Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Maris' Record Is Family Jewel

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Maris' Record Is Family Jewel

Article excerpt

A large and tight group of relatives in Florida will sweat through baseball's final weekend, wondering if two sluggers will take a bat and smash their precious family tradition to pieces.

This season made the household squirm more than others. Until a few days ago, a most valuable memento was at risk against a very real threat. But now only four days remain and the Maris family will exhale soon. The Maris name will probably live in the books for a 37th year.

Roger Maris hit 61 homers in 1961. The durable record looms as an outfield wall that more than three decades of hitters have been unable to clear. Some reached the warning track. No one has reached the seats, and barring a stunning development by Sunday, the latest attempt by two sluggers will come up short. That would be fine by us, said the brother of the late Roger Maris. "The family would like to see the record last forever," Rudy Maris said. The Marises already know what it's like to lose something they cherished. Roger Maris died of cancer Dec. 14, 1985, and that was painful enough. Then, earlier this year, they lost a piece of Roger that wasn't being pursued by Ken Griffey or Mark McGwire. Anheuser-Busch terminated the family beer distributorship that it gave to Maris 30 years ago. A nasty court battle has ensued, leaving the nine family members who ran the business wondering if they'll ever reclaim the lesser-known of the creations left behind by Roger Maris. "It hurts," said Rudy Maris, who speaks softly on the phone from Ga inesville, Fla. "We're not sure how this is going to turn out." The Marises were hoping the family business would be as hardy as Roger's home run mark. Sixty-one homers remains the most coveted single-season record in baseball. It's the standard for the main object of the game: to belt the ball over the fence. Maybe the 56-game hitting streak sounds more romantic because Joe DiMaggio did it. But the big 61 is what kids and Juniors dream about. "Anybody who knows the game understands the magnitude of the record," said Rudy Maris. The record is more famous than the man who owns it. Roger Maris was always an odd choice. He was the lesser-known of the M&M Boys, who gave the Yankees a one-two punch never seen before or since. Many baseball people thought Mickey Mantle and not Maris would break it. And for someone who holds such a big record, Maris isn't a Hall of Famer. Maris never spoke much about the record after he left baseball, but his brother said, "He was proud of it. It was something he worked hard to get and something he wanted. He saw it as something special." The debate about when, or if, the record will be shattered, will take a recess until next season, unless Griffey or McGwire go crazy in these final four days. The good guess is that eventually and probably soon, the Maris family will watch it disappear. …

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