Lights Out: Roger Maris Hits 61st Home Run
When: October 1, 1961
Where: Yankee Stadium, New York, New York
Game Time: 1:57
The last home run of the 1961 regular season changed baseball forever.
Kubek struck out to open the fourth inning. The next batter was Roger Maris, who would win his second consecutive Most Valuable Player award after the 1961 season. Maris turned on a Stallard fastball and rocketed it into the seats in right field. That made it 1-0 Yankees.
The game would end that way, with Stallard giving up only one run on five hits over seven innings in taking his seventh loss in nine decisions. Three Yankees pitchers – Bill Stafford, Hal Reniff and Luis Arroyo – shared in the shutout, with Stafford the winner (14-9) and Arroyo setting a single-season record for saves (29).
But the game belonged to Maris, and to the ghost of Babe Ruth that the Yankees right-fielder had chased feverishly for the past two months. For the first time in more than 40 years, the record for the most home runs in a season did not belong to the game’s most popular icon.
The impossible had been accomplished, even with the help of an asterisk. (Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick had ruled earlier that, unless Maris eclipsed Ruth’s home run mark in 154 games – the length of Ruth’s season – any home run record achieved in 1961’s 162-game season would be a record with the stain of an asterisk.) Asterisk or not, Maris had done what few believed would ever be done.
The most sacred record of baseball’s most hallowed “golden era” had been blasted by a modern-day usurper in pinstripes.
Now no baseball record would be safe. What the giants of baseball’s past had done could be bested after all.
Maris proved it. And soon even more of baseball’s most-honored records were destined to fall.