On this day in history | 1961

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Maris follows through as he watches his 61st home run of the season head out to right field. (Credit: Associated Press)

With the entire country watching, after months of pressure and stress, Roger Maris stepped into the batters box in the bottom of the fourth inning against the Red Sox and pitcher Tracy Stallard. He then connected on his 61st home run of the year, breaking Babe Ruth‘s 34-year old record of 60 in a single season. Maris rounded the bases, greeted his teammates in the dugout, and then was pushed back out for a curtain call.

The home run was a culmination for a captivating story between two teammates and friends. Maris and Mickey Mantle had battled all year, both chasing The Babe. Mantle played in only 153 games due to injury, and finished the season with 54 home runs. Maris faced scrutiny from Yankee fans throughout the entire season, because they believed that the record should belong to Mantle – a “true” homegrown Yankee. Maris had come over from the Kansas City A’s prior to the 1960 season, and was an introvert compared to Mantle’s flamboyant personality.

The solo shot was all the Yankees needed that day, as they went on to win 1-0 on the season’s final day. The home run was controversial to some people, who claim Maris didn’t really break the record since he played in eight more games; seasons were only 154 games long when Ruth played. There was an urban legend that an asterisk was used to differentiate between the two records, however that actually never occurred. Maris would remain bitter about the whole experience years later.

Maris won his second straight MVP in 1961, and led the Yankees to World Series Championship in five games over the Reds. Maris died at age 51 in 1985. 13 years later, his record would be broken by Mark McGwire, who clubbed 70 (tainted)  homers. Eerily, McGwire was born on this date in 1963.

 

Rich Kaufman

Ever since my parents bought me a Paul O'Neill shirt at my first Yankees game back in 1994 I've been a diehard fan. I graduated from Springfield College in Springfield, Mass., in 2011 with a degree in Communications/Sports Journalism, so writing about the Yankees has always been a passion of mine.

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  • 61n61

    Great photo. Roger belongs in the HOF. That’s NY Yankee hitting & first base coach Wally Moses handling the first base coaching duties, Boston Red Sox catcher Russ Nixon behind the plate, and home plate Ump Bill Kinnamon partially obscured behind him. Forgot completely that Roger’s 61st was the only run scored that day. Nice view of some of the 23,154 fans viewing the game from the lower and middle decks of the “House That Ruth Built.” Miss that old barn and those times more than words can say!

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