1961: The year a record was broken, hearts were broken, and a man's life was changed forever. Roger Maris will forever be known as the man that took Babe Ruth's record. The man that changed the record books. Maris was hated, booed, cussed, and generally abused by the press and fans for his chase of the most well-known mark in all of baseball: Babe Ruth's sixty single season home runs.
Maris began the year as just another hard-hitting Yankee. If anyone, his battery mate, and media darling, Mickey Mantle was scheduled to be the one to take over the spot on the all time homer list. "Mick" was loved by the fans and the press, Maris was not. In fact, whenever Maris hit one of his home runs, he was quickly reminded that it was only because Mantle was behind him that he even saw a good pitch to hit. In fact, Maris spent his entire record setting year cast as the villain in a media-soap opera, while his good friend, Mantle, was seen as the good guy whose own teammate was trying to steal his thunder.
Maris suffered greatly during the season. He actually lost his hair and had his and his families lives threatened. The most heartbreaking part of his 1961 saga came after his record breaking long ball. Commissioner Ford Frick decided that Maris' record would not stand against Ruth's because it was not done during the same number of games.
Maris could not take the pride he deserved in his great achievement. Speaking in 1980 he said, "They acted as though I was doing something wrong, poisoning the record books or something. Do you know what I have to show for sixty-one home runs? Nothing. Exactly nothing." What should have been one of baseball's greatest achievements became one of its saddest stories.
Now, with great pride, Baseball Almanac presents, Roger Maris' truly remarkable record-breaking sixty-one steroid free home runs.
"As a ballplayer, I would be delighted to do it (break Babe Ruth's single season home run record) again. As an individual, I doubt if I could possibly go through it again." - Roger Maris
Research by Baseball Almanac | Home Runs by Roger Maris
Click the player to Hear Roger Maris Hit Home Run #61
Roger Maris was walked ninety-four times during the 1961 season and led the American League in runs (one-hundred thirty-two), runs batted in (one-hundred forty-two), and of course home runs (sixty-one).
Did you know that a baseball signed by both Roger Maris and Tracy Stallard sold in a auction (held in 2002) for $3,541.00? Fifteen years later (late 2017), a photograph signed by that same duo sold in an auction for over $35,000!