Roger Maris Hits His 59th Home Run September 20, 1961

55 Years Ago Today Roger Maris Hit His 59th Home Run Putting Him One Behind Babe Ruth

roger-maris-hits-home-run-number-59-september-20-1961In the pre-steroid era of baseball, Roger Maris had one magical season. Shown above, Maris connects for his 59th home run of the season on September 20, 1961.

Maris would hit 61 home runs during the 1961 season, breaking Babe Ruth’s record of 60.

Yet Maris’s accomplishment wasn’t considered an “official” record. That is because Ford Frick, the former sportswriter and then Commissioner of baseball, ruled that Maris had to beat Babe Ruth in the same number of games that the Babe was eligible to play in 1927, which was 154.

If Maris did not hit 60 by his 154th game the record would be denoted with an asterisk, indicating that Maris had more opportunities (163)  than Ruth did.

The news caption for this photo reads:

Baltimore, Sept 20 – Homer No. 59 For Maris – Roger Maris of the New York Yankees swings into the ball in the third inning tonight as he connects for his 59th home run of the season. The blow came against Baltimore Orioles pitcher Milt Pappas. If Maris can add one more during the game he will equal Babe Ruth’s  official 1927 record of 60 in 154 games. He has hit two homers in one game seven times this season. The ball is just a streak as it flies off the bat, right. (AP wirephoto)

It wasn’t until September 26 in the Yankees 159th game when Maris connected for his 60th home run off the Orioles Jack Fisher.

On the last day of the season Maris hit his 61st home run and his name went into the record books, albeit with an asterisk.

Ironically, there are many people today who now consider Roger Maris to be the single season home run record holder. There is no asterisk next to the names of Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa, who all hit more than 61 home runs in a season. To the baseball public, the stigma of performance enhancing drugs has left something more than an asterisk next to those sluggers names – condemnation.

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