Does He Finally Get His Due?

I struggle with the idea of what constitutes a Hall of Fame baseball player. Although I am not a voting member of the Baseball Writers Association of America I still struggle with the definition. As an avid baseball fan I have probably watched as many baseball games as some of the voting members so I do feel that I have the right to question some of the decisions of who is included and who is excluded during the voting. I will first state that I don’t believe that statistics alone should be the criteria when electing a person to the Hall of Fame. I think character and contributions to the game are important aspects that in many cases get overlooked. To me contribution is the most important criteria. A player may not have had a long and illustrious career but during the short time they did play they had such an impact on the sport that their name immediately brings up memories that bring us closer to the game. At the top of that list is a name that rarely gets mentioned as a strong Hall of Fame candidate, Roger Maris.

From a purely statistical perspective Maris falls short in several categories. A lifetime .260 hitter that played only 11 years does not constitute a Hall of Fame career. The baseball writers passed over Maris looking at the stats he accumulated. He had only three seasons where he drove in over 100 runs, his batting average was never above .283 and in the post season he hit only .217 lifetime. Based on these it is fairly clear why Roger Maris did not garner the votes necessary to obtain induction into the Hall of Fame. His whole candidacy is based on the 1960 and 1961 seasons. For those two years Roger Maris was the best in baseball winning two consecutive Most Valuable Player awards. The latter of the two culminated the magical season that was 1961. When Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record in 1961 it was the single best performance anyone had accomplished in over 30 years. Maris had to fight many demons during that season. He was chasing a sacred record, one held by a baseball immortal and doing it in the stadium known as “the house that Ruth built”. As if that were not enough he also was battling against Mickey Mantle one of the most popular players in Yankees history. The public wanted their favorite son to break the record if someone had to do it. Instead the quiet Maris went to work each day and produced. Even the commissioner of baseball who was supposed to be an impartial observer sided with the Babe adding an asterisk to the record making it feel illegitimate. Throughout it all Maris showed poise and dignity. He went out of his way to be a part of the team and try to fit in. He earned that record paying a price few players are required to pay. After that season life didn’t get any easier for Roger Maris. He continued to play until 1968 but never came close to matching the year he had in 1961. That record stood the test of time until 1998 when Mark McGwire broke the record. But as McGwire then Barry Bonds became the record holder it was still Maris who everyone compared themselves to. That comparison and the pedestal that baseball has put on that record have made Maris larger than the total of his statistics. He has entered the realm of the immortals along side Babe Ruth and that should be recognized as a reason for induction.

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