ROGER MARIS Biography - Famous Sports men and women


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Name: Roger Maris                                                                           
Born: 10 September 1934                                                                     
Died: 14 December 1985                                                                       
Roger Eugene Maris (September 10, 1934 - December 14, 1985) was an American                 
right fielder in Major League Baseball who is primarily remembered for breaking             
Babe Ruth's single-season home run record in 1961, a record that would stand for             
37 years. In twelve Major League seasons, he participated in seven World Series.             
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, and excelled at football. He               
still holds the official high school record for most kickoff return touchdowns               
in a game with four.                                                                         
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.                                                                     
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.                               
In 1961, the American League expanded from 8 to 10 teams, generally watering                 
down the pitching, but leaving the Yankees pretty much intact. Also the season               
was extended from 154 games to 162 games. 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               
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                   
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. The record is currently held by                 
Barry Bonds who hit 73 home runs in 2001. Maris remains the American League                 
record holder through the 2007 season.