61*by Ron Smith
For those of you who lived through that summer, we want this book to bring you back to that season, re-creating the sights, sounds and emotions. For those of you who didn't,
The summer of '61 was one of baseball's most memorable seasons. The stories of that season, of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, are now legendary, and all the more legendary with HBO's film, 61.
For those of you who lived through that summer, we want this book to bring you back to that season, re-creating the sights, sounds and emotions. For those of you who didn't, we want this book bring you there, to help you learn about Maris and Mantle and the great home run chase of '61, 37 years before McGwire and Sosa put them back in the news.
- Sporting News Publishing Company
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 9.29(w) x 11.55(h) x 0.66(d)
Read an Excerpt
Week 17½With home run fever running dangerously high, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle entered Week 17 in a 40-40 deadlock. Not only was New York rocking with every Maris and Mantle swing, fans throughout the country were entranced by the notion that Babe Ruth's single-season home run record might finally fall. The media did everything within its power to feed the frenzy.
"You would be amazed at the interest, worldwide, in the Mantle-Maris home run rivalry," former Yankees great Joe DiMaggio told Dan Daniel in the August 16 issue of The Sporting News. "It is even greater than the one between Ruth and Lou Gehrig in 1927. That season the Babe set his mark of 60 and Lou got 47.
"Now we find Mickey and Roger neck and neck, sportswriters playing up the possibility of a new record and the commissioner ruling that no new mark will be recognized unless it is done inside 154 games. ... I visit service installations all over the world ... Army officers keep asking me, 'Can Maris do it?' "
On sports pages throughout the country, the Maris-Mantle home run derby was being chronicled and analyzed by daily charts showing such things as game comparisons to Ruth, numbers versus lefthanded and righthanded pitchers and season pace. Scientific tests were being conducted to determine whether the 1961 ball was livelier than its 1927 counterpart, fan polls and contests were being offered, relative merits of 1961 and 1927 pitchers were being debated and editors, even from such non-sports publications as Newsweek, were clamoring for up-close-and-personal looks at the nation's two hottest personalities.
With the expanding interest came questions, questions and more questions, which Mantle and Maris answered over and over in long interview sessions before and after games. Adding to the Mantle-Maris drama was the success of the Yankees, Whitey Ford's 19-2 record, Johnny Blanchard's late-game heroics, Luis Arroyo's emergence as a dominating closer and catcher Elston Howard's surprising run at an American League batting title.
When asked what he told questioners who asked whether Maris could top the Babe, DiMaggio said he told them "they were forgetting the man with the better chance. Obviously, Mantle, a switch hitter, has a big edge over Maris, who admits he has a weakness against lefthanders."
Almost on cue, Mantle bolted into the lead August 6 with a three-home run doubleheader before 39,408 fans at Yankee Stadium. After Maris had taken the lead with his 41st two days earlier against Minnesota, Mantle connected in the first and third innings of the opener-a 7-6 win in 15 innings-off Twins righthander Pedro Ramos to move back ahead. He added a solo shot off Al Schroll (No. 43) in the nightcap, a 3-2 Yankees win.
While the sluggers managed only four home runs, the week was significant in other ways. Ford, stuck on 19 wins, missed in his second attempt to get No. 20 in the 15-inning win over Minnesota. The Yankees extended their win streak to seven by week's end and widened their A.L. lead over Detroit to three games. Arroyo lifted his record to 10-3 with relief wins over Minnesota and Los Angeles, Blanchard won another game with a three-run 10th-inning homer, Maris and Mantle reached the 100-RBI plateau and Howard lifted his average to .362, second only to Detroit's Norm Cash.
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