The picture that emerged of Roger Maris was that of a one-year wonder who took advantage of the short right-field porch in Yankee Stadium and an expanded 162-game schedule to break Babe Ruth's record with 61 home runs in 1961.
The fact is, Maris was coming off a year in which he won the American League RBI title and was voted the Most Valuable Player. In breaking the record, he hit more homers on the road, 31, than at Yankee Stadium, 30, and he had only six more plate appearances than Ruth.
So, how do you explain the record?
Expansion. In 1961, Los Angeles and Minnesota were added to the league, thereby diluting the quality of pitching. Slugging percentages soared. Besides Maris, others who recorded career highs in homers included Mickey Mantle with 54, Jim Gentile with 46, Rocky Colavito with 45 and Norm Cash with 41. As a team, the Yankees hit 240 homers, setting a major league record that still stands.
Maris and Mantle, with a total of 115 homers, broke the two-man record of 107 set by Ruth with 60 and Lou Gehrig with 47 in 1927. The pursuit of that record produced one of the year's best quotes.
After Mantle hit his 48th homer, he said to Maris: "Well, I got my man. Now, you get yours ."
Add Maris: Warren Spahn, who won more games than any other left-hander in history, had this to say in 1983: "Do you know what the greatest record is? It's not my 363 wins or Hank Aaron's 755 home runs or the strikeout records that Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton keep setting. The greatest feat was Roger Maris' 61 home runs. It's the only record with a time limit--one season, first game to last.
"Baseball is a game without a clock. But Maris' record had a limited time. That's what makes it the greatest feat. It's a fabulous record. He doesn't get enough credit for it. I appreciate it."
Trivia Time: Roger Maris had 142 RBIs in 1961 to win the American League title. Only one player in the league since then has had more RBIs. Who was it? (Answer below.)
Wrote Ken Davis of the Hartford Courant after the NCAA had suspended Indiana's Steve Alford for a game for appearing in a sorority calendar that was being sold to raise funds for a summer camp for mentally retarded girls:
"Rest easy. They nabbed Alford just in time. You know the way these things happen. First an athlete poses for charity and, the next thing you know, he's showing up at boys' clubs and centers for the handicapped, trying to help those who are less fortunate."
Said Michigan State Coach Jud Heathcote on the same subject: "When I first heard about it, I thought it was completely asinine. Then I really thought it over and decided it's not that good."
Move over, Jim Palmer, here comes the Refrigerator. Royal Textile Mills announced that William Perry of the Chicago Bears will be modeling its underwear.
None of that skimpy stuff, though. Perry will appear in longjohns, size double extra large.
Said Mark Atwater, president of Royal Textile Mills: "The caption for our ads is, 'We Keep the Refrigerator Warm.' "
Trivia Answer: Don Mattingly of the New York Yankees, with 145 RBIs in 1985.
Danny Ainge of the Boston Celtics, on 7-7 Manute Bol of the Washington Bullets being charged with only one foul in 48 minutes: "I can understand it. He can stand eight feet away from you and still have a hand in your face."