Off Day Thoughts: Roger Maris

September 15th, 2011 by Jane Heller

I read earlier tonight on LoHud that the Yankees will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Maris’ record-breaking 61st home run on Friday night before the game against the Red Sox.

I was a kid when it happened (yes, I’m old) and I had a mad crush on Mickey Mantle. But I loved Maris too and the “M & M Boys” and their home run chase were just about the most exciting phenomenon in New York. I never understood the hostility or the apathy toward Maris. Why couldn’t people love both Mantle and Maris? Why boo Maris? What was that about? Why can’t a team have more than one star? More than one hero? More than one media sensation? Pitting one player against the other seemed so juvenile and silly. I always felt Maris got a raw deal, so I’m glad the organization is honoring him on Friday and bringing in his family members and those of his teammates.

For a look back, here’s a segment of Maris’ Yankeeography. Such a different time, wasn’t it? I can only imagine Maris trying to navigate the ESPN-ization of sports.

Oh, and by the way the Rays beat the Sox again. If the Angels are the Yankees’ thorn, the Rays are certainly the Sox’s tormentor.

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14 Responses to “Off Day Thoughts: Roger Maris”

  1. John says:

    Its Fall in New England and everyday my lawn and driveway are sprinkled with fallen leaves. As I go about my daily business I am also seeing “fallen” Red Sox fans everywhere. You can tell them a mile away. No smiles, heads tilted downward (in the direction of their current path) and no desire to engage me in any banter.

    For a Yankee fan in New England life is good, very good but I do miss the fun of the hunt.

    “Where have you gone Big Papi, Youk and Peddie, your (falling) Nation turns it lonely eyes to you, wu wu wu”!

    10 and 3

  2. Jeff says:

    I am definitely diggin’ all the Sox losses lately. Should be a good finish. As for Maris, I’m glad you mentioned the oddity of booing one’s own player. I never understood why Yankees fans were AGAINST Maris. It made no sense to me, especially for a guy like Maris, a quiet family man. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Mick, but he was also a boozing womanizer who sometimes didn’t focus 100% on the game. Just think how good he could’ve been had he not been hung over for every game.

  3. Jane Heller says:

    Oh, John. You’re so poetic. LOL. I can practically hear you singing that song too. But we do play the Sox next weekend and who knows how this week will go. I never take anything for granted.

    I never understood the booing either. I got that people didn’t want Ruth’s record to be broken for some reason, but they didn’t seem to mind if Mickey was the one who broke it. (And yes, The Mick had his faults, and he could have been even greater if he hadn’t abused himself.) I guess it had to do with Mickey having such a way with the media and Maris shying away from the limelight; the fans thought he was standoffish. Even so, he was helping them win ballgames and who wouldn’t be proud of his accomplishments? Crazy.

  4. Barbara says:

    i saw often see a maine license plate on my way to work that says brian gm. i am curious but haven’t gone so far as to ask why the owner has brian cashman on his plate. yesterday i saw a mass. plate that said mo 42. i almost followed it to see if i found another mass. resident who is a crazy yankee fan. i was so excited about it until i got home and told my red sox husband. he said it was probably for mo vaughn. he is probably right but i prefer to think another mariano fan is in my boston area.
    i’m with you jane, i take nothing for granted and don’t assume the red sox are dead, although i do see and hear some unhappy fans, and that we are a lock for the division.
    i’m starting to get sad thinking that there are only 14 more games.

  5. Bob Cerv says:

    Okay, I’ll try not to make this The Endless Post. But you’re in my wheelhouse again…
    As a 10-year-old Canadian Yankee fan, I loved that Summer of ’61 and how the M&M boys were going at it for the home run race. You didn’t think of Ruth much — he was ancient history — and the Tigers were in first place most of the season. Just wanted to win another pennant, and WOW — and how!
    Jane, I’m sure you’ve seen and know all about “61*” — that fabulous made-for-TV movie about Roger & Mickey, produced by Billy Crystal, starring Thomas (The Mentalist) Jane and Barry Pepper as Maris. What a FABULOUS tribute that is, and was. If ANYONE reading these words hasn’t seen it, rent it ASAP. Crystal’s movie does such a great job of explaining how Mick was a “god,” even to his teammates, and how reserved and quiet and humble and shy that other kid from Fargo, N.D. really was. You know, of course, that my “nom de plume” is from their other roomie in N.Y. back in those days (mis-identified in your video!).
    I missed much of the day-to-day excitement in ’61 because our family was living in England for the months of June and July. When I got back, all that anti-Maris feeling was as foreign as I was…good thing that I lived in Toronto full-time and missed most of it…but that entire artificial garbage of putting MORE pressure on Roger to hit 61 in 154 games or less, and then that damned asterisk…looking back, it was the first time in my life that Outside Governing Powers made incomprehensible decisions to ruin something truly great and worthwhile. But hardly the last. “Get used to it, kid.” Sigh…
    Then, when Roger finally hits it, they made it as anticlimactic as possible — last game of the season, pennant already in hand, playing the abysmal Red Sox — no wonder the Stadium was 3/4 empty. But in Toronto, I was excited. Roger had become MY hero. I was a natural right-handed hitter who switched to lefty, just because of #9. 30 years later, at the Fantasy Camp, everyone including Mickey had nothing but great things to say about Roger. I hope they’re able in some way to do justice to his memory tonight.

  6. Jane Heller says:

    It must be fun to try and spot Yankee fans in your part of the country, Barbara. But your husband is probably right and the “Mo” plate most likely referred to Mo Vaughn. Oh well. I know how you feel about the shortage of remaining games. I can’t believe the season is winding down. Doesn’t it seem as if it just started and we were all so excited?

    First, Dave, the commemoration of Maris’ 61st is next Friday, not tonight. With that out of the way, I’m glad you were a Maris fan even though you were living in Canada when he hit the big one. I didn’t love Billy Crystal’s movie, but I enjoy anything that has to do with the Yankees.

  7. new yawk lover says:

    I was 8 years old that summer and sort of remember the HR accomplishment, but my general memories of the Yanks back the is those two, and Bobby Richardson, for some reason. I was a big Willy Mays and Roberto Clemente fan back then. I didn’t become a Yanks devotee till my first junket to NYC in the mid 70′s.

    I’m watching the Sox go in the tank with morbid fascination. They have no pitching it seems, and TB is looking like a more formidable foe coming down the stretch.

  8. Jane Heller says:

    I was into Roberto Clemente too, NYL. He was so talented and so charismatic. While I agree that the Rays look formidable, there’s still a ways to go and teams get so hot and cold, including ours. The Rays’ pitching is in better shape than that of the Sox, but they’ve gone through stretches where nobody hits.

  9. Melissa says:

    My mom, brothers and I went to Fort Lauderdale to visit her parents in 1964. We went to spring training. Mickey stopped and spoke to people for quite a while, Roger just went about his business and didn’t acknowledge anyone. Looking back, it sort of reminds me of Princess Diana and Camilla. Everyone loved Diana, but people really hated Camilla, and still aren’t warm towards her. Some people just have an engaging personality and shine when put in the spotlight, others hate it or just aren’t good at it.
    The booing was not called for. I’ve read that people wanted Mantle to get the 61 because he was homegrown. That sort of makes me laugh because the icon whose record they were chasing was not a homegrown Yankee!

  10. Jane Heller says:

    You’re comparing Maris to Camilla, Melissa? I’m aghast! I do know what you mean about the public painting one person as the saint and another as the villain, but Camilla (or should I call her the Rottweiler?) was in a class by herself and I don’t think it had to do with her inability to charm the media. Anyhow, you make a great point about the homegrown notion with Mantle vs. Maris. Who cares who’s homegrown once you put on the pinstripes? And yes, Babe wasn’t exactly a farmhand with the Yanks!

  11. new yawk lover says:

    the Rottweiler? in the words of the legendary Dick Enberg “Ohhhhhh my!”

  12. Corinne says:

    The summer of ’61 was the summer I remember most from my childhood. In my memory it is golden. I was 9 that year, and although always a Yankee fan thanks to my grandfather and father, it was the year I became a true she-fan. I loved Mickey, but my young heart went out to Roger, and I couldn’t understand the booing. For Pete’s sake, the year before he was MVP for the Yanks. What gets me now, is how young he was then (and how old he seemed to me.) After the year was over, Roger “wrote” a book with Jim Ogle called Roger Maris at Bat. I bought it, and still have it, and I remember reading about his hair falling out and all the rest of it that Billy Crystal showed in *61. It really made me feel sad. I think the media back then had a big hand in turning the city against Roger, and for Mickey. I don’t know whether that book had anything to do with it, but I’ve never booed a player, Yankee or otherwise. I’ve sat on my hands, and screamed inside, but kept my boo’s to myself. I figure, the players must hear it, can’t they? They know if they’re stinking up the place. They don’t have to hear it from me too. As far as the Sox series goes, especially after 2004 – never count your chickens until they’re hatched, raised, and fried.

  13. Jane Heller says:

    I agree on all fronts, Corinne. Booing your own players is just an odd thing to do. And I love that expression about the chickens!!!! So true.

  14. Jane Heller says:

    That’s what Diana called Camilla, NYL – the Rottweiler.

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