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Roger Maris 1967-1968

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  • Roger Maris 1967-1968

    I am just finishing up a bio on Roger Maris, one of my favorites of all time. I had already heard about the terrible abuse he had endured at the hands of the NY press and Yankee fans (apparently this was AL wide) not only in '61 but for the remainder of his painful time in NY. I had also heard that he absolutely loved playing in St. Louis (like oh so many others over the past hundred years or so), and quite a few old timers had told me he was FAR more valuable to the two NL pennant winning teams than his numbers suggested.

    That is the point the author is making as well. So, after I finish this book and credit the source, I plan on sharing a lot of the quotes from his teammates during his time there. In the meantime, does anyone here have anything they'd like to talk about concerning the one time Home Run Champ and his exciting Cardinal teams of '67-'68?
    "It ain't braggin' if you can do it." Dizzy Dean

  • #2
    Here's Red Schoendienst talking about getting Maris, taken from the book Roger Maris by Tom Clavin and Danny Peary. Here's Schoendienst on page 311:

    "I talked to a number of guys about him," recalls Schoendienst, who managed the Cardinals from 1965 to 1976, and again in 1980 and 1990. "Clete Boyer, who was like his brother, said, 'He won't be as great as he was with the Yankees, but he can help you win.' Joe Schultz, one of my coaches, had been in the American League and said, 'Maris can help us.' That was good enough for me. The key was Mike Shannon agreeing to move from right field to third base to accommodate Maris. That meant Shannon had to learn a new position and spend day after day fielding grounders Joe and I hit him on the frozen turf."

    On 9 February, at a press conference, Red answered a question about how Roger would do without the short RF porch of Yankee Stadium. The RF in Busch was 330 feet down the line. This is what he replied, same page as the above quote:

    "I told the press, 'Now don't expect him to hit as many home runs because our right-field porch is different than Yankee Stadium. But he's been in the thick of it in World Series and All Star Games and he can play. That's why we got him.' Later Maris said, 'Thank you for saying that, Red, so they don't think I'm this or that. All I can promise is that I'll give you 100 percent.' And he did."
    "It ain't braggin' if you can do it." Dizzy Dean


    • #3
      Top of page 312:

      One person he won over quickly was instructor George Kissell, who mentored every Cardinal from 1940 until his death in 2008. Kissell was the creator and chief proponent of the "Cardinal Way," which stressed fundamentals and aggressiveness. In 2008 he recalled:

      "Here's the home-run champion coming to me, and do you know what he said? He said, 'George, you're talking to an American Leaguer. Consider me a rookie. Whatever you want during spring training, you holler and I'll be there. If I got my brain working, after you help me a bit, you won't have to bother with me anymore.' I was shocked! I said, 'Roger, in my eyes you have always been on a pedestal.' He said, 'I don't want to be up there. I'd rather you just saw me like everybody else around here.' He was so humble that you never would have known who he was. He listened to everything I said and had the memory of an elephant. I taught him the way we played and pitched, and about our defense. I really enjoyed working with him because he understood how to play the right way. And he was a nice young man."
      "It ain't braggin' if you can do it." Dizzy Dean


      • #4
        Wow. I guess people are reading this. I thought no one cared, and that was why there were no replies. Then I saw that over 160 views were here looking at Roger. Guess I should continue!

        We all know how Roger was abused by the NY press from 1961-1966. He was truly vilified by the media there. I put in some examples of this in the Roger Maris thread in the Hall of Fame section. He had his self proclaimed #1 fan, Andy Strasberg, who met Roger in NY. He had a very hard time believing how cruel the media and fans were to his idol. He says in the book that it was hard for him to attend games at the Stadium, what with all the cruel and insensitive things that Yankee "fans" were cursing at Roger. Not only was Maris receiving hate mail and death threats, he was receiving threats against those people who were most important to him: his loving wife Pat and their 6 children. That is disgusting, no matter how you look at it.

        Roger had hurt his hand (broke a bone in 1965) and the Yankees hid the injury from him. They never protected him (unlike Mantle) from the ire of the press or their fans. Roger tried hard to play that year without being able to grip the bat with his right hand. Finally, he was persuaded to see a doctor for a second opinion (despite the team not wanting him to). He found that it was broken, and when he told his MGR Houk, he learned that the team already knew that. He was never able to regain his swing after that injury, despite playing from 1966-1968. He admitted that what was once his strength, hammering inside fastballs, was now a weakness. Pitchers, however, didn't know this and still shied away from throwing him fastballs. He learned to feast on breaking and off-speed stuff instead. He was also able to go back to hitting to all fields, thus reducing the number of HRs as well. This didn't go over well in NY, where fans would cuss him for not hitting 62 HRs a year, or that he DID hit 61 in that one fateful season.

        Roger was at odds with the Yankee front office. He was ready to retire at the end of '66, and told the GM that if he was traded he would retire. The Yankee front office didn't care. They wanted to make a trade to get something from him, before he did quit and they got nothing. He was traded to the Cardinals, and didn't find out from his former team. He found out back at home in Kansas City. The Cardinals replaced their GM with Stan Musial, which the authors say is probably why Maris didn't retire that off season. Maris was more apt to talk to a Hall of Fame caliber left handed hitter than some damn front office screw like he had to deal with in NY! Stan and his wife met Roger and Pat for dinner. The couples had a great time, and Stan sent Roger a very good contract for the year in the mail. Roger thought it over, and checked out his other business possibilities. The months went by before Stan called to see what Roger wanted to do. Again, the authors credit the fact that Musial didn't pressure Maris for an answer, and Roger agreed to play one more year.

        The Cardinals, mentored by the above George Kissell and the Cardinal Way, had a very tight ball club. Some were worried about the arrival of the NY superstar and his baggage. They had heard about him, read the stories, and wondered if he would poison the clubhouse. Here are some quotes from the book (pages 312-313) by some fine Cardinal players and their reactions to Roger's signing the deal.

        Other than his former Indians teammate, reliever Hal Woodeshick, Maris only knew Orlando Cepeda. The Giants and Indians traveled together during the spring of 1958.

        "I was excited we got him because I knew he was a hell of a ballplayer," says Cepeda, "but I had read about him in New York and didn't know if his personality had changed since I knew him."

        In his 1968 biography, From Ghetto to Glory, which was written with Phil Pepe, Bob Gibson said, "We had all read and heard so much about Roger Maris-- was he really the brooding, sullen, unapproachable ogre he was made out to be? Now we would see for ourselves just what kind of monster he was. I guess I had a preconceived idea of what he would be like from all the derogatory things I read about him."

        "The New York press painted him as being a malcontent," recalls Dal Maxvill, the smooth-fielding, rubber-armed shortstop whom famed St. Louis columnist Bob Broeg dubbed the Silhouette Shadow. "We thought Maris had the talent to help us win a title, but I told Shannon to refuse to switch to third base because we had a great nucleus and I worried Roger wouldn't fit in."

        "From his reputation, I thought he'd be a bit hostile," recalls Julian Javier, who was well known as the Phantom because of his quickness at second base.

        "What I expected was somebody who might be stuck on himself because of his accomplishments," says Dick Hughes, a hard throwing right-hander who would lead the Cardinals with 16 victories in 1967.
        "It ain't braggin' if you can do it." Dizzy Dean


        • #5
          The new Cardinal, RF, #9

          Cepeda felt that he really understood what Maris had gone through in NY. he too was compared to a superstar in San Francisco, in Willie Mays. Cepeda was also getting trouble in the media, especially when he also spoke out. Here's his take on page 313:

          The first day of spring training, Maris was standing outside the Outrigger Motel, which the Cardinals purchased in 1962 so that its black and white players could stay together in segregated St. Petersburg. Cepeda recalls:

          "Tim McCarver, Curt Flood and I were driving to the ballpark when we saw him standing there looking for a ride. We told him to get in, and right away we made him feel welcome. When you go to a new team, you don't know what to expect, so you want to feel you belong from the beginning. Tim and Bob Gibson had the skill to make me feel wanted right from the beginning the previous year, and that's what we did with Roger. I could understand what Roger went through in New York. The press in San Francisco would even tell people close to me that I was faking with my bad knee and that everything was in my mind. I lost my love for the game and didn't want to go to the ballpark. Going to St. Louis made a huge difference for me. I believe that coming to the Cardinals was a new beginning for Roger, too."

          Gibson, who like Maris had a thorny relationship with some reporters and a disdain for aggressive autograph seekers, wrote at the end of the year, "I can only say that Roger Maris is one hell of a guy, easy to get along with and a real team player. I think he is great. He was mistreated and abused so badly he became bitter but he was not at all like that with us."

          "Roger fit right in," remembers Hughes. "He had a sense of humor and could take it and dish it out."

          "I was real surprised," says Javier. "He turned out to be a gentleman and great guy, and it was easy to be his friend."

          "Roger had an aura about him because he had the home-run record," recalls Larry Jaster, a left-hander with a 14-5 record in his two years in the majors. "But he wasn't boastful or cocky and never mentioned it. We knew what he did but never said anything."

          "I usually talked about family with Roger, not baseball," says Maxvill, "but one time I tried to pry a little and said, 'Tell me what it was like in 1961.' And he said, 'That's behind me, I don't want to talk about it anymore.' I never brought it up again."

          "Roger was a humble guy who didn't boast about anything he'd done," remembers McCarver. "The word he hated most was celebrity- he just detested it. He talked about how Mantle would have been even better if he had stretched before games; about his hair falling out; and about the time he put crab shells under someone's sheets and a lobster in his toilet. But he never talked about hitting 61 home runs."
          "It ain't braggin' if you can do it." Dizzy Dean


          • #6
            Still, even with being accepted by his new teammates, Roger worried how the fans would treat him. He had been tormented by the cussing and hateful fans in Yankee Stadium for half a decade, not to mention being torn apart by the press and feeling like his team didn't have his back. Here is Maris leading up to that first game as a Cardinal in beautiful St. Louis!

            Former Cardinal Dick Groat, who played against Roger that spring, recalls, "I was on the Phillies in my last year in baseball. I had almost been traded for him in 1959, but I didn't really know Roger because we had been in different leagues. Still I went over to him and said, 'I don't know if you are upset by the trade to the Cardinals, but I promise you that when your career is over, you will say that coming to St. Louis was the best thing that ever happened to you because it is a great organization and there are no better fans.' I don't think he believed me then. But I am sure he did later."

            On Opening Day in Busch Stadium, Maris understood what Groat meant. Before the game against the Giants, a motorcade delivered the Cardinal players to home plate as renowned broadcaster Harry Caray made inroductions. When Caray announced the name of the Cardinals' new right fielder, 38,117 knowledgeable fans gave him a standing ovation. He surveyed the stands and saw only smiling Midwesterners and heard not boos and vulgarities but cheers and encouraging words. He must have felt that he wasn't just in a different league and a different city after seven years, but in an alternate universe. "I didn't know what to expect," Maris said later. "When they cheered me, though, it surprised the hell out of me."

            Maris hit third in the Redbird lineup. They were facing Juan Marichal that Opening Day, and Brock led off with a single and stole second. Flood singled him to third and that brought up Maris with runners on the corners and 0 out. Unfortunately, Roger grounded out to thrid, and Brock had to hold. Flood moved up to second and Roger was out at first. In the book, the authors wrote at the bottom of page 315:

            It would be one of the few times all year he didn't score a runner from third base with less than two outs. Instead of boos, Maris was cheered as he returned to the dugout, and though the Cardinals failed to score, he was cheered again when he jogged out to right field.

            He rewarded the supportive fans by hustling a single into a double in his next at-bat. The crowd went wild. They gave him another ovation when he beat out a bunt in the sixth inning. "It's nice to hear cheers like this for a change," he said after the game, still in disbelief. "The reception was far beyond my fondest expectations. I'm sincerely grateful to the fans."
            "It ain't braggin' if you can do it." Dizzy Dean


            • #7
              Interesting thread H28. Is that true about the NY medical staff keeping the details of his injury from him? That is utterly disgraceful, if true.

              Maris has two MVP awards; are there any other 2-time MVPs not in the HOF?


              • #8
                Juan Gonzales fell off the ballot in two years. As of right this minute Bonds qualifies too, of course.

                Every 2x winner has been elected in the other big three North American team sports. Maybe due to the fact that there are twice as many awards handed out in MLB? Kurt Warner may be an interesting case to challenge the standard, but I bet he makes it.

                Some 2x Cy winners not in the HOF too: McLain and Saberhagen. Looks like with out remarkable comebacks, Santana and Lincecum will join that list to.
                1885 1886 1926 1931 1934 1942 1944 1946 1964 1967 1982 2006 2011

                1887 1888 1928 1930 1943 1968 1985 1987 2004 2013

                1996 2000 2001 2002 2005 2009 2012 2014 2015

                The Top 100 Pitchers In MLB History
                The Top 100 Position Players In MLB History


                • #9
                  Excellent work, Herr28! I always did like Maris. After all, he was born in Minnesota. 61* is my favorite baseball movie ever.

                  In my book, Maris has the HR record. It is by far the most famous and best single season record. I believe that he belongs in the Hall. His career stats don't back up my opinion. But his fame factor does. The only other guy that I'd put in the Hall that doesn't have stats is Nolan Ryan.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by walter sobchak View Post
                    Interesting thread H28. Is that true about the NY medical staff keeping the details of his injury from him? That is utterly disgraceful, if true.

                    Maris has two MVP awards; are there any other 2-time MVPs not in the HOF?
                    Yeah, in the book I read, that is what the authors said. Maris had broken his hand, it hurt him horribly to swing, but he played through the pain and understandably did not do all that well. Coupled with the hatred he heard pouring in from the home fans, the pressure to perform in that town, and his not understanding what was wrong with his hand led to another miserable year in pinstripes. When he took the advice of a friend, he did what he was not supposed to do, he sought out a doctor that was not affiliated with the Yankees. The x-rays showed his hand was in fact broken, and the doctor was afraid of permanent damage due to Maris continuing to play with his hand in that condition. Meanwhile, the fans and media were really ripping into Roger for not producing (as if he was supposed to hit 60 every year for them to be satisfied).

                    When he was able to play again the following season, he could no longer get around on the inside pitch, which had been his bread and butter. Fortunately for him, he admitted, the pitchers in the AL had no clue the extent of his injuries and inability to get around on the inside fastball anymore, otherwise he said he would have been gone from the game that very year! Pitchers pitched to what they thought was his weakness, and he turned that into his strength, going back to being a line drive hitter to all fields, rather than trying to be a dead pull hitter. It worked great in St. Louis, where the Busch Stadium OF was huge, and he could spray his hits all around and get extra bases. Still couldn't turn on those inside fastballs, but just as his untrue surly media image followed him to the NL, so did the scouting report to NOT pitch him fast and in!

                    I'll have to read what passages I quoted above, it was a while ago, and possibly look for the quotes from many of the pitchers he used to face back then in the AL. They were surprised to find out after that damn hand injury had ruined his power, that they could've busted him inside. One I believe, got to look it up, said he still may not have thrown inside to Roger, just because of the beating he had taken in years previous to that!
                    "It ain't braggin' if you can do it." Dizzy Dean


                    • #11
                      OK, I found it. In the chapter appropriately entitled "The Betrayal", which is chapter 32 of this book. Here are some passages about the injury, and the conspiracy to hide it from Roger Maris. It is depressing and disgusting that a player and a man like Maris had to deal with this garbage, and that an organization like the Yankees would dare do such a thing to a man that brought them quite a bit of glory. Anyway, here's some passages from chapter 32 on the broken bone in Roger's hand that ruined his career (1965):

                      . . . The next day, Maris clouted his 7th homer off Jim Perry as the Yankees defeated first-place Minnesota, 10-2. He went 1 for 3 with a run as the Yankees won again the next day when Ford outpitched Mudcat Grant, 5-3. The win cut the Twins' lead over the Yankees to 9 games and set the stage for a big Sunday doubleheader. A fervent crowd of 71,245 packed Yankee Stadium on June 20 to see if the Yankees could get back in the race.

                      The Yankees jumped on Pascual in the first inning. Richardson doubled to left. Tresh singled to right, with Richardson taking third. Maris took Pascual the other way, grounding a ball through the infield to score Richardson with the first run of the game and move Tresh to second. Howard, batting fourth, singled to left to score Tresh and send Maris to third and reached second himself on an error by Tony Oliva in right. With the Yankees up 2-0 and nobody out, Twins manager Sam Mele moved his infielders onto the grass, risking a big inning in the hope of preventing another run from scoring. He did this although it was just the first inning and the batter was Mantle, who hit the ball harder than anyone else in baseball. His decision had a major effect on Maris's career. Batting left-handed, Mantle grounded sharply to second baseman Rich Rollins (formerly an All-Star third baseman), who threw home and nipped Maris.

                      "Maris came sliding in," recalls Bill Haller, who was the home-plate umpire. "He extended his right hand and hit my shoe. I didn't know it at the time, but I heard through the grapevine that he broke a finger. It was a shame because I liked Roger. He wasn't the most personable guy with umpires, but he was polite and no complainer."

                      Not knowing the seriousness of the injury, Maris popped his dislocated ring finger back into place and continued to play. The Twins scored single runs off Stottlemyre in the second, third and sixth innings to take a 3-2 lead. In the bottom of the seventh, Pascual walked Tresh with one out, prompting Mele to bring in left-hander Jerry Fosnow to face Maris. Although the ring finger and pinkie of his right hand were numb, Maris connected off the rookie with his 8th homer to thrill the crowd and give the Yankees a 4-3 lead. But Harmon Killebrew homered off Ramos n the top of the eighth inning to tie the game. In the ninth inning, the Twins' swift shortstop Zoilo Versalles, who was in the middle of an MVP season, scored on a passed ball and speedy left fielder Sandy Valdespino scored on a wild pitch as the Twins prevailed 6-4. They also won the nightcap, 7-4, as Killebrew's 2-run ninth-inning homer put the game out of reach and the Yankees 11 games back.

                      Barely able to grip the bat, Maris went 0 for 3 in the second game, then sat out five games. He started five more games from June 25 to 28, corresponding with the Yankees' season-high 5-game winning streak against the Angels and Senators. On the final day, the Yankees won a doubleheader from Washington, 3-0 and 4-3. In the first inning of the second game, Maris lost his grip when he swung at the first pitch thrown by Mike McCormick. According to Harvey Rosenfeld's biography, Roger Maris*: A Title to Fame, Maris later said, "There was a real sharp pop in my hand, loud enough that I could hear it. It was just like you snap a pencil. The hand swelled up right away, double its size. I ended up taking a pitch right down the middle to strike out."

                      The Yankees had X-rays taken of Roger's hand, but their doctors reported that nothing was wrong. When the swelling went down, that seemed to confirm their findings. But Maris knew differently because he was in excruciating pain. He couldn't grip a bat, throw a ball, or turn a doorknob. He worried that his slide into Haller's foot had damaged more than his two fingers.

                      Roger ran in the outfield every day. He shagged flies and shot-put them to the infield. Despite his inability to throw properly, he did not look like an ailing man to onlookers. Keane and Houk kept asking him when he could play again and persuaded him to take batting practice every few days to test his hand. Each time, Maris reported that it was too painful to swing the bat. Houk twice ordered more X-rays, but the team physician Dr. Sidney Gaynor repeated that nothing was broken.

                      If the Yankees wanted to do the wise, considerate thing, they would have taken Maris off the active roster and announced that he was too badly injured to play. It was the best way to protect their valuable property's hand and keep a bull's-eye off his back. But with Maris needed for a pennant drive, the club let it be known that they were waiting day by day for him to say he was ready to be in the lineup. As games passed, innuendos appeared in papers about how Maris had given up on the team. Fans who were frustrated by the Yankees' lack of offense booed when they caught glimpses of him.

                      "All the Yankees management cared about was Roger playing," recalls Maury Allen, "not whether he really had a broken bone in his hand. The key to that was Sidney Gaynor, the Yankees' doctor at Lenox Hill Hospital. He was a very nasty man whose job it was to get hurt players on the field. His attitude was that they were a bunch of crybabies."

                      "I love that day-to-day crap," Boyer told Tony Kubek. "That's a terrible thing to do to a ballplayer like Roger. All they did was play games with him, hinting to reporters that the only pain was in Roger's head. How could anyone say that Roger was dogging it? But that's what the front office basically said."

                      Even some of his younger teammates went along with the inference by management and the press that he was "jaking it." For the first time since he arrived in New York, Roger didn't have the full support of his teammates. Two young players who believed Maris, however, were Gibbs and Downing. Gibbs recalls, "He was hurt but he felt nobody believed that. He told me, 'The next time I get hurt I hope there's a visible broken bone and blood gushing.'"

                      "If you had any kind of injury where the bone wasn't sticking out, they said there wasn't anything wrong with you," remembers Downing. "For three months everybody questioned if Roger was really hurt. That is a long time to be ridiculed. He wanted to play but he just couldn't hit or throw. The sixties was the last decade before there was any kind of sports medicine. Today they'd do an MRI and it would've been taken care of." (292-294)

                      - - - -

                      After his hand injury, Maris traveled with the team and even begrudgingly pinch-hit four times, all in losses. "It wasn't fun to be in the dugout day in and day out and to sit there looking like a jerk," Maris later told Sports Illustrated. "It was a long season."

                      Into September, Yankee management continued to insist Maris was well enough to play, and he repeatedly told them his hand was too tender. Finally, Julie Isaacson arranged for Roger to see a doctor apart from the Yankees, and without their permission. A young technician placed Roger's elbow on the table and stuck his hand straight up in the air and shot the X-ray straight down through the fingertips. It detected that Maris had fractured the hamate bone, a roughly triangular bone at the base of the hand, consisting of two parts, a body and a hook. The hook had detached from the body, or main part of the bone. Finally, the source of Maris's continuous pain had been revealed.

                      With about two weeks to go in the season Maris went to see Houk to tell him about the X-ray and inform him he was going back to Independence. Faced with Roger's evidence, Houk said, "Rog, I might as well level with you. You need an operation on that hand." The words "I might as well level with you" etched themselves into Maris's brain. He would quote them often over the years to convey his sense of betrayal by Houk and a Yankees organization that had known the severity of his injury but kept it from the press, the fans, and him.

                      "Roger wasn't happy with the entire organization when he found out he really did have something broken in his hand," recalls Houk. "But I was never aware of any bad feelings toward me."

                      Their ruse uncovered, the Yankees quickly held a press conference. Dr. Gaynor explained the injury and stated Maris would undergo surgery to fix it. He then said, "We had hoped that nature would unite the hamate bone, which often happens. We had hoped surgery wouldn't be necessary, but when we saw the hook was not going to rejoin the main bone, we decided to operate." His self-incriminating words made it seem that the Yankees had been monitoring Maris's injury since June 28, not denying its existence. (295-296)
                      "It ain't braggin' if you can do it." Dizzy Dean


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