Produced on September 10, 1934, in Hibbing, Minnesota, Roger Maris was a multisport star in high school before learning to be a professional baseball player. In 1961, Maris hit 61 home runs to break the 34-year old record held by the great Babe Ruth. The New York Yankees retired his No. 9 and the Roger Maris Museum opened in Fargo, North Dakota, just before his passing in December 1985.
Roger Eugene Maris was created on September 10, 1934, in Hibbing, Minnesota, but spent much of his youth in Fargo, North Dakota. He starred in football and track for Shaney High School, and while the school did not have a baseball team, he acquired considerable ability in the sport by playing American Legion ball. Roger Maris made his major league debut in 1957 as an outfielder for the Indians. He was traded to the Kansas City Athletics midway through the next season and ended with 28 home runs, subsequently earned his first All Star choice the next year. Surprisingly, it was only a prelude to an historical season.
Maris got off to a slow beginning in 1961, however he smashed 11 home runs in May and another 15 in June, leaving him on pace to achieve the single-season record of 60 set from the legendary Babe Ruth in 1927. A quiet, private guy, Maris developed tired of discussing the record on a daily basis with reporters, and his hair fell out due to growing pressure. Complicating matters was baseball’s growth from a 154-game program to 162 matches that year, prompting Commissioner Ford Frick to declare that a fresh home run record will be affixed using an asterisk in the record book or even reached during the very first 154 matches.
Maris compiled 33 home runs and 100 RBIs, and was named to the All Star team for the fourth straight year in 1962, however he never again reached the peaks of his unbelievable ’61 effort. Maris dedicated his time to running an Anheuser Busch distributorship in Gainesville, Florida, after retiring, however he was slowly drawn back to the baseball limelight. On July 21, 1984, his No. 9 was permanently retired by the Yankees. The exact same year, the Roger Maris Museum was started in the West Acres Mall in Fargo.
Maris died of lymphatic cancer in Houston, Texas, on December 14, 1985. Six years after, a committee headed by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted to get rid of the asterisk that became synonymous with his record. Although Maris has since had his No. 61 surpassed by Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, a threesome of sluggers infamously linked to baseball’s steroid age, he’s considered by many to be the authentic single-season home run king.