October 1, 1961, A Home Run Record Is Set & Baseball Blows Its Big Moment
52 years ago today, on the last day of the regular season October 1, 1961, Roger Maris hit his 61st home run of the season off of the Red Sox hurler Tracy Stallard in the fourth inning. For those who were fortunate enough to be there, it was a great moment in baseball history.
Unlike many of today’s players who will take a curtain call without any prodding for driving in the go-ahead run, Maris had to literally be pushed out of the dugout to acknowledge the 23,154 cheering fans at Yankee Stadium.
So why were there only 23,154 fans to see Babe Ruth’s record eclipsed?
That has to do with former sportswriter and then baseball Commissioner, Ford Frick who was a great friend of Babe Ruth and his ghost-writer.
Frick had declared that an asterisk be placed next to any home run record set, if it was not accomplished in 154 games, which was the number of games Ruth played in 1927 when he set his home run mark at 60.
Legendary baseball owner Bill Veeck tells this scathing and hilarious story in his wonderful memoir, Veeck as in Wreck written with Ed Linn (G.P. Putnam’s Sons) 1962.
Let us be fair. Ford Frick does not try to do the wrong thing. Given the choice between doing something right or something wrong, Frick will usually begin by doing as little as possible. It is only when he is pushed to the wall for a decision that he will always, with sure instinct, and unerring aim, make an unholy mess of things.
Suppose that, purely as an exercise, I had put the following baseball question to you at any time during the past twenty-five years.
Suppose, starts the question, that someone comes along to challenge Babe Ruth’s record- which is THE record the same way Mt. Everest is THE mountain. Continue reading