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The Cooperstown case for Roger Maris


Welcome to the 10th episode of “The Cooperstown case”!

Last week, we looked at the case for Mark McGwire, who had at one point held the record for most home runs hit in a season.

This week, we’ll be looking at the player whose record he beat.

Today, “The Cooperstown case” is for the late Roger Maris.

While he was only a member of the St. Louis Cardinals from 1967-1968, he’s left an amazing legacy in Major League Baseball. Despite that, he has never been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Historians and writers have criticized the decision to omit him from Cooperstown.

And it’s our job to dig into the archives and see if he is worthy of induction.

Maris made his Major League Baseball debut on April 16th, 1957 for the Cleveland Indians. In his rookie season with Cleveland, Maris hit nine home runs. He proceeded to hit nine home runs in 1958 over the course of 51 games, but was then traded to the Kansas City Athletics, where he played from 1958-1959.

Starting in 1960, Maris began his longest tenure with one team when he joined the New York Yankees.

Now, before we continue, it should be noted that many think he doesn’t deserve to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame because of his batting average (.260), total home runs (275) and seasons (12). Also, there are those that believe only a few of his seasons were truly Hall of Fame-esque.

Ok, now we can continue.

In his debut game for the Yankees, Maris hit a single, double, and two home runs. He hit 39 home runs, 112 RBI’s, and a .283 batting average in his first season.

The following season, however, is where history was made.

Maris hit 61 (yes, 61) total home runs along with 141 RBI’s en route to winning the MVP Award in the process. During his seven years with the New York Yankees, he hit 203 home runs, 547 RBI’s, won two MVP Awards, made it to three All-Star games, and won a Gold Glove Award. He already established himself as one of the top players in baseball at the time.

But he wasn’t finished, as Maris went from playing on the top American League team, to playing with the top National League team… the St. Louis Cardinals. In the 1967 World Series, Maris hit .385 with one home run and seven RBIs. It was the best performance in any of the seven World Series that he had been a part of in his career.

So before we ask the final question, here are his achievements:

  • All-Star: 1959, 1960 (2 games), 1961 (2 games), 1962 (2 games)
  • MLB single season home run champion (1961–1998)
  • AL leader in home runs, runs scored, and total bases (1961)
  • AL leader in RBIs and extra base hits (1960, 1961)
  • AL leader in slugging average (1960)
  • AL leader in fielding average as right fielder (1960, 1964)
  • NL leader in fielding average as right fielder (1967)
  • AL pennant champion team (1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964)
  • NL pennant champion team (1967, 1968)
  • World Series champion team (1961, 1962, 1967)

It remains to be seen whether or not Maris is truly worthy of a Cooperstown induction, but one thing is certain: it is all in the hands of the Golden Era Committee, who vote every three years in regards to players who played from 1947 to 1972.

Do you think Maris is worthy of induction?

Only time will tell…

Tune in next week for yet another edition of “The Cooperstown case”.

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