on July 9, 2010
I was aware of all the crap that Roger Maris had to put up with during the 1961 season and the ensuing years with the Yankees, which will always amaze me. A very underrated player. He is the true single-season home run record holder, and not the frauds, like "Big Head" Barry Bonds, Sammy "I Don't Speak English" Sosa, or Mark "He Touched My Heart" McGwire, who cheated Maris, Ruth and Aaron, among others.
I liked this book alot because it takes place in the era when I first came to love the game of baseball, and also because I'm a huge Yankees fan. My only quibble is that I could have done without all the Maras/Maris family history. It was confusing and boring to me. Thankfully, most of the book focuses, as it should, on its subject. For those who have friends or family who are Yankees' fans, this would make a great gift.
on July 5, 2011
This book is thoroughly researched and as honest a biography as I've ever read.
It evoked all the emotions: anger, sorrow, gladness.
It truly explains the Yankees lack of protection of a real superstar athlete that was hounded and brutilized by a dishonest press.
George Steinbrenner made up for some of the mistreatment after Roger retired but the real homerun champion for a season suffered more than necessary to achieve what Mickey Mantle considered the greatest achievement in sports.
Roger was a true winner, improving every team he was ever on. I remember as a boy of 13 being very excited that my team (Yankees) got him because it was well known by anyone that followed baseball that he was a great talent. The Yankees did not resume their championship runs in the 60's until Maris came aboard.
Great book, enlightening, worth re-reading.
on June 19, 2010
Very nice book, about a very mis-understood, but very nice man, and great ballplayer. How the press kept him out of the Hall of Fame is one of the biggest crimes perpetrated by the frustrated pundits. Though the book drags a bit with the family tree stuff, you do get a solid appreciation for a guy who has unfortuantely passed for over 25 years. The description of his two MVP seasons in '60 and '61 is very good, as are his two Cardinal years. The book focuses on more than his home runs, but the complete ballplayer he was. His bond with Mickey Mantle is well told also. The last 15 or so pages will tug at your heart, as it describes his last days, as well as his bonds with some of the special people in his life (including Mantle). I re-watched "61", the Billy Crystal movie immediately after reading this. If there is a just God, Roger gets his day in the sun at Cooperstown someday. I hope every voter on the Veterens Committee reads this in the future -- its a crime he's not in there with them. Class book on a class guy.
on June 17, 2012
I'm a long time NY Yankees Fan. Roger Maris was one of my boyhood heroes.
Tom Clavin and Danny Peary have wrote a great book.The book was a 422 page burner I read in 2 days. Most of the book was exciting, full of facts and wrote for the readers to develop deep empathy with Roger Maris. There are some nice B/W pictures.
The first three chapters were too overdone with family history. Too many people related to this and that. Kind of confusing and boring. A little family history would of been fine but the authors went overboard. 3 stars on these chapters.
After the third chapter the book takes off like a home run.
We see Roger was very good at sports and played in local sports including baseball in home town Hibbing Minn. Roger was of Croatian decent and raised a catholic. His last name originally was Maras and later Roger changed it legally to Maris.
We see Roger fighting his way up minor league baseball.. He develops more power and is a left batting pull hitter. He is very fast running the bases and becomes a superb defensive outfielder blessed with a great arm. Eventually he plays MLB with the Indians and gets a break being traded to the NY Yankees. We see his getting two MVP honers and his intense homer run race with Mickey Mantle to hit 61 home runs in 1961 and break Ruth's record. The press is all over him but Roger is a quite non boastful person who doesn't want to talk to the press. NO Way! In NY you MUST develop a good back and forth with the reporters. Unfortunately Roger never does and the reporters start saying lies about him. How he is snobbish, only cares about money,is not a team player and doesn't get along with his teammates. Lies and Lies. Roger gets along with all of his teammates and is best friends with Mickey Mantle ( he even shared a small apartment temporarily with him). It gets worse and worse with the press and Roger. Roger even has a cast made of a human hand with an upright middle finger entitled For The Press. The fans believe the press and turn on Roger and hate him.
We see him playing in pain and injuries and racing with Mickey Mantle in 61 to break Ruth's record. We see Mantel hurt too.
The book is great as it talks about a lot of his baseball teammates. He goes to the World Series with the Yankees and gets a ring and goes to another World Series.
Management puts the screws to him and behind his back Roger is traded to the Cardinals. The fans love him and he is taught the Cardinal way...each man doing the little things to help the club. Roger does it all and is a great clutch hitter and the Cardinals win the World Series. Another ring. Next year the Cardinals barley lose the World Series. Roger is all banged up with injuries and gets a deal with Busch beer to get a beer distributorship in Florida that will be worth millions! He retires and moves to Florida with Pat his wife and six kids.
We see Roger as a loving, great father who loved his family. Roger gets cancer and battles it and finally mellows out and forgives the Yankee management and G Steinbrenner honors him at Old Timers day. The late Elston Howard and Roger get their uniform number retired.I won't ruin the tear jerking ending for you. I got chocked up and almost cried reading the sad ending about Roger Maris.
Excellent baseball book and the true story of Roger Maris as a warm caring human being that was misunderstood by the press and in some cases deliberately attacked.
Roger only had 275 MLB home runs and did not hit for a high average(260). However he was a great defensive outfielder and fast. Two time MVP and played on World Series winners both in the American and National league. A great clutch hitter in important situations.He broke the Babes single season home run record. Roger hit 61 in 1961. The press helped keep Roger out of Cooperstown HOF. Read the book to see if he had the stats and if he deserved to be elected HOF. After treading the book I think he should of been elected HOF but in the last year of eligibility as some of his stats such as his average were not stellar. To me he will always be the NATURAL (non steroid) single season home run king!
Great book. 4 3/4 stars. 1/4 star reduction due to first three chapters.
on July 20, 2010
After reading this book I have even more respect for Roger Maris than ever. This is a man who deserves Hall of Fame admission.
If you want an excellent read, well crafted and filled with observations from witnesses to the events, this is your book!
This review of Tom Clavin and Danny Peary's account of Roger Maris' extraordinary life and baseball career is short--but this should not, in any way, be interpreted as diminishing my opinion of this fine biography. Very simply, the bottom line: Anyone who appreciates the game of baseball--especially the so-called "Golden Years." when it was played as it was meant to be--should read and enjoy this enlightening book. It is a truly great work. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
on March 20, 2012
The 1960's memories of major league baseball evoke such strong memories of authentic sluggers and dominating pitching that the vividness brings to mind Willie Mays, Harmon Killebrew, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson and Willie McCovey dueling against Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, and Whitey Ford.
And yet, almost in the shadows, is the story of Roger Maris. He was pilloried by the press and fans as he waged an assault on one of baseball's cherished records, displacing a hero of mammoth proportions, Babe Ruth.
The treatment he received in 1961 was so stilted, so unfair, and so inhumane, that he was under unfathomable stress in major league baseball's largest fishbowl, New York City.
This is really the major story of Maris' incredible journey, and yet, the rest of it is equally interesting as told by these authors. A long delayed re-examination of Maris' career, life and legacy takes us back to his roots growing up with solid, simple values in the Northern midwest, and through his early years in the minor leagues and majors.
Maris was disappointed to be traded from Kansas city to the all powerful Yankees, but quickly established himself in winning the MVP in 1960. He was respected in the clubhouse, but came to be impatient with the obtuse questioning and non-stop badgering of the New York baseball press.
After a solid 1962 season following his historic and harrowing record breaking season, injuries slowed down his standing as one of the elite players in the league. He became bitter at the New York press, the fans and the Yankee front office, and no longer enjoyed playing ball.
Contemplating retirement, he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, where he found joy and redemption in finishing out his career.
Maris appeared in seven world Series in the 1960's, winning in four of those.
After baseball, his decency became appreciated, and he found joy in his work, and comfort in his family.
This is a well written story of a sports hero, who, had he really been understood, would have known true adulation of his fans. The pathos of his career and life is well captured here. Any fan who remembers baseball in the 1960's can seriously enjoy this book.
on April 4, 2010
Just finished reading this great, new book Roger Maris: Baseball's Reluctant Hero by Tom Clavin & Danny Peary. No baseball fan will be the same or view Roger Maris in the same way after reading this excellent summary of his career and life. To the authors' credit they have detailed in an unsentimental fashion Roger's career, its ups and downs, and the world around him. To this day, Roger's greatness is not fully appreciated. Read this book and then write a letter to the Veteran's Committee at the Cooperstown Hall of Fame to elect Roger. There is also an online petition:
An online petition to the Veteran's Hall of Fame Committee:
Nothing will bring back Roger from his untimely death and nothing can make up for the mistreatment that he endured. But George Steinbrenner and the Yankees did some things in the late 1970s and early 1980s to make amends and now the whole Baseball Community could benefit from Roger's election to the Hall of Fame.
on November 26, 2010
As a middle aged, life long Boston Red Sox fan, it was with some "hesitation" that I elected to read a book about a NY Yankee player, that I honestly didn't know enough about other than the incredible 1961 season he had.
Whatever hesitation I might have felt prior to starting page 1 was very quickly dispelled as I became engrossed in the story of this honorable and dignified man. Although I love the game of baseball, it was the stories of Roger's courage / character and 1,000 other very admirable character traits that captured my interest and gave me a renewed sense of what a great man / baseball player he was.
I found myself seething at times at the treatment this courageous man received from both the NY fans and the media in both 1961 and the subsequnt years he spent wearing the pinstripes before he finally got his well-deserved release from the Yankees. And I shared the joy he must have felt during those two final years of his MLB career in St. Louis. My respect for Cardinal's baseball fans went up several notches during the reading of those chapters while my opinion of the Yankee's fans, which already was scraping the bottom of the barrel, actually managed to go even lower.
I actually had difficulty reading the final couple of chapters about his declining health / death and funeral as I was reading these sections on the subway going to work (here in Toronto) and I was very conscious of my eyes tearing up as I reflected on his courage and his acceptance of his impending death without so much as a single complaint / whimper.
What a remarkable man - a man of courage / decency and integrity.
It's inevitable after you've read his story to not make comparisons to those players who came after him and ultimately surpassed his record 61 homers / season. I have all too vivid memories of Mark McGuire "not wanting to dwell on the past" in his appearence before a Senate committee. Or Sammy Sosa, who suddenly wasn't able to speak english very well before the same committee. I have nothing to say about Barry Bond's character - or "lack of" thereof. In my opinion, from a character perspective, none of these individuals would be worthy of even holding one of Roger Maris' bats.
If you had to read just one book of baseball, you couldn't do better than this book, about a genuine and heroic figure, who deserved so much better in his all too short time here.
In removing the disgusting asterick in the record books, MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent simply and eloquently stated "We corrected a wrong done to a good man".
I can't remember a time when I've read a book that moved me so profoundly. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.
Rest in peace, Roger..!
This is an exceptionally well researched biography that argues for recognition of Maris as Mantle's equal and, more importantly, for recognition of Maris as a man who was grievously wronged by the New York press and fans.
As for the former, the authors argue, not quite convincingly, that Maris was Mantle's statistical equal during the period 1960-64. This is true so far as RBIs and HRs are concerned, but Mantle absolutely kills Maris in OPS, the statistical measure commonly accepted as the best measure of overall hitting (sums up on base percentage and slugging percentage). More convincing is that Maris had qualities that do not show up in the boxscore. He combined the clutch hitting of Matsui, the power of A-Rod, and the defense, baserunning, and baseball instincts of Jeter. There's a lot to be said for this, and the authors do a great job of marshalling the testimony of teammates in support of Maris' value as an all around unselfish player dedicated to winning. Even as a 8 year-old kid watching Maris in 1965 and 1966 I could see this -- he made impossible sliding catches in right and had the same larger-than-life quality that Mantle had.
The authors know and love baseball and do a terrific job describing Maris' technique in becoming a dead pull hitter to maximize his power, his ability to break up double plays, and his absolute dedication to winning. They rescue Maris from the charge by Bouton and others that he "dogged" it. The only time he did not run all out was when Houk ordered him to so as to preserve his legs. And the authors are convincing is showing that Maris had better baseball instincts than Mantle, who made a lot of mental errors.
Of equal interest is why Maris was so mistreated in New York. Part of it was Maris' own personality. The authors describe a strange family dynamic that made Maris prone to shut out those who he felt wronged him. Maris could be the greatest and most supportive friend there was, but if you crossed him or betrayed him he would cut you off. Given the aggressiveness of the press, everyone was going to cross Maris at some point. Maris took it too personally. But it is clear that the press was unfair in its criticisms of Maris, and at least on of the reporters admits as much to the authors. Also, the Yankee brass gave Maris no protection. And Ralph Houk's reputation really suffers, given his decision to hide the extent of Maris' hand injury from Maris and the press, which were after Maris for malingering.
The description of the 1961 season is excellent. Maris truly excelled against all odds. Everyone wanted him to fail, yet he mustered on and got the job done under incredible pressure.
The authors support Maris for the Hall of Fame. Under conventional measures he does not qualify. But I think these conventional measures are ridiculous and emphasize longevity and stats over all else. For me, if a guy is one of the best 5 or so players in baseball for 5 years, he should be in the Hall. Careers are short -- why do we value a 20 year measure over what someone does at the top of his game? By this measure, Maris, Oliva, Mattingly, and Rice all go the Hall. Last year they put Rice in, so maybe there will be justice for the others.
On the downside, the book is not particularly well written and other than the 1961 chapter, the narrative could use a bit more life.
On the whole, an excellent work that captures the true Maris.