This story, written by future Baseball Hall of Famer Dan Daniel, first appeared in the Oct. 4, 1961, issue of The Sporting News (in advance of a Yankees-Reds “World’s Series”), under the headlines, “Weary Bombers Fuel Motors for Cincy” and “Heavy Cold Stops Mantle — Rog Takes Day Off After Walloping No. 60 Homer”. Because Babe Ruth set the record with 60 in 1927 during a 154-game schedule and MLB’s regular season was 162 games by 1961, Commissioner Ford Frick ruled on who held the record.
NEW YORK, N.Y. — With the approach of the World’s Series, local furor over the home-run efforts of Roger Maris abated considerably. Fans here were too busy trying to buy tickets for the classic, this time scarcer than ever.
Persons who had not concerned themselves much with baseball for many years now were all steamed up over the battle between the 1961 murderers’ row and Fred Hutchinson’s pitchers.
Maris’ sixtieth homer produced one of the most amazing demonstrations in the long history of the Stadium. Not even the Babe when he hit his record sixtieth on September 29, 1927, got the ovation which was accorded to Roger. Maris hit his sixtieth before 20,000 fans. Ruth got his with some 7,000 customers in attendance. The Maris drive was followed by the only curtain call in local, memory.
Fans Stand and Cheer
As Maris’ homer went into the stands and Umpire Ed Hurley signaled its official authenticity, the fans got up en masse and kept cheering for a couple of minutes. The game had to be stopped because the din continued. Finally Ralph Houk told Maris to step up from the dugout, come out into full view and take that curtain call. Maris, of course, was overjoyed.
“The greatest thing that has happened to me in baseball,” he exclaimed.
Mrs. Maris had come east from Raytown, Mo., near Kansas City. She had not seen a previous homer by the right fielder, and exhuberated as he posed with her for an army of photographers.
The following afternoon, when the Bombers with a makeshift lineup absorbed a 3 to 2 defeat from the Orioles, Maris, Mickey Mantle and Bobby Richardson were out of action. Maris reported to Houk exhausted from the reaction to No. 60 and said he was mentally and physically bushed. Houk suggested that Roger sit that one out and he readily assented.
Roger Needed a Rest
“I felt that if Roger took this one off, and rested through tomorrow’s break in the schedule, he would come back for our last three games, with the Red Sox, in shape to add to his home-run collection,” the pilot explained.
Mantle caught cold in Baltimore and was finally ordered to bed by the team physician. A further examination revealed that the Mick was suffering from an abscess on the hip. caused by the virus. It was removed in a minor operation at Lenox Hill Hospital, September 28. There the doctors indicated Mantle would be held three days and released in time for Series play.
Richardson also was sidelined with an attack of boils on a leg.
While New York rested temporarily from the Maris home-run excitement, ready to pick it up in the World’s Series, the Yankees found themselves minus the services of Outfielder/Pinch-Hitter Bob Cerv for the classic. Cery once again injured a knee in Boston, and it became so painful he went to Lenox Hill Hospital. Dr. Sidney Gaynor announced that the knee was so bad that surgery was performed on September 28.
Accordingly, Houk notified Commissioner Ford Frick that the Yankees had removed Cery from their Series list and substituted Jack Reed, who some time ago was called up from Richmond (International) but after the September deadline for World’s Series eligibility
Henrich Missed ’50 Classic
It was recalled that the Bombers had had a similar experience in 1950, when Tommy Henrich had to pass up the Series against the Phillies, and Johnny Hopp was purchased from the Pirates to take his place.
That same fall, the Phillies had to make two changes in their Series roster. Curt Simmons, called to active duty in the Army, was replaced by Jocko Thompson, and the ailing Bill Nicholson was replaced by Jack Mayo.
Cerv doubtless will be missed as a pinch-hitter. He batted .357 against the Pirates last year, with five hits in 14 efforts in four games. In 1955 and ’56, he was not impressive against the Dodgers, hitting .125 in five games that first year and making a single in his only appearance the following fall.
When Maris hit No. 60 and matched the record haul of the Babe, the controversy over the record became hotter than ever.
A talk with Commissioner Frick produced some interesting angles.
“I am eager to meet with the records committee of the Baseball Writers’ Association and discuss my stand on the Ruth-Maris, situation,” Frick said.
“However, I have made my ruling and it stands. The record for home runs in 154 games stands to the credit of G.H. Ruth, Yankees, at 60. The record for home runs in 162 games stands to the credit of Roger Maris, Yankees.”
It has been suggested that the commissioner has no right to become involved in records. The commissioner asserted that he has the full right to become involved in records if they are important items of policy.
Fans Back Decision
“I intend to become involved any time a similar matter of policy comes up concerning the record book,” said Frick.
“I have received a tremendous number of letters from fans on my stand, and 99 percent have backed me up.”
Yankee Doodles: Two Yankee players and two sports writers were honored at Yankee Stadium, September 26, by the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Silver medals were presented to Second Baseman Bobby Richardson and Catcher Elston Howard and Scribes Jimmy Cannon and Dan Daniel. … The widow of Babe Ruth was in the stands the night Roger Maris socked No. 60. Mrs. Ruth appeared shaken by the blast, left her seat for a while, but then returned. … A move has been started to review the rule which prevented Elston Howard from winning the batting title because he did not have at least 502 appearances at the plate. It was pointed out that Howard saw considerable service as a catcher and backstops ordinarily do not play as often as other regulars. Commissioner Ford Frick said he is inclined to agree on the matter of catchers.
TSN Archives: President Kennedy a Close Observer of Maris’ HR Bid
WASHINGTON, D. C. — The Berlin situation, disarmament talks and other political issues have occupied most of President John F. Kennedy’s time recently, but the Chief Executive hasn’t been too busy to keep abreast of the National Pastime.
The President showed an intense interest in Roger Maris’ attempt to break Babe Ruth’s homer record, Rep. Melvin Price (D., Illinois). revealed in a letter to Publisher J. G. Taylor Spink of THE SPORTING NEWS.
“In the past month I had two occasions to be at the White House,” Price wrote. “On the first occasion, President Kennedy’s first question to me was:
Do you think he (Maris) will make it?’
“The morning after the final game in which Maris would have a chance to tie or beat Ruth’s record, I was at the White House again and the President’s first remark was: ‘Well, he didn’t make it.’”