Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to this week’s edition of The Cooperstown Case.
This week, we look into the case of the late Roger Maris.
Of all the accomplishments Maris has to his name (which we will look at in depth), his most famous was breaking Babe Ruth’s long-standing record of 60 home runs hit in a season, when he hit 61 home runs in 1961.
Alongside his teammate and longtime friend Mickey Mantle, the two formed the “M&M Boys” in New York, one of the most formidable duos of the ‘60s. The two battled it out in 1961 to eclipse Ruth’s record, which Maris accomplished on the final game of the season. The record stood for 37 years until 1998, when former Cardinal slugger Mark McGwire reached 62 home runs (he finished the season with 70, which Barry Bonds eclipsed three years later).
He played 11 seasons in Major League Baseball with the Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Athletics, New York Yankees, and finally the St. Louis Cardinals.
Roger Maris was a key piece to the World Series-winning 1967 Cardinals, and the pennant-winning Cardinals in ’68. By the time he retired, he 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.
7x All-Star: 1959, 1960–1962 (2 games each)
MLB single-season home run champion (1961–1998)
AL leader in home runs, runs scored, and total bases (1961)
2x AL leader in RBIs and extra base hits (1960, 1961)
AL leader in slugging (1960)
2x AL leader in fielding percentage as right fielder (1960, 1964)
NL leader in fielding percentage as right fielder (1967)
5x AL pennant winner (1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964)
2x NL pennant winner (1967, 1968)
3x World Series winner (1961, 1962, 1967)
It is a pretty impressive list of accolades for Maris, who was an integral part of some of the top teams of the 1950s and 1960s. But statistically speaking, do the numbers do the talking for a possible Cooperstown induction?
With 275 home runs, Maris ranks 187th all-time, above Hall of Famers such as Brooks Robinson, Joe Morgan, and Derek Jeter.
But detractors have noted that Maris played in 140 games or more only four times in his career, and only 1,463 total games, a very low amount for someone to be considered a Hall of Famer (Ross Youngs has the fewest total games played by a Hall of Famer, with 1,211 games played). In his final year on the Hall of Fame ballot over 30 years ago, Maris received just over 43% of the votes necessary for induction into Cooperstown (75% is needed to be inducted). And to date, the Veterans Committee has overlooked him as well, although he is still eligible to be considered for induction.
But until that day comes, this Cooperstown Case file will remain open.