#TBT: Roger Maris Hits Number 61

Courtesy of biography.com

Courtesy of biography.com

Today is October 1st and though it is 20 years ago today that the New York Yankees clinched the first-ever American League Wild Card, a greater event happened 34 years prior to that moment. On this day in 1961, Roger Maris hit his 61st home run to break Babe Ruth‘s legendary feat. We know that since then, the record has been broken twice but I don’t believe those two moments compare with Maris’ accomplishment given what we now know about Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds.

 

Although Maris fell short of making the Hall of Fame, it does not diminish how great of a player he was. Not only did he win the MVP in 1961, but he also won it the prior year when he hit 39 home runs and drove in a league-best 112 runs. He was a four-time All Star and played in seven World Series during the 1960’s. He hit .357 in the 1967 World Series as the Cardinals defeated the Red Sox in seven games. He was acknowledged as one of the best defensive outfielders of his day. Unfortunately, a hand injury Maris suffered during his days with the Yankees robbed him of possibly putting up the types of numbers that would have enshrined him in Cooperstown. Some would argue the 61 homers in ’61 is enough merit for Maris to enter the Hall. Worthy or not, Roger Maris is one of the most important figures in New York Yankees’ history.

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October 1st is also a special day for the Mets. On this date in 1973, New York beat the Cubs 6-4 to capture the National League East title. This was the Tug McGraw, “Ya Gotta Believe” team that was floundering in last place on August 6th. Behind Cy Young winner Tom Seaver, McGraw the leader of the bullpen and team’s heart and soul and the timely hitting of John Milner, Rusty Staub and Wayne Garrett, the Amazins came from the depths and finally got their 82nd win on this date. It remains the lowest number of victories needed to clinch a division title.

Courtesy nydailynews.com

Courtesy nydailynews.com

The Mets would go on beat the Reds in five games in memorable National League Championship series.  In game 3, Bud Harrelson and Pete Rose started a bench-clearing brawl that remains a signature moment in NLCS history. New York’s improbable ride in 1973 came to an unhappy end as the Oakland A’s defeated them in a classic seven game series to remain World Champions. “Ya Gotta Believe” is still a Met fans’ motto 42 years later.

 

 

 

 

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