traded its best players to the New York Yankees — which led them to be referred to as the Yankees' "major league farm team" — and Maris was no exception, going to New York in a seven-player trade in December 1959. In 1960, his first full season with the Yankees, despite the already-nagging media, he led the league in slugging percentage, runs batted in, and extra base hits and finished second in home runs (1 behind Mickey Mantle) and total bases. He was recognized as an outstanding defensive outfielder with a Gold Glove Award, and also won the American League's Most Valuable Player award.

1961

In 1961, the American League expanded from 8 to 10 teams, generally watering down the pitching, but leaving the Yankees pretty much intact. Yankee home runs began to come at a record pace. One famous photograph lined up six 1961 Yankee players, including Mantle, Maris, Yogi Berra, and Bill Skowron, under the nickname "Murderers Row," because they hit a combined 207 home runs that year. The title "Murderers Row", originally coined in 1918, had most famously been used to refer to the Yankees side of the late 1920s. As mid-season approached, it seemed quite possible that either Maris or Mantle, or perhaps both, would break Babe Ruth's 34-year-old home run record. Unlike the home run race of 1998, in which the competition between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa was given extensive positive media coverage, sportswriters in 1961 began to play the "M & M Boys" against each other, inventing a rivalry where none existed, as Yogi Berra has testified in recent interviews.

Five years earlier, in 1956, Mantle had already challenged Ruth's record for most of the season and the New York press had been protective of Ruth on that occasion also. When Mantle finally fell short, finishing with 52, there seemed to be a collective sigh of relief from the New York traditionalists. Nor had the New York press been all that 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. Over the course of time, however, Mantle (with a little help from his teammate Whitey Ford, a native of New York's Borough of Queens) had gotten better at "schmoozing" with the New York media, and had gained the favor of the press. This was a talent that Maris, a blunt-spoken upper midwesterner, never attempted to cultivate; as a result, he wore the "surly" jacket for his duration with the Yankees.

So as 1961 progressed, the Yanks were now "Mickey Mantle's team" and Maris was ostracized as the "outsider", and "not a true Yankee." The press seemed to root for Mantle and to belittle Maris. But Mantle was felled by a leg infection late in the season, leaving Maris as the only player with a chance to break the record.

On top of his lack of popular press coverage, Maris' chase for 61 hit another roadblock totally out of his control: along with adding two teams to the league, Major League Baseball had added 8 games to the schedule. In the middle of the season, Baseball commissioner Ford Frick 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, probably invented by New York sportswriter Dick Young, that an asterisk would be used to distinguish the new record.

According to Nash and Zullo in The Baseball Hall of Shame, Frick made the ruling because, during his days as a newspaper reporter, he had been a close friend of Ruth's. Furthermore, Rogers Hornsby--himself a lifetime .358 batter—compared the averages (In Ruth's record year he hit .356; Maris, .269)--and said, "It would be a disappointment if Ruth's home run record were bested by a .270 hitter." (Hornsby's old-time bias was well-known. Scouting for the Mets, the best report he could muster for any current player was "Looks like a major-leaguer". That was his assessment of Mickey Mantle.) Maris couldn't understand such a perspective; he said, "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 Henry Aaron, in pursuit of Ruth's career record, said, "I don't want people to forget Babe Ruth. I just want them to remember Henry Aaron.")

Maris failed to reach 61 in 154 games (he had only 59 after 154 games). He hit his 61st on October 1 1961, in the fourth inning of the last game of the season, a sparsely attended contest between the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox in New York. The Red Sox pitcher was Evan Tracy Stallard. No asterisk was subsequently used in any record books—Major League baseball itself 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 of that season, "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, Maris was awarded the 1961 Hickok Belt for the top professional athlete of the year, as well as winning 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.

Maris' major league record would stand three years longer than Ruth's did, until Mark McGwire broke it by hitting 70 in 1998. Maris remains the American League record holder as of the 2006 season.

Remainder of career

In 1962, Maris made his fourth consecutive and final All-Star game appearance. His fine defensive skills were often overlooked. He made a game-saving play in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 1962 World Series, holding a runner at third with a strong throw and thus preventing the San Francisco Giants from scoring the tying run, and setting 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.

Injuries slowed him the next four seasons, most notably in 1965, when he played most of the season with a misdiagnosed broken bone in his hand. Despite real injuries, he began to acquire yet another "jacket" by the New York Press - the tag of "malingerer".

In 1963, after missing a ground ball hit in a nationally televised game, he gave the middle finger to a jeering Minnesota Twins crowd. Now encumbered with an injured image as well as body, he was traded by the Yankees to the St. Louis Cardinals after the 1966 season. The Yankees questioned Maris' courage and Maris left angry.

Maris was well-received by the St. Louis fans, who appreciated a man with a straightforward Midwestern style even if the New York press did not, while Maris himself felt much more at home in St. Louis. He played his final two seasons with the Cardinals, helping them to pennants in 1967 and 1968 with a World Series victory in 1967 (he hit .385 with one home run and seven RBIs in the post-season). Gussie Busch, owner of the Cardinals and of Anheuser-Busch, set Maris up with a beer distributorship after he retired.

Awards, honors, and life after baseball

On the Indians, he wore uniform number 32 in 1957 and 5 in 1958; the Athletics first gave him uniform number 35, but in 1959 he wore number 3. On the Yankees and Cardinals, he wore number 9. The Yankees retired the number on Old-Timers' Day, July 21, 1984, and dedicated a plaque in Maris' honor to hang in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. The plaque calls him "A great player and author of one of the most remarkable chapters in the history of major league baseball." Maris was on hand for the ceremony and wore a full Yankee uniform. His teammate Elston Howard, who had died in 1980, was also honored with the retirement of his number (32) and a Monument Park plaque that day. It is likely that the Yankees had waited to retire the number 9 until third baseman Graig Nettles, who had worn it since 1973, left the team following the 1983 season.

Maris was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1983. In response he organized the annual Roger Maris Celebrity Golf Tournament to raise money for cancer research and treatment. Maris died in December 1985 in Houston, Texas at the age of 51. A Roman Catholic, he was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Fargo, North Dakota. He remains a hero in his hometown of Fargo. Tributes include Roger Maris Drive, the free-admission Roger Maris Museum, and The Roger Maris Cancer Center, the fund raising beneficiary of the annual golf tournament and the 61 for 61 Home Walk/Run. There is also a movement to have Maris inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In 2001, the film 61* about Maris and Mantle's pursuit of the home-run record was first broadcast. Many of the unpleasant aspects of Maris' season were addressed, including the hate mail, death threats, and his hair falling out. Maris was played by Barry Pepper.

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 [1].

Roger Maris is a recipient of the state of North Dakota's Roughrider Award. The Roger Maris Museum, dedicated to the life and career of Maris, is located at the West Acres Shopping Center in Fargo, where he is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery. Gil Hodges is buried in a cemetery of the same name in Brooklyn, New York.

Hall of Fame?

Maris and Dale Murphy are the only two-time MVPs who are not in the Baseball Hall of Fame while eligible for induction as of 2007. The two have similar lifetime averages (batting, on-base, and slugging), however Murphy's cumulative totals are significantly better. Furthermore, even if one agrees with the argument that, because of steroid accusations against those who broke it, Maris' 61 homers remains the "legitimate" record, his lifetime totals of fewer than 300 HR and 900 RBI are simply not Hall-worthy, nor is his poor .260 average, especially for an offense-oriented position such as outfielder.

Mathematics

A mathematical property is named after Maris, along with Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. Two numbers form a Maris-McGwire-Sosa pair if they are consecutive numbers such that when you add each number's digits to the digits of its prime factorization, they are equal. Engineer Mike Keith named this property after the sluggers because he noticed that the numbers 61 and 62 have this property, and McGwire and Sosa both hit home run number 62 in 1998, both passing the record of Maris, 61.

Statistics

Batting Stats

Year Team G AB R H HR RBI AVG OBP SLG 2B 3B BB SO HBP SH SB IBB GDP
1957 CLE A 116 358 61 84 14 51 .235 .344 .405 9 5 60 79 1 3 8 5 6
1958 KC A 99 401 61 99 19 53 .247 .298 .439 14 3 28 52 2 2 0 1 2
1958 CLE A 51 182 26 41 9 27 .225 .287 .412 5 1 17 33 0 0 4 2 0
1958 TOT A 150 583 87 140 28 80 .240 .294 .431 19 4 45 85 2 2 4 3 2
1959 KC A 122 433 69 118 16 72 .273 .359 .464 21 7 58 53 3 0 2 5 4
1960 NY A 136 499 98 141 39 112 .283 .371 .581 18 7 70 65 3 1 2 4 6
1961 NY A 161 590 132 159 61 142 .269 .372 .620 16 4 94 67 7 0 0 0 16
1962 NY A 157 590 92 151 33 100 .256 .356 .485 34 1 87 78 6 1 1 11 7
1963 NY A 90 312 53 84 23 53 .269 .346 .542 14 1 35 40 2 1 1 3 2
1964 NY A 141 513 86 144 26 71 .281 .364 .464 12 2 62 78 6 1 3 1 7
1965 NY A 46 155 22 37 8 27 .239 .357 .439 7 0 29 29 0 1 0 1 4
1966 NY A 119 348 37 81 13 43 .233 .307 .382 9 2 36 60 3 0 0 3 8
1967 STL N 125 410 64 107 9 55 .261 .346 .405 18 7 52 61 4 1 0 3 10
1968 STL N 100 310 25 79 5 45 .255 .307 .374 18 2 24 38 1 1 0 3 3
Total NL 225 720 89 186 14 100 .258 .330 .392 36 9 76 99 5 2 0 6 13
Total AL 1238 4381 737 1139 261 751 .260 .348 .490 159 33 576 634 33 10 21 36 62
Total 1463 5101 826 1325 275 851 .260 .345 .476 195 42 652 733 38 12 21 42 75

Fielding Stats

Year Team POS G GS INN PO A ERR DP TP PB SB CS PkO AVG
1957 CLE A CF 87 74 679.1 206 7 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 .977
1957 CLE A LF 27 19 177.2 49 4 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 .964
1957 CLE A OF 112 99 910 266 10 7 2 0 0 0 0 0 .975
1957 CLE A RF 7 6 53 14 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000
1958 KC A OF 99 98 878.1 190 9 5 3 0 0 0 0 0 .975
1958 KC A RF 90 79 728.1 136 8 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 .973
1958 KC A CF 21 19 150 51 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .981
1958 CLE A OF 47 44 390 113 6 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 .967
1958 CLE A CF 27 23 200 72 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 .974
1958 CLE A RF 23 21 190 41 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .957
1958 TOT A CF 48 42 350 123 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 .977
1958 TOT A OF 146 142 1268.1 303 15 9 4 0 0 0 0 0 .972
1958 TOT A RF 113 100 918.1 177 11 6 3 0 0 0 0 0 .969
1959 KC A OF 117 110 994.2 231 7 6 4 0 0 0 0 0 .975
1959 KC A RF 114 106 960.2 223 6 6 4 0 0 0 0 0 .974
1959 KC A CF 5 4 34 8 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000
1960 NY A OF 131 131 1153.1 263 6 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 .985
1960 NY A RF 127 127 1102.1 253 6 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 .989
1960 NY A CF 8 4 51 16 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .941
1961 NY A OF 160 160 1402 266 9 9 1 0 0 0 0 0 .968
1961 NY A RF 150 148 1282 242 9 8 1 0 0 0 0 0 .969
1961 NY A CF 17 12 120 30 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .968
1962 NY A OF 154 151 1346.1 316 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 .991
1962 NY A RF 102 89 780 157 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .994
1962 NY A CF 65 62 566.1 158 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .988
1963 NY A CF 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
1963 NY A OF 86 85 708.1 162 6 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 .988
1963 NY A RF 86 85 706.1 161 5 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 .988
1964 NY A CF 23 23 210 42 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000
1964 NY A OF 137 132 1197 250 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .996
1964 NY A RF 114 109 987 206 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .995
1965 NY A OF 43 42 367 66 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .971
1965 NY A RF 43 42 367 64 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .970
1966 NY A OF 95 93 778.1 133 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .993
1966 NY A RF 94 92 776.1 129 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .992
1966 NY A CF 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
1967 STL N OF 118 100 942.1 224 5 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 .991
1967 STL N RF 118 100 933.1 221 5 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 .991
1967 STL N CF 2 0 9 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000
1968 STL N OF 84 71 667.2 169 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 .983
1968 STL N RF 84 71 667.2 170 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 .983
Total LF 27 19 177.2 49 4 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 .964
Total OF 1383 1316 11735.1 2649 76 49 15 0 0 0 0 0 .982
Total CF 257 222 2023.2 584 13 12 2 0 0 0 0 0 .980
Total RF 1152 1075 9534 2017 56 35 11 0 0 0 0 0 .983

Transactions

  • Signed as an amateur free agent by Cleveland Indians (1953).
  • Traded by Cleveland Indians with Preston Ward and Dick Tomanek to Kansas City Athletics in exchange for Woodie Held and Vic Power (June 15, 1958).
  • Traded by Kansas City Athletics with Joe DeMaestri and Kent Hadley to New York Yankees in exchange for Don Larsen, Hank Bauer, Norm Siebern and Marv Throneberry (December 11, 1959).
  • Traded by New York Yankees to St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Charley Smith (December 8, 1966).

Trivia

See also

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