1961 | DETROIT, MICHIGAN – On this date in 1961 New York Yankee outfielder Roger Maris began his historic chase of the most famous record in sports – Babe Ruth’s single season record of 60 home runs. In the 5th inning at Tiger Stadium with one out and nobody on, Maris hit a home run off Tiger right-hander Paul Foytack.
Maris didn’t come out of the blocks in a full sprint that memorable season. He hit one, I repeat, one home run in the month of April. Teammate Mickey Mantle already had 7 home runs by the time May rolled around.
If Maris, the shy right-fielder from Hibbing, Minnesota wanted to hit 30 home runs in 1961 he’d have to shift it into gear. He did. Maris hit 50 home runs over a 4 month span that summer. Here’s how his record-breaking 61 home runs were spread out over the season:
The race to break Ruth’s record was pretty much between Maris and Mantle. Maris eventually broke it on October 1, the 162nd and last game of the season. This led to a controversial ruling by Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick; since Maris didn’t break Ruth’s record by the 154th game of the season, an asterisk would be put next to his name because Ruth set the single season record in a 154-game schedule. There’s no evidence an asterisk ever actually appeared in the “record books,” but people think it did, so Maris’ name was unjustifiably tarnished.
Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball, by Leonard Koppett, 1998