Fargo, North Dakota loves Roger Maris.
As you can see from the sign above, he is a source of pride for the city as he is, of course, the only player in major league history to legitimately hit more than 60 untainted home runs in one season. I say legitimately since he is now 7th on the overall list behind admitted steroid user Mark McGwire, and assumed steroid users Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds.
In 1961, Americans were glued to their nightly sports report and morning papers to see if Maris, or teammate and Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle would beak Babe Ruth’s three-decade-old record of 60 home runs. The record is one that even Roger Maris himself, just before the 1961 season, said was unbreakable and even unapproachable.
The season was hard on Roger, so stressful in fact, that at times as he was nearing the record, he would lose his hair in bunches and his stomach was almost constantly in knots. And, though he did break the single-season record, he was forever jaded and never felt accepted by the media.
The amazing season, and his career are examined and celebrated at the Roger Maris Museum in the West Acres Mall in his hometown Fargo, North Dakota. His final Yankees uniform is displayed next to uniforms he wore in Cleveland, Kansas City and St. Louis, the 60th home run ball and a number of magazine covers and awards including his Sultan of Swat crowns,
The museum is quite thorough and illustrates a season that turned a solid player into a renowned sports sensation. It does its best to round out this one-season with a convincing argument using his playing resume:
- Back-to-back most valuable player awards in 1960 AND 1961
- Three World Series titles
- Seven American League pennants with the Yankee
- Seven-time All Star
- A Gold Glove as one of the league’s best defensive outfielders in 1960
But, he’s still not in the Hall of Fame, because, in the eyes of the writers, he had only one other substantial season. And, thanks to the mountainous stats piled up in recent years by the unnaturally bulked-up supermen, he may never join the likes of his 1961 murderer’s row teammates Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle in the hallowed halls.
Somehow it seems fitting that a man whose career will likely be forgotten as baseball’s pre-steroid days blur into oblivion has a museum parked in an aging suburban mall between Sears and a Pet Store.
For more information about the Roger Maris Museum, click here.