Tag: Roger Maris

Maris and Mantle: Back-to-Back and Wall-to-Wall Home Runs at Yankee Stadium

The New York Yankees were hosting the Chicago White Sox for a twi-night doubleheader on July 25, 1961. The second-place New Yorkers trailed the Detroit Tigers by one game. The fifth-place White Sox were 13 games behind despite having a respectable 50-47 record.

Whitey Ford (17-2) faced Frank Baumann (7-7) in a battle of left-handers in the opener. Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle each had 37 home runs going into the games.

The teams traded zeroes until the bottom of the fourth inning. Bobby Richardson became the Yankees’ first baserunner when he drew a leadoff walk. Tony Kubek moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt, bringing up Maris.

The future single-season home run record holder promptly hit a drive that hit the right field foul pole.

Mantle, batting right-handed, now trailed Maris by one home run. He swung at a Baumann fast ball and drove it down the left field line. Guess what? The ball hit the left field foul pole.

The fans went wild as Mel Allen joyfully screamed that Maris and Mantle had hit back-to-back and wall-to-wall home runs.

In the eighth inning, with the Yankees leading 4-0, Maris faced Don Larsen. He hit his second home run of the game to pull one ahead of Mantle.

The Yankees won easily by a score of 5-1. Ford pitched seven scoreless innings to earn his 18th win.

The nightcap figured to be tough for the Yankees. Left-hander Juan Pizarro started for the White Sox against 22-year-old Bill Stafford. It was no contest, as the Yankees coasted to a 12-0 win. Stafford went the distance, but Maris was once again the story.

In the fourth inning, facing right-hander Russ Kemmerer, Maris hit a drive to right field that barely cleared the short concrete wall, or at least that was umpire Frank Umont’s call. White Sox manager Al Lopez was ejected for disagreeing with authority. Maris now had 40 home runs.

He wasn’t finished.

Right-handed veteran Warren Hacker was on the hill. Clete Boyer led off the sixth with a home run. After Stafford grounded out, Richardson singled and Kubek doubled him to third, bringing up Maris.

First base was open but the White Sox pitched to Maris. The result was Maris’ fourth home run of the doubleheader. He finished the day with 42 home runs.

Maris had five hits in nine at-bats, including four home runs. It was a memorable performance that almost everyone has forgotten.

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Gates Brown, Bill Buckner and a Closer Look at Hall of Fame Balloting

The Baseball Hall of Fame—holy ground for America’s national pastime. Within Cooperstown’s pantheon are honored 296 of the diamond’s royalty. Some are gods; some many have never heard of. A few don’t truly belong; others, having received the sport’s ultimate reward, remain under-appreciated.

Each of them was immortalized by vote, a process vulnerable to an array of human foibles. Whereas most Hall of Famers fully deserve their honor, more than a few waited for enshrinement long after their achievements warranted such recognition (sometimes for decades), or, occasionally in the case of the Veterans Committee, wormed their way in via cronyism, inflated reputation or voter incompetence.

Because (since 1958) the ballot permits—but does not require—voting to the 10th place, some very mediocre players garner votes. Often, this safeguard prohibits too many candidates from making the cut—lest the Hall grow even more overpopulated than it already is— although it occasionally detracts votes from worthy players who should make it in but wait many unnecessary years, or never make it at all.

Why the electorate felt compelled to cast votes for the pedestrian likes of Mike Jorgensen, Terry Puhl, and Eddie Miksis is a wonder. Maybe those responsible also pulled the lever for Harold Stassen…

In 1981, Gates Brown received a vote. A talented batsman who, at his retirement, stood third all-time in pinch hits, Gates enjoyed a superlative year as a sub during the Detroit Tigers championship season of 1968.

Coming off the bench and delivering key hits time and again, Brown contributed mightily to Detroit’s pennant run. A career total of 582 hits, however, stands as far from the stuff of legend as the 119-loss Tigers of 2003 did from first place. Yet Brown shared 27th spot in the voting with five other nondescript players.

This means that some voter penciled Brown as a 10th-place selection over 17 far more Hall-worthy players. If the top nine vote-getters are excluded, which any sane person—including, presumably, the voter in question—would when making Gates his final pick on the ballot, then Brown received a vote instead of later inductees Luis Aparicio, Bill Mazeroski, Orlando Cepeda and Richie Ashburn, as well as Roger Maris and Maury Wills.

Remember, electors are chosen for their expert knowledge of the game.

Poor Bill Buckner. Never mind that he won a batting crown, seven times hit .300, and came within a season and a half of the elite 3,000-hit club—his outstanding career is forever lost in the glare of a single gaffe that didn’t send the Boston Red Sox to another cursed World Series defeat (it merely enabled the hard-luck Bosox to drop the Series the next evening).

Buckner isn’t Hall of Fame material, but his numbers—including, ironically, a solid fielding record (and the penultimate mark for assists in a season by a first baseman)—exceed that of many Hall of Famers. Yet he qualified for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) ballot only once, earning a paltry 10 votes, which permanently dropped him from eligibility.

Considering the ballot’s hangers-on who collect comparable numbers over multiple elections, it’s obvious that voters ignored Buckner’s 22 seasons because of one unfortunate occurrence.

Case-in-point: one-trick pony Don Larsen. Yes, that lone trick, a perfect game in the 1956 World Series, amounted to one of the most fantastic feats in baseball history. But the Hall isn’t permitted to enshrine players for a single event.

Yet Larsen received no fewer than 22 votes for 15 consecutive years. Not big numbers, but far more generous than his career totals: an 81-91 record (including a 3-21 season), a solitary 100-strikeout year, and an ERA often topping 4.00.

Even so, Larsen’s relatively hefty vote totals—entirely attributable to a spectacular moment in a lackluster 14-year career—left in the dust such terrific, if not Hall-caliber, hurlers as Jim Perry, Billy Pierce and Dave McNally.

A voter shows himself more misguided to reward a player for one triumphant effort than to punish a player for one catastrophic incident.

Such specious voting extends to Johnny Vander Meer, who was just as liable to walk a batter as strike him out. Vandy’s wildness culminated in a meer 119-121 career record—yet, thanks to his consecutive no-hitters, he polled twice as many votes in 1966 as Arky Vaughan, one of the best shortstops ever (not to mention further outdistancing Ernie Lombardi, Hal Newhouser, Billy Herman and Bob Lemon—each eminently more deserving than he).

In fact, Vander Meer, who consistently finished higher than at least half a dozen future Hall of Famers during his years of eligibility, outpaced Newhouser all eight years that they appeared together on the ballot.

Whether or not one views Newhouser as a bona fide Hall of Famer, he did win back-to-back MVPs—and nearly a third—whereas Vander Meer never finished higher than 18th in MVP polling (incidentally, the very season he tossed his no-nos—so how could writers rank Vander Meer so highly for his career when they didn’t even rank him highly for his season of glory?).

Averaging 72 votes a year, Vander Meer’s claim to fame was taken too literally by some writers.

Whether the BBWAA has always known what’s it’s doing when it comes to casting Hall of Fame ballots is debatable (it’s done a largely admirable job in recent decades). However, one can peruse the vote totals of virtually any year and drop a jaw at who scored higher than whom.

As in 1949, for example, when Pepper Martin—a scrappy hitter and, for the time, terror on the base paths—parlayed a pair of heroic World Series performances that made him a legend of the Depressed Midwest into more votes than 25 future Hall of Famers. And even though quite a few of those eventual entrants likely didn’t merit enshrinement, they undoubtedly enjoyed more laudable careers than Pepper. (Certainly Goose Goslin, Sam Rice and Zack Wheat—absolutely deserving—should have scored higher than Martin.)

But that’s the human element of the Hall of Fame, and it’s still preferable to some statistically based program like the college BCS—heaven forbid, some egghead ever devises something similar for Cooperstown…

The 2012 election likely will usher into Cooperstown several great players from among 27 candidates. And if Barry Larkin and Jack Morris, the two favorites, ascend to Baseball Heaven—or even Tim Raines and several borderline candidates—then the BBWAA surely will have done its job.

But I’ll be scanning the bottom of the ballot to see how many wayward votes went to Terry Mulholland, Brad Radke and Tony Womack

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Long Gone, Long Shots: Jose Bautista And The Most Surprising 50 Home Run Seasons

One upon a time the 50 home run mark was a milestone for only the very best power hitters in baseball.

The feat has only been accomplished 42 times in baseball history by 26 different men.

Recent history has sadly diminished this feat.  Between 1995 and 2007, the feat was accomplished 23 times (four times each by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa).

Despite the intervention of the steroid era, baseball fans should still remember the significance of the 50 home run club. 

On September 23rd, Jose Bautista hit his 50th home run of the 2010 season. 

That home run made him one of the most unlikely members of this exclusive baseball club. 

Here’s a deeper look at the most unlikely and surprising 50 home run season in baseball history. 

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Roger Maris and Don Larsen: Home Run Record and Perfect Game Were Not Enough

The New York Yankees finished third in 1959.

It was the first time since 1954 that the Yankees didn’t win the pennant, but while the 1954 team won 103 games, the 1959 team finished a dismal third, 15 games behind the pennant-winning Chicago White Sox.

It was clear that the Yankees needed help. The Kansas City A’s usually provided that help.

On Dec. 11, 1959, general manager George Weiss sent an aging Hank Bauer, promising youngsters Norm Seibern and Marv Throneberry, and the only pitcher to hurl a perfect World Series game, Don Larsen, to their Kansas City friends in exchange for Kent Hadley, Joe DeMaestri, and Roger Maris.

In 1957, the season following his perfect game, Larsen started only 20 games. He had a decent season, going 10-4 with a 3.74 ERA, which translates to a mediocre 97 ERA+.

The next season, 1958, was similar. Larsen was 9-6 with a 3.07 ERA and a 116 ERA+, but in the World Series, the Yankees were down two games to none to the Milwaukee Braves.

Larsen rose to the occasion, shutting out the defending World Champions for seven innings. Ryne Duren completed the shutout as Hank Bauer drove in all four Yankees’ runs with a two-run single and a two-run home run. The game was every bit as important as Larsen’s perfect game.

Larsen dropped to 6-7 in 1959, with a 4.33 ERA and an 84 ERA+.

Roger Maris won the MVP award in his first season with the Yankees, batting .283, driving in a league-leading 112 runs, and hitting 39 home runs. Along with Mickey Mantle, Roger gave the Yankees a lethal one-two punch.

The next season, Roger broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run mark, hitting 61, but Roger would suffer a similar fate as Don Larsen.

A combination of injuries, fan resentment of his $70,000 salary, and a newly developed loyalty to Mickey Mantle resulted in a series of relatively mediocre seasons.

In 1962, Roger hit 33 home runs and drove in 100 runs, but he never again hit more than 26 home runs or drove in more than 71 runs.

Following the 1964 season, the Yankees paid the price for allowing their farm system to dry up. In 1965, the once-proud team finished sixth, 25 games behind the Minnesota Twins.

Roger hit .239 with eight home runs in 1965, and followed that with a dismal .233 batting average, 13 home runs, and 43 RBIs in 1966. Roger, like Don Larsen, was gone.

In early Dec. 1966, Roger was traded to St. Louis for journeyman infielder Charlie Smith.

The Yankees had traded the only pitcher to pitch a perfect World Series game for the player who would break the single season home run mark.

A few years later, the player who set the single season home run record was traded.

Don Larsen had a day of glory that has lasted a lifetime. Roger Maris had a season that is one of the most memorable in baseball history, yet the Yankees traded both a few short seasons after their feats.

The great Branch Rickey used to say that luck is the residue of design. Sometimes luck is just luck.



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Five Most Memorable Home Runs in New York Baseball History

With the passing of Bobby Thompson this week, it brings up memories of his infamous “Shot Heard Round The World” with the New York Giants.  New York is a baseball-rich city that has had its share of memorable home runs in crucial situations that have left an indelible mark on the fans,

Here is a list of the top five most memorable home runs hit in New York baseball history.

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Power Ranking the 10 Most Valuable MVPs in MLB History

There have been plenty of significant Most Valuable Players through the history of Major League Baseball, but which 10 are the best of the bests?

From studs in the American League like Mickey Mantle in 1956, 1957, and 1962, to duds like the AL’s Dustin Pedoria in 2008, let’s power rank the 10 most valuable MVPs to ever play America’s Pastime.

As a side note, I want to go ahead and inform readers that this is—by far—the toughest top 10 list I’ve ever had to put together, and just because some of the current talent may be towards the back end of (or not even on) this list doesn’t mean they are not worthy MVP players.

My point is that it would be extremely difficult to even assemble a top 25 list of the best MVPs in the history of baseball, let alone narrowing it down to 10.

However, without further ado, here we go…

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Shots Heard ‘Round the World: MLB’s 10 Most Memorable Home Runs

The home run is one of the most exciting plays in sports. Fans and players feel a rush of excitement when a ball goes over the wall.

There are some big flies more exciting than others. Here are the 10 most memorable home runs in Major League Baseball history.

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Is Roger Maris Really Injured?

It started innocently enough, and it wasn’t even reported in the newspapers.

On Sunday, June 20, 1965, in the second game of a twin bill against the Minnesota Twins, Roger Maris, sliding into home plate, jammed his right hand against the home plate umpire’s shin guard. 

No one, not even Roger, realized the seriousness of the injury.

Roger was in the Yankees’ lineup the next few games, but in the nightcap of a double-header against the Kansas City Athletics, he was forced to leave the game.

Roger did not return until August 18 as a pinch hitter. He missed 49 games.


A Bone Chip

1965 was not a good year for Roger Maris. The injuries started early, limiting him to only 40 games started.

During the third week of the season, Maris pulled a hamstring and missed 26 games. Then came the wrist injury sliding into home plate on June 20.

Roger didn’t start another game after June 28. It was eventually discovered that a bone chip was causing the problem. Rest did not help, forcing surgery at the end of September.

Two Healthy Seasons

In 1960, Roger’s first year with the Yankees, he slid hard into second base during a game near the end of the season, bruising his ribs. It cost him 15 games.

The next two seasons, 1961 and 1962, were Roger’s only healthy ones as a Yankee.

In 1963, he missed almost the entire second half of the season with back problems, playing only 90 games. He missed 20 games in 1964 with leg injuries.

In 1966, Roger complained that his hand was sore as he struggled at the plate, batting only .233 with 13 home runs and 43 RBI. The Yankees questioned Roger for complaining.

It Was Over Between the Yankees and Roger

In Dec. 1966, the Yankees traded the player who still holds the American League single-season home run record to the St. Louis Cardinals for a nondescript third baseman with the equally nondescript name of Charlie Smith.

It was an insult to Roger, who left New York a very angry individual.

After the trade, it was discovered that Roger had played most of 1966 with a broken hand that the members of the medical community responsible for his well-being had not properly diagnosed.

Roger Maris was a fine baseball player, but not a great one.

He could run, throw, field, and hit, but for one season, he was a great player.

“Everything clicked for me. My swing was in a perfect groove. If I had hit under the ball a fraction of an inch more, a lot of those homers would have been pop-ups. If I’d hit a fraction of an inch higher, a lot would have been grounders or gone into fielders’ gloves. Instead, I was hitting the ball perfectly.”


Roger’s good friend, Mickey Mantle, has become synonymous with injuries and what might have been.

Roger Maris and 61 home runs have also become synonymous, but fans and the media rarely remember how often Roger was injured.

Mention 1963 and Mickey Mantle to baseball fans. The response is usually, “Oh, yes, Mickey caught his foot in the outfield fence in Baltimore and missed most of the season.”

Bring up 1963 and Roger Maris, and invariably the response is that Roger had a bad season, which he did. He hit the same .269 in 1963 that he hit in 1961, but with only 23 home runs because his playing time and efficiency were limited by injuries.

Roger Maris has become much more of a fan favorite in recent years. His record is appreciated more today than a few short years ago for obvious reasons that do not need elaboration.



Daley, Arthur. “Sports of the Times: Man With an Asterisk.” The New York Times. 12 December 1966, p. 73.
Durso, Joseph. “Angels’ 4 in 8th Down Yanks, 7-3; Maris Pinch-Hits in Return.” The New York Times. 19 August 1965, p. 25.

Koppett, Leonard. “Maris, Starter in Only 40 Games Last Year, Retains $75,000 Yankee Salary.” The New York Times. 7 January 1966, p. 22.

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