FARGO — It was 60 years ago this past week that Fargo’s very own Roger Maris broke the major league single season home run record, when he hit home run number 61.
It was an extraordinary feat under extremely difficult circumstances. Many baseball fans didn’t feel that Maris was worthy of breaking Babe Ruth’s record. Others thought that if the record was going to be broken, it should come from golden boy Mickey Mantle. Maris was treated so harshly by fans and sportswriters that his hair started falling out.
As an aside, Maris actually hit 62 home runs that season, but one of the home runs was wiped off the books because the game was later rained out. That’s a foolish rule. Baseball games should be completed from the point the games are stopped, but I digress.
As most fans know, Maris’ record was broken by Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds. Three cheaters. All of them took performance enhancing drugs. There’s a good reason that McGwire, Sosa and Bonds aren’t in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. They were on the juice. With their gaudy lifetime statistics, McGwire, Sosa and Bonds would have been elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, if not for their disrespect for the game.
So, it’s way past time to right a wrong. Maris should be restored as the single season home run record holder. Maris was clean and did it the right way. The numbers of McGwire, Sosa and Bonds should be taken off the books. Cheaters should not be rewarded.
For that matter, Henry Aaron should be restored as the career home run leader. It’s heartbreaking to see that Aaron, who had to endure death threats and so much racist hatred when he broke Babe Ruth’s lifetime record, was surpassed by a fraud such as Bonds.
Other sports take the proper action against athletes who take performance enhancing drugs to gain an unfair advantage. In the Olympics, dozens of athletes have been stripped of their gold medals, and their records have been wiped off the books. They range from Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson to American sprinter Marion Ross to numerous Russians in many sports.
Noted liar and cyclist Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for using performance enhancing drugs. So, too, was this year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit. We’re more fair to horses than we are to baseball players, such as Roger Maris.
Full disclosure: I am a lifelong passionate Boston Red Sox fan. My second favorite team is whoever plays the New York Yankees. Maris’ Yankees regularly pounded my beloved Red Sox. Later, Maris’ St. Louis Cardinals broke my heart when they defeated the Red Sox in seven games in the 1967 World Series.
Still, fair is fair. Roger Maris’ home runs were hit the old fashioned way: By skill, natural athleticism, determination, and hard work. For the good of the game, Major League Baseball must proclaim Maris as the true and legitimate single season home run champion.
Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director. Email firstname.lastname@example.org