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on March 21, 2010
Maury Allen wrote a prior biography of Roger Maris in 1986, and now Tom Clavin and Danny Peary have written the definitive biography of baseball's "reluctant hero." Like several other individuals Maris has become more appreciated with the passage of time. Maris had people who would be remembered favorably and unfavorably in his career. Minor league manager Dutch Meyer punished Maris for a poor throw to third base by having him repeatedly make long distance throws to third base until Maris told him enough was enough. Kirby Farrell and Harry Craft would be remembered favorably along with Jo Jo White who taught him to pull the ball.

I graduated from high school in June of 1961 and vividly remember that memorable season when Maris challenged Ruth's home run record. Unlike today when players hold post-game press conferences the Yankees provided no protection for Maris as he was inundated with questions from all sides regarding his opinions on baseball and non-baseball related matters. Yankee publicist Bob Fishel said he never thought of having a press conference at the time following a game. It was baseball commissioner Ford Frick who taught the youth of America the meaning of the word "asterisk" when he proclaimed that Ruth's record must be broken in 154 games. Frick was a close friend of Ruth's and acted as a ghost writer for him. The authors correctly mention the unfortunate incident that took place in 1960 in Detroit involving someone who threw the back of a chair from the right field stands at Maris following a controversial home run by Bill Skowron. The movie 61* incorrectly mentions it as happening in 1961. I know it was in 1960 because I was sitting in the second deck above the Yankees' bullpen for that game.

Roger Maris spent two happy years with the St. Louis Cardinals during the seasons of 1967-1968 which brought the team two pennants and one World Championship. Following his career Maris was reluctant to return to Yankee Stadium because he felt the Yankees had lied to him prior to his departure from New York. George Steinbrenner convinced him to return to Yankee Stadium on Opening Day of the 1978 season when both Maris and Mantle would be introduced together. It proved to be a rewarding experience for Maris and he returned regularly after that as long as his health permitted. Maris said he suffered from physical ailments later in life due to playing with reckless abandon during his playing career by breaking up double plays and running into outfield walls. He said if he had to do it over again he would have been more careful with his health. Unfortunately years of smoking five packs of Camel cigarettes a day for several years did their damage ultimately causing damage to his throat. He quit smoking during the mid-1970s and passed away from cancer on December 14, 1985.

Maris won consecutive MVP awards in 1960 and 1961 and his defensive play is often overlooked in evaluating his qualifications for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, politics often plays a part as to who is elected and Maris was never one to be a self-promoter. It irritates me to know that when Mark McGuire broke Maris's home run record when he knew he was on steroids he still had the audacity to go to the box seats in St. Louis to hug members of the Maris family knowing he had passed Maris illegally.

I especially enjoyed reading this book because the year 1961 has special memories for me since my Detroit Tigers were a significant part of the pennant race that year. Maris never intended to denigrate Babe Ruth, but obviously he would want the record. The problem among Yankee fans was if anyone was to break the Babe's record (and they weren't sure anyone should) the wrong man was breaking it. They believed it should have been Mantle and not this interloper from North Dakota.

Whether you remember these historic years from the 1960s or not any self-respecting baseball fan needs this book in their library.
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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.
Recommended
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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.
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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.
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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!
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on August 25, 2015
As someone who watched Maris from afar with some disdain--after all, he was a Yankee, I remember thinking after he was traded to my Cardinals how good a team player he was, unlike the stories that had dribbled from the New York press. If you want a complete and fascinating portrait of his career, from the glory days in New York (remember, he had clumps of hair coming out in his 61 home run season) with all its pressures, to a final couple of seasons playing the game he wanted to play, as part of a team, then this is the book for you.
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on September 2, 2011
Obviously, the authors' researcher conducted a lot of research into Maris and his heritage. But writers typically write from the overflow of their research. This book seems to include every jot and tittle that was discovered about Maris and his family lineage. The first two chapters are real snoozers and difficult to follow. And as the reader finds later, peripheral and even unnecessary to the focus of the book! Only when the story finally turns to the ballplayer himself does the book become interesting. But even then the reader has to wade through extraneous information that is seems awkwardly thrown into the narrative in a clumsy and distracting attempt to add historical context to Maris's day. But it is poorly done. I cannot believe the editors didn't correct it. Or if they did, I can't imagine what a jumbled mess the first iteration must have been. But overall, the details of Maris's career and life are interesting and well worth the effort of wading through the frustrating and distracting minutia that at times appear in this voluminous work.
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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.
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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.
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on June 10, 2011
The authors present a good story about a talented ball player that never received his full due. As the records shows, Maris was an accomplishment ball player; he could hit for average when he needed to; he could run; he could hit for power; and he could field with the best of them. Overall, Maris was an outstanding player who was totally misrepresented by the media. And the authors do an outstanding job of demonstrating this fact as well as many other. The only downside to this book, in my opinion, is that the authors spend way too much time at the begining of the book describing Maris's family and his boyhood; they could ahve done so in one short chapter. Overall, however, I would strongly recommend this book.
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