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Forgotten Hero: A Tribute To Baseball’s Roger Maris

September 1, 2010

I was inspired to create this illustration after reading 61*: The Story of Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, and One Magical Summer, written by Ron Smith and published by The Sporting News.

I was 12 years old in 1961, and I can vividly recall the excitement that summer as Yankee teammates Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle slugged homer after homer, both on a pace to break Babe Ruth’s long-standing record of 60 home runs in a single season (1927).

Mantle finished with 54, Maris hit his 61st and final homer in the last game of the season.

Many fans, including Yankee fans, rooted against Maris for one of two reasons:

1) they didn’t want anyone to break the great Bambino’s record, or 2) they wanted it to be Mantle who’d replaced Yankee centerfielder Joe DiMaggio in 1951, not Maris, a relative unknown who’d only been acquired from Kansas City before the start of the 1960 season.

Complicating matters was the fact that the American League had expanded from 8 to 10 teams in 1961, and simultaneously, the playing season had been extended from 154 to 162 games.

Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick— who had been a friend of Ruth’s– ruled that any new home run record would have to be set in 154 games. This became known as the “asterisk ruling.”

Maris hit his 58th homer in Game 151, his 59th in Game 154, and his 6oth in Game 158. In 1961, the seating capacity of Yankee Stadium was a little over 67,000. Incredibly, only 23,154 New York fans turned out to see Maris hit his historic 61st homer on the last day of the season.

Maris never hit more than 33 homers in a single season after 1961. He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals after the 1966 season. Plagued by injuries, he retired from baseball in 1968. He died of lymphatic cancer in 1985 at age 51. He is not in the Baseball Hall Of Fame.

But one magic summer almost 50 years ago, at a time when steroids were unknown in the game, Roger Maris persevered despite intense media scrutiny and fan hostility, and did something truly remarkable: he hit 61 in ’61.

A personal tribute to Roger Maris. Scroll down for the entire construction sequence. (You can view a previous post which shows all the “steroid guy” caricatures, and another which shows the steps in creating the Barry Bonds caricature.)line drawing for tribute to Roger Maris who broke Babe Ruth's home run record in 1961Barry Bonds caricature pasted into tribute to baseball player Roger MarisBarry Bonds caricature baseball card lying on beach in Roger Maris tributebaseball card caricatures of disgraced steroid-using baseball playersbaseball cards of disgraced steroid users washed up on Heroes Beachbaseball cards of disgraced steroid users stained with mud on beachkid looking at sky on Heroes Beach amidst baseball cards of steroid usersYankee slugger Roger Maris swinging bat in sky above Heroes Beachlittle kid watching ghostly image of baseball slugger Roger Maris in skyghostly image of Yankee slugger Roger Maris swinging baseball bat in sky

kid on beach seeing ghostly images of Roger Maris and Babe Ruth in sky

kid seeing ghostly images of forgotten baseball hero Roger Maris in sky

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Craig Bohanan permalink
    September 20, 2010 4:58 PM

    Hey Mark, very nice piece of work.

    I was 14 that summer. And it was one more exasperating season for an even-then-inveterate Red Sox fan. But I always liked Roger M. He’s in my Hall of Fame.

    If I can find a way of sending you a piece I did a few years back with Frank Malzone that references Roger’s 61st home run I will do so.

    Craig B.


    • September 20, 2010 10:16 PM

      Hi Craig, thanks very much indeed. Yes, the Yanks had it pretty much their own way in ’61, I’m afraid. One rather astounding thing I didn’t include in the post: after hitting #60 in Game 158, Maris asked to sit out Game 159– and did. He was emotionally exhausted, and decided he’d have a better shot at hitting #61 if he took a day off before the final three games. Which strikes me as really cool. I’d love to see the piece you did with Frank Malzone– sounds great. Thanks again!


  2. Elaine Giacomo permalink
    October 3, 2010 8:50 PM

    Mark – I love it! He was my favorite too. Great job.



  3. March 10, 2012 1:26 PM

    Beautiful 🙂 Excellent! Magnificent 🙂 🙂 🙂
    Toothsome is speechless now….


    • March 12, 2012 3:06 PM

      “Beautiful,” “Excellent,” and “Magnificent.” I’ve looked all these words up in the dictionary, and yes, they do seem to apply to my work… : )

      They also apply to me. Perfectly. : P

      And I can’t believe you of all people are speechless. At least I hope not. I would worry… : )

      Thank you, Dear Dolly! : )


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