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October 24, 2012
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Maris in 1961 (Sports Illustrated)

During the ’61 season the Yankees had the most feared lineup in baseball.  Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle were assaulting Babe Ruth’s thirty-four year old home run record, the most hallowed mark in the game, while leading the Bronx Bombers to a 19th World Series title.  Mantle, slowed by injuries, fell six home runs short of the Babe’s 60, but Maris, on the season’s final day, eclipsed the Sultan of Swat with a shot to right field.  However, 0, and not 61, may be Maris’ most mind-boggling statistic of the ’61 season.

Why 0?  It was the number of times he was intentionally walked.

Why would the man who hit the most single-season home runs in history, who knocked in 141 runs, who tallied a league-high 366 total bases, and who won the American League MVP Award not have been intentionally walked a single time in 1961?  Because no one was going to put Maris on base with Mickey Mantle coming up behind him.  Mantle, in turn, was intentionally walked 9 times that year.  When Mark McGwire broke Maris’ milestone in 1998 he was intentionally walked  twenty-eight times.

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