50 for 61*

Roger_Maris_PlaqueIt’s Wednesday so it must be Strumings day. Readers are reminded that I have now committed (hopefully not to my chagrin) to publish each Wednesday morning without fail. Today’s Struming is timed perfectly to tomorrow’s start of the baseball season kicked off by the 1pm game in the Bronx—Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers (no, I am not attending the game, my partial package starts next week).

The 2011 season, which hopefully will conclude with the Yankees 28th World Series Championship, is also the 50th anniversary of one of the most exciting seasons in baseball history, the assault on Babe Ruth’s single season home run record by the M&M boys, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.

The Mick fell short with 54 homers but Roger did not, and the 2011 season is the 50th anniversary of the season when he hit 61 home runs in 1961. Interestingly he did so without a single intentional walk. It doesn’t hurt to have Mickey Mantle batting behind you. The single season home run record has always been among the most noteworthy record in professional sports. The record of 60 home runs hit by Babe Ruth in 1927 had stood for 34 years before Roger Maris hit 61 homers in 1961.

The Major League Baseball Commissioner at that time, Ford Frick, minimized Maris’ record by claiming that Ruth’s record needed to be broken within 154 games, the length of the season in 1927, not 162 games as played in 1961. Therefore, though Maris hit 61 homers for the year with his 61st coming on October 1, 1961 in the final game of the season, he “only” hit 59 homers by the 154th game, hence the asterisk, as any viewer of the wonderful 61* Billy Crystal movie would know. The asterisk was later removed many years later and 61 homers was recognized as the legitimate single season record.

However Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire & Sammy Sosa interestingly each hit more than 61 homers, all during the four year span of 1998-2001 seasons. Mmmm? Was it something in the air, or perhaps injected in their bodies?

So I propose we reinstitute the 61* homer record—along with an asterisk—which will now have a new meaning, and will still stand as the single season record.

Roger Maris died in 1985 and was the AL MVP in 1960 and 1961. However, his performance as a Yankee was limited by injuries in the later years of his career. He did however get to play in 2 World Series with the Cardinals in 1967 and 1968 at the end of his career.

Maris was a Yankee great recognized in Monument Park in Yankee Stadium with a Plaque as well as his #9 retired. I remember the 1961 season well. It was a great one–240 regular season homers, 109 regular season victories and a World Championship vs. the Reds. Not too shabby. Like most Yankee fans, I wanted Mantle, the fans favorite, to break the Babe’s home run record. I’m thrilled however that the 50th anniversary will be celebrated at Yankee Stadium this fall. I also hope that the Yankees can celebrate the 50th anniversary of their 1961 World Championship vs. the Reds with their 28th Championship in 2011. Yankee fans never have enough.

Play ball.

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One Comment

  1. eric wasserman says:

    barry bonds should get a syringe next to his name

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