ROGER MARIS: A Man for All Seasons by Maury Allen

ROGER MARIS: A Man for All Seasons

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An earnest attempt to both set the record straight on the quiet, determined North Dakota kid who eclipsed Babe Ruth's single-season home-run record in 1961 and to propel him into baseball's Valhalla, the Hall of Fame. Maris was a gifted all-around athlete good enough to be offered a football scholarship to powerhouse Oklahoma, but the idea of play for pay took hold when a Cleveland Indian scout spotted him and he signed a $15,000 contract. Early on he showed signs of being a stubborn soul who refused to go beyond his own private physical and mental limits. Quiet, determined and superbly skilled, however, he quickly made the Majors and wound up with the New York Yankees. Veteran sportswriter Allen covered the team during the years Maris played and he recounts what has become over time a too-familiar tale--the pressure to win eroding all sense of pleasure in the game. In Maris' case, the pressures came from all sides: teammate Mickey Mantle was everybody's choice to break Ruth's record; Maxis, the silent outsider, wasn't. Maris didn't like New York, the constant pressure from the press, the fans who booed his failures. For a private man, a bland working stiff who, says Allen, ""happened to be very good at knocking baseballs over fences,"" the press became the enemy and Maris reacted in kind. When he finally broke the record, a decision by then Baseball Commissioner and old Ruth crony, Ford Frick, to mark it with an asterisk because Maris had eight more games within which to do it convinced the slugger he was being treated very unfairly indeed. Allen interviews many baseball people here and generously lards in his own observations of Maris, in his eyes a misunderstood man who deserved far better than he got. If at times overly sentimental and repetitious, Allen does succeed in giving dimension and human concern to a reluctant hero who for one golden season captured a nation's imagination.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Donald Fine