On this date 15 years ago the North Dakota State Senate passed a resolution 45-0 that proclaimed Roger Maris should be admitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Although he was born in Minnesota, Maris was raised in the Grand Forks and Fargo areas. Baseball writers passed on electing him when he was eligible on their ballot. But the move was designed to inspire the veterans committee to reconsider his candidacy.
Unfortunately for Maris and his family, the move so far hasn't worked.
While Maris isn't enshrined, the bat he used to accomplish his most celebrated deed has a place of prominence in the Hall of Fame. On Oct. 1, 1961 he connected with a pitch from Red Sox starter Tracy Stallard to hit his 61st home run of the season, breaking Babe Ruth's single season homer mark. It was a record that stood until 1998 when Mark McGwire launched 70 blasts. And it was no coincidence that the resolution came as the U.S. Congress was investigating the scourge of steroids in baseball.
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Maris is best known for his time with the Yankees. But he was a much appreciated member of the 1967 and 68 Cardinals.
Although he only combined for 14 homers and 100 RBIs in his two seasons in St. Louis, the soft spoken, no nonsense Maris was a leader by example with clutch hitting and great defense.
The unusual thing about Maris' contributions to the Cardinals is that he never expected them to happen. The right fielder told the Yankees after the 1966 season that he intended to retire. Reportedly, the Yankees talked him out of making a public announcement, saying that he should spend some time thinking about it. But while Maris waited, the club traded him to St. Louis for Charlie Smith. Maris decided to keep playing with a new lease on life in St. Louis.
"I never would have gone back to New York to play," Maris told the New York Times in 1967. "I'd had it in New York. They had to trade me, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me."
A .260 career hitter, Maris hit 275 homers in 12 seasons. His 61 homers season was an oddity because he only hit 30 or more long balls three times in his career. But Maris, who in New York benefited from being put back-to-back with Mickey Mantle in the batting order, drove in 353 runs in the three year period 1960-62.
If Maris is enshrined in the Hall of Fame, he would be the worst hitting outfielder to ever make it. Reggie Jackson, a career .262 hitter currently holds that distinction. Maris was a .260 career hitter.
Maris died Dec. 14, 1985 after a battle with cancer. He was 51 years old.