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Maris Forgotten in McGwire’s Confession

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So I guess it is a "big" deal that Big Mac has finally admitted that he took steroids. His bulging muscles, ridiculous statistics, and pathetic bumbling in front of Congress apparently weren't enough. The words have come down from the mouth of the re-emerged horse himself, and the headlines are screaming: Mark McGwire used steroids!

But there is another story that continues to fall by the wayside amidst the constant revelations of cheating: the story of Roger Maris. While McGwire and then Bonds happily cheated their way to the all time single season home run record, Maris' chase for the record was quite different.

Assaulting one of Babe Ruth's most hallowed marks (13 years before Aaron hit 715), and competing with the more popular, homegrown Mickey Mantle, Maris' ascent to the single season home run king was full of pain, stress, and strife. He was booed by the fans, ripped by the press, and when he finally broke the record he wasn't even given credit for his accomplishment in full. Bud Selig had no problem with laboratory created he-men blasting Maris' record, but then commissioner Ford Frick vowed to place an asterisk next to Roger's record because he failed to accomplish the mark in the 154 games in which Ruth played in 1927. (Frick would end up not doing this.)

Even after he left the game, Roger Maris never got to embrace his status. Discarded by the Yankees, he would eventually find a home in St. Louis where he finished his career, and in Florida where he ran a beer distribution company until he died of Hodgkins Lymphoma in 1985. But as late as 1980, Maris commented bitterly about his experience in '61. Speaking at the 1980 All-Star game, Maris lamented, "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."

Maris died scorning his place in history because he himself was scorned for achieving it. This story has been told many times; the information is anything but new. But the irony in Roger's statement glares out once again with McGwire's admition. They acted like Maris was poisoning the record books when in fact he was simply and naturally making history. It was McGwire and Bonds who inarguably poisoned the record books, but instead of strife they received adulation and a possible spot in Cooperstown. But 49 years later, Roger Maris — the real home run king — is still getting the short end of the stick.

If Selig wants to finally put this right — now that all three men that broke Maris' record are admitted and/or implicated steroid users — the solution is very simple. Plan a day next season for Roger Maris that will be recognized in every ball park. Bring the Maris family back out, this time to Yankee Stadium, and anoint and announce to all of baseball that Roger Maris is the official single season home run king.

Oh… and wipe the statistics of these cheaters out of the record books for good, before the poisoning is permanent.

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About Anthony Tobis

  • Monty Campbell

    Well, said. Maris deserves much credit that was never recieved. Nice, low key guys finish last. Sad.

  • 61Yanks2009

    Why Roger Maris has been denied Hall of Fame recognition and admission defies logic. Roger was a great outfielder,had some good seasons, but what he accomplished in 1961 in and of itself should be his ticket to Cooperstown, he set a record that to this day has (the guys that used steroids etc…that is where the astericks belong and maybe just plain old whiteout)withstood the test of time 48 years worth, what an incredible achievment; Roger was a good man.

  • wesmoore

    Those who were around in 1961 know that Maris went through hell to achieve the record and never tried to cash in on it. He was a class guy, a GREAT ballplayer, and was MVP twice in an era when all the players were of major league caliber. The tragedy is that he has been passed over for the Hall of Fame which he rightly deserves to take his place.

  • Susan

    WELL SAID- I completely agree with you. I love the Cardinals, but Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds do not deserve to have their names above Roger Maris in the record books.

  • Jim

    Wow. mark hugging Maris’s son, hiding that he totally screwed
    Roger. MLB do the right thing. Take away (97-?) the homerun
    records Sosa, McGwire and Bonds did and restore Maris as the
    rightful king.

  • I think the reason Maris didn’t get in is because of his short career. The Denny McClain of hitters, if you will.

  • Anthony Walker

    If Roger maris is not in the Baseball Hall of fame it is a shame on those who decide who is nominated. He did his thing without fanfare or steroids. He was a good man and deserves more accolades than he has received. Com-on get real and do the right thing.

  • Jim

    Seriously. MLB, if you are serious about punishing the violators.
    Erase the inflated records and put Roger back on top. It’s the right
    and only thing to do.

  • Jon

    Excellent points. It will take an extraoridnary baseball commissioner to get to work on repairing the damage that has been done with steroid and Hgh use. And Selig is anything but extraoridnary. Maris is the single season homerun king. Any other claimant (Bonds, Sosa, McGwire) are frauds.

  • KC

    Bonds was an automatic for the HOF before steroids, so that can be debated. But Mark McGwire does not deserve to be in. Take away 25% off his HRs to account for the juice and he has about 437. His career BA would’ve probably been around .240 as well. Just another Dave Kingman.

  • Tony

    I’m not sure that Roger is hall-caliber because, as Matt said, he did have a short career that was truncated by injuries and the stress of that season. Why he does deserve, beyond the things I recommended, is at the very least a display in the Hall honorning what he did and explaining why he is still the king. But I think a Roger Maris day would be good for the game. Help people remember what a classy athlete is like.

  • Tony

    *what – not why

  • Scott Andrews

    Roger Maris played and set his home run record at a time when the lighting for night games was terrible (compared to what we have today). That makes his achievement in 1961 even more remarkable. But let’s not forget that Roger had Mickey Mantle batting right behind him, so opponents had to pitch to him. Reverse the batting order and Mickey would have hit 75 homers.

    McGwire, Sosa and Bonds injected their way into the record books. Maris batted his way in. Roger deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. The steroid users do not.

  • Tony

    Babe Ruth had Lou Gehrig batting behind him. It helps, but it doesn’t get you 61. Mantle may have done better remaining in the 3 hole, but he got hurt anyway.

  • Neil

    Well said! If Bud Selig were man enough to admit his failings as a commissioner. If he were a true guardian of ML baseball, and not just the guardian of the business of ML baseball (greed) he would move quickly to remove the asterisk from Maris’ record and place asterisks for Bond’s, McGuire’s, and Sosa’s, including Bond’s career homerun mark! Baseball fans around the country would applaud this kind of action.

  • ny dave

    I am a life time roger maris fan,ive always felt his record is the biggest chump in baseball roger maris belongs in the hall for his record alone i have never regonized the steriod users records,thanks

  • ny dave

    I am a life time roger maris fan,ive always felt his record is the biggest chump in baseball roger maris belongs in the hall for his record alone i have never regonized the steriod users records,thanks

  • al

    i couldnt agree more…roger maris is the true home run record king…he was an honest man who did the unthinkable under unbelievable pressure…he was not a cheater …throw sosa bonds and mcquire out and reinstate roger as the all time home run king…

  • jeff

    I totally agree they cheated and I am a die hard yankee fan who can’t stand how roger is and was treated but to be fair how come nobody ever says anything about the pitchers these guys in the steriod era were facing?Don’t you think 90% of them was using also, stronger pitchers faster fastballs? I’m just saying!

  • Yolanda

    So sad that the good guy Roger Maris had to take so much crap back then and now. He did it all on his own and without drugs. He did it for the love of the game and not for how much money he could get. He was one of the last REAL baseball players. He deserves to be in the hall of fame.

  • CalisunO

    It is a travesty that Roger Maris was never elected to the Hall of Fame and has been in the shadows of undeserving others who rose to fame and great fortune by cheating in his beloved game. Maris was a true player and class act in every sense of the baseball word. What is going on today with pro athletes is a shameful statement on how accepting we have become of liars and swindlers. And they laugh all the way to the bank. Roger Maris deserves much more. I hope the family knows he has fans still out here, rooting him on.

  • boys3rsk

    I have been a baseball fan all my life and have watched how a bunch of LOSERS have ruined our great game of baseball. It’s about time the real TRUTH is coming out about these STEROID LOSERS AND LIARS!! They all have a couple things in common. First is they are CHEATERS!! Then since they have no HONOR, they lie about it!!!McGUIRE,SOSA,BONDS,RODRIGUEZ,CLEMONS, ect. The only reason McGuire is coming out is because he knows he will hear it from the fans with his new job . These losers get MAD at all of us when EVERYONE WHO HAS A BRAIN, CAN SEE THEY’VE USED STREROIDS!!! We had a commissinor who all he saw was $$$$ and La Russa backing McGuire the whole time!! Then there is a complete class act in Roger Maris and he is thrown away like dirty water and HE DOES BELONG IN THE HALL OF FAME!! If we had a commissioner with any HONOR, he would nominate him IMMEDIATELY!! I still have my doubts if baseball will EVER clean up its act or put Roger Maris in the HALL OF FAME!! Stay tuned.

  • Tony

    Lets put it this way. Roger’s stats aren’t Hall-worthy. And I’m always complaining about the Hall letting in guys without the stats. But if Mazerowski gets in because of his one home run than Maris should get in thanks to his 61. Its a rare case but sometime exceptions have to be made.

  • Jason

    The Hall of Fame is about Career numbers, not single season records. Maris’s just wasn’t that impressive:
    He was a career .260 BA and 275 Homeruns

  • windy

    Face it, children, there is no single “home run king”. Babe hit 60 in 154 games. Roger hit 61 in 162 games. Mark, Sammy and Barry hit more–nobody’s gonna change the season records for those games, so they did count–but they did it with steroids. Just like there ain’t one heavyweight champ in boxing anymore, there ain’t one “home run king”, not even for a season–and don’t forget Hank Aaron.

  • steve warren

    I don’t know exactly when, back in the early 60’s I think. My Dad John, and Art Larson took me and Arte to an Angels/Yankees game. Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Sandy Kofax, Don Drysdale, I think Wally Moon had retired but I saw him play in the LA Collosium. Roger hit a homer, AWESOME! Out of the park, and even for A’s fans, it was something worth remembering, it just kept going! Steve

  • Mary Mac

    Loved Roger Maris then, still love him now. I have hated the Yankees since they hung him out to dry that season and did nothing to honor his accomplishment. He was a great player who did something spectacular. I would love to see a “Maris Day” and have him in the HOF. I loved that he finished his career in STL where he was actually appreciated.

  • Mary Mac

    Steve: Are you sure it was an Angels game? Where they even around back in the 1960s? I could have sworn that they were an expansion team that came into MLB in the 70s.

  • Mary Mac

    Steve – sorry about that – they came into being in 1961! I looked it up.

  • Tony

    Hank Aaron never hit 50 home runs in a season. And Ruth doesn’t even factor into the discussion. Everyone knows he above and beyond the greatest player ever. Hell, he was one of the best left-handed pitchers ever for many years. In the current 162 game format, Maris is king, period.

  • jcranston

    Roger was a .260 hitter in an era where pitchers dominated. He was a notorious non-hustler and couldn’t throw at all.
    He is not really HOF caliber, just a darn good player.

  • Chuck Par-Due

    I grew up in Miami, Florida when nuclear war was breaking out 90 miles from my bedroom. Yet every morning the headline in the Miami Herald was what the M&M boys did. Roger Maris was one of the greatest right-fielders of all time. He was on 7 World series teams. He was back to back MVP winner in 1960-61. He did what NOBODY has ever done. Hit 61 home runs in a season without cheating. Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds are arrogant, self-serving pieces of CRAP!! Give Roger Maris his deserved record, put him in the Hall of Fame. And erase every record from the cheaters from all stat books. Mark McGuire is a lying, delusional JERK!!

  • Mike

    You guys need to wake up and smell the amphetamines. Ruth was known to use cocaine and other stimulants and who knows what Maris possibly used in his time. I am not here to bash either one of them because they did what was allowed at the time in the sport. They did get to hit off pitchers more often in their 7+ inning of work, unlike the more recent hitters. Considering there were no rules in place about PEDs so much so that McGuire was known to be taking andro during his record season; yet baseball couldn’t do anything. Does it suck yes! But grow up and realize if no rules are in place you are not cheating.

    Honor–> baseball is a game of cheating as much as possible without getting caught. Hell they even call it “stealing a base”. Pitchers find ways to doctor the ball; batters pick up on signals (more homework than cheating) but face it. It is a game prone to pushing the rules to the limits.

    Vote Maris in for what he has done. Vote McGuire & Sosa in for SAVING baseball. Even vote Bonds in because really he was part of an era and was a standout for that era.

  • wnmavrick

    Mantle wasn’t homegrown. He was from Oklahoma.

  • rev

    The fact that we are still talking about Roger Maris means he is a baseball icon and should be in the HOF.

  • Dodger fan

    Steriods are as much a threat to baseball as gambling. If the outcome is not left to chance and is manipulated in anyway then who will watch the game? Not I. Think of the greatest moments in baseball and if those outcomes were manufactured artificially then they were not so great huh?

    Regardless of career, if you hold the single season homerun record longer than anyone who has ever lived then that should be an automatic ticket to Cooperstown.

    Its all a shame and Maris will get screwed regardless.

  • 61Yanks2009

    Actually Roger did not hit his first homerun of 1961 until the eleventh game, yes it was a 162 game schedule. I believe if a record holds up for 48 years, the record holder cannot be ignored. I was a sixth grader then and recall how magical that year was, Maris and Mantle the M & M boys.

  • Couldn’t agree with your more. But let’s go further: Let’s see “the list”, and expunge every one of those cheater’s statistics. Far too much leniency in the game of baseball.

  • Greg D

    I think that this was a very well written article by Mr. Tobis. The idea of a Roger Maris Day is fantastic and something that Bud Sellig should do. Like several other commentators, I also strongly believe that the Baseball community should elect Roger Maris to the Baseball Hall of Fame. This election would further make up for the totally unfair treatment that this great ballplayer, Roger Maris received.

  • Tony

    Thank you for your kind comments Greg.

  • Tony

    Thank you for your kind comments Greg.