Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Roger Maris Hits His 61st Home Run October 1, 1961

On this day in Baseball History October 1, 1961: Roger Maris of the New York Yankees hit his 61st home run of the season in the fourth inning off of rookie starter Tracy Stallard in a 1-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox. In doing so, Maris broke Babe Ruth's record of 60 home runs which was set in 1927. Maris' achievement came with some controversy. The article Maris Hits 61st in Final Game from the October 2, 1961 edition of the New York Times states:
Ruth's record, of course, will not be erased. On July 17, Commissioner Ford C. Frick ruled that Ruth's record would stand unless bettered within a 154-game limit, since that was the schedule in 1927. Maris his fifty-nine homers in the Yanks' first 154 games to a decision. He hit his sixtieth four games later.

However, Maris will go into the record book as having hit the sixty-first in a 162-game schedule.

Maris finished the season with 590 official times at bat. Ruth, in 1927, had 540 official times at bat. Their total appearances at the plate, however, were nearly identical--698 for Maris and 692 for Ruth.

According to the official baseball rules, a batter is not charged with an official time at bat when "he hits a sacrifice bunt or sacrifice fly, is awarded first base on four called balls, is hit by a pitched ball or is awarded first base because of interference or obstruction."

Though it had taken 162 games (actually, 163, since the Yankees played one tie), a player finally had risen from the ranks to pass Ruth's majestic record. Maris himself missed only two of these games, although he sat out a third without coming to bat, when, after playing the first inning in the field, he was bothered by something in his eye.
Here is the boxscore to the October 1, 1961 Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees game from the October 2, 1961 edition of the New York Times:

The last two players to come close to the 154-game record set by Ruth was Jimmie Foxx in 1932 and Hank Greenberg in 1938 who both came up two homers short of tying the 60 home run record. For an interesting take on the whole Roger Maris/Babe Ruth home run record asterisk, I recommend that you read the article Roger Maris and the Myth of the Asterisk by Allen Barra from the Jockbeat Blogs of the Village Voice dated June 27, 2011.

Maris would win his second consecutive American League MVP award with a league leading 61 home runs, 141 runs batted in and 132 runs scored. Here is a breakdown of all 61 home runs by Roger Maris from the October 2, 1961 New York Times:

And if you haven't check out Billy Crystal's movie 61*. Let me know what you think of it.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Click here to access Roger Maris' career statistics from Baseball
- Click here to access the article Angry King of Swat: Roger Eugene Maris from the October 2, 1961 edition of the New York Times
- Click here to access the official Roger Maris website