FARGO, N.D. — Roger Maris' grave lies near some tall, willowy firs. A visitor hears only the wind and the birds in the trees, or sometimes the rumble of a jet at the nearby airport.
Once in a while, a wandering baseball fan seeks out the headstone of the man who, 30 years ago today, broke Babe Ruth's record of 60 home runs in a season.
Roger Maris was a boy here, learned to play football and baseball here, grew to manhood here, and here he rests--under a black granite bearing his carved likeness, caught in the middle of hitting his 61st home run in 1961.
To the left of his bat is the figure 61, and on the right is '61.
Maris, who was 51 when he died of cancer in 1985, was 27 when he hit Tracy Stallard's fastball into the Yankee Stadium seats on Sunday, Oct. 1, 1961. That was in the fourth inning of the season's last game, on a 2-and-0 pitch from the Boston rookie, and 23,154 saw it.
He hit that 61st homer in his 161st game. Ruth played a 154-game schedule when he hit 60 in 1927, and hit his 60th in his 151st game. Maris played a 162-game schedule.
Only recently did baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent remove the so-called asterisk from baseball's official records, finally awarding Maris the unqualified single-season home run record.
In fact, there never really was an asterisk. The Baseball Record Book has simply listed Maris as the record-holder for a 162-game season, Ruth for a 154-game season.
The truth is that Maris said he never much cared whether he even hit 60 homers.
In a 1981 telephone interview with The Times, Maris said:
"I told people all season in '61 that I didn't care if I broke the record or not, that all I was interested in was helping the Yankees get into the World Series.
"A lot of (reporters) interpreted that as being surly. But it was the truth. I didn't give a damn if I broke it or not. And I proved that by taking a day off the day after I hit the 60th."
Maris' father, 80-year-old Rudy Maris of Fargo, said in a phone interview that he and his son rarely discussed 60 home runs or Babe Ruth in 1961.
"I can't remember Roger and I ever discussing it once that year, and he called home all the time," Rudy Maris said.
"He really didn't care one way or the other. But I remember a lot of New York people resented the fact that he and not (Mickey) Mantle broke Ruth's record. And the silly part of that is Roger and Mickey were very close. Mickey loved Roger."
Mantle was a pallbearer at Maris' 1985 funeral here, along with former Yankee teammates Bill Skowron, Whitey Ford and Bobby Richardson.
Roger Maris is gone, but at the Roger Maris Museum in the West Hills Shopping Center, it is still 1961.
Jim McLaughlin, who manages the museum for the sponsor, Fargo American Legion Post No. 2, said the idea was first broached to Maris in 1983, when he visited his hometown for the state American Legion tournament.
Maris felt a special attachment to American Legion baseball. His Fargo high school, Shanley, had no baseball program, so it was in the summer-long Legion leagues that he attracted the attention of pro scouts.
"Some of us had wanted to put together some kind of Roger Maris hall of fame for a long time," McLaughlin said. "So we put together a plan, and asked him about it in 1983. He was all for it, and then told us we could have everything he had, including a lot of stuff that was stuck away in his closets."
McLaughlin and a friend flew to Maris' home in Gainesville, Fla., rented a trailer and hauled a load of memorabilia back to Fargo.
On display are the balls that in 1961 were home runs No. 48, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58 and 60. The 61st is in the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y. The 59th was caught by a Boston Red Sox fan who never returned it.
Maris' old Fargo American Legion baseball uniform is neatly folded in a glass case, as is his 1961 Yankee uniform. There are photographs of Maris with five U.S. presidents.
It catches your eye that Fargo sports sections detailing Maris' early 1950s American Legion baseball achievements spelled his name "Maras." And it wasn't sloppy journalism.
"When Roger was a teen-ager, it bothered him that opposing players and spectators chanted 'mare-ass' at him," his father recalled. "So one day he said: 'Dad, can we fix that?'
"So I had the spelling of our name changed to Maris."
Then there is the 1951 headline from Shanley High days about the night Maris returned four kickoffs for touchdowns in one game, still the national high school record.
His high school football coach was Sid Cichy, now 70, who was summoned from his back-yard garden to talk about Maris' high school days.
"That game was at Devils Lake, which is about 160 miles from Fargo," Cichy said. "I can't remember when those runbacks occurred, but I do remember the score. We won, 32-27.
"We had a lousy team--we were 3-5 that year--but we did have Roger Maris.