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Roger Maris

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Roger Maris, Fargo and North Dakota’s hometown hero lost his 37-year-old homerun record to St. Louis slugger Mark McGwire in September 1998. Baseball’s waning days that September had christened a new member of batter royalty.

Maris had topped the beloved Babe Ruth’s home run record, and not all baseball fans had been rooting for him. Sportscaster Boyd Christensen wrote: “… there was an attitude of fans and writers alike that if anyone was going to break Ruth’s record, it should be Roger’s more popular teammate Mickey Mantle.”

The Forum newspaper highlighted a McGwire’s quote on page one, uttered while he was holding the famous bat Maris had used in setting the record in 1961. McGwire said, “Roger, I hope you’re with me tonight.”

When Boyd Christensen interviewed Roger on his popular Boyd Christensen Interviews show on Prairie Public Television, the famous, but well-known introverted player revealed more about himself than most fans had ever seen.

Boyd wrote about the interview in his 1983 book about his most memorable interviews, saying: “I’m a fan of Roger Maris. I don’t claim to know the man. I’ve interviewed him on two occasions and found his candor and intelligent insights into his sport a refreshing departure from the time-worn clichés … It should have been a happy time for Maris, but the 1961 season … and subsequent years in New York left some scars.”

Roger passed away in at age 51 from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The Sanford Roger Maris Cancer Center is named in his honor.

The Roger Maris All Star Week, which includes a celebrity golf tournament, has been an important fund-raising event for decades, supporting youth development and the cancer center.

In 1998, The Forum newspaper contacted baseball legend Yogi Berra to send a letter about his long-time teammate Roger and the new record set by McGuire. On Yogi’s personal stationery the old Yankee favorite penned: “Greetings to the people of Fargo. As one of Roger’s teammates I share with you the pride in his long-standing home run record. This is the first time in baseball history when the home run record wasn’t held by a Yankee. … Thanks for your support of my old friend. Best regards, Yogi Berra."

Dakota Datebook by Steve Stark

Sources:
The Forum, September 9, 1998

Boyd Christenson Interviews, page 73

Steve Stark’s Yogi Berra letter

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