Kolton Wong hit an inside pitch out of the park Sunday to hand the St. Louis Cardinals a win over the San Francisco Giants in the National League Championship Series.
For some reason, the home run took me back to my favorite baseball player when I was a kid – Roger Maris and 1961.
Most remember Maris playing for the New York Yankees in 1961 when he broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record of 60. Maris turned on an inside curve ball and took it out for No. 61, Oct. 1, 1961 – the last day of the season. His record stood for 37 years.
Maris was traded in 1966 and played his last two season in the majors for the St. Louis Cardinals. I remember a throw Maris made from left field that won the World Series for St. Louis (to me). That perfect strike from left field is etched in my memory far more than his home runs.
I’m not sure why Maris captivated me as a kid, rather than Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford or countless other baseball players. Maris seemed like a guy who made himself a great player. He had a lot to fight through.
He was attacked by writers and pontificators from all over the country for breaking Ruth’s record. Some folks were hysterical about Ruth’s record falling to Maris, a regular guy. You would think Maris said God didn’t like TV, which was one of the 7-3/4 deadly sins in ‘61.
My dad and I watched games (the few that were on) on a black and white Zenith TV he bought from Gronvik’s in Enumclaw in the early 1960s. It had a disk with little buttons you pushed and it would spin and find the channel. I still think it is the coolest thing ever invented except for maybe permanent press T-shirts.
The Yankees won the World Series in ‘61, beating the Cincinnati Reds in five games, but many were sure the universe would collapse after Maris took down Ruth’s record. Maybe our universe was salvaged in December of that year when Barbie finally found Ken and the balance returned to normal.
The ‘61 worry warts didn’t know it, but they had much more to wring their hands about than Maris. By 1961, John Lennon had figured out how to tune his guitar.
I thought Maris was cool guy when I was kid, and I still do.