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Saturday, September 24, 2011
Updated: October 2, 11:01 AM ET
Yanks honor Roger Maris' 61-HR year

By Ian Begley
Special to ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa both topped Roger Maris' single-season home run mark of 61 in 1998. Barry Bonds broke McGwire's record with 73 homers in 2001.

But because of the steroid allegations surrounding McGwire, Sosa and Bonds, Roger Maris' sons believe that their father should still have the single-season record.

"I think there needs to be a distinction," Randy Maris said on Saturday. "Obviously, unfortunately I think major league baseball turned an eye to that era."

Randy and Roger Maris Jr. were at Yankee Stadium with other members of the Maris family to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Roger Maris' 61st home run, which he hit on Oct. 1, 1961.

Maris set the single-season home run mark with that blast, besting Babe Ruth's mark of 60 set in 1927.

Randy Maris believes baseball needs to make note of the fact that Bonds, McGwire and Sosa have been linked to steroids.

"We appreciate everything Mark (McGwire) did ... with respecting my dad and stuff like that. But it's got to be noted," Maris said. "If you look at, since they started drug testing, where are the numbers now? It just hasn't been there. So there's definitely, there's got to be some kind of distinction you can do."

Added Randy Maris' brother, Roger Jr.: "The family feels that it's his record. I also know that's arguable with a lot of people, but that's just how we feel."

Last January, McGwire admitted he used steroids when he broke baseball's home run record with a 70-homer season in 1998. Bonds and Sosa were also reportedly linked to steroids use, but neither has admitted to using now-banned substances during their playing days.

The New York Times reported that Sosa tested positive for a banned substance in 2003. The Times said Sosa is one of 104 players who tested positive in baseball's anonymous 2003 survey. Sosa hit 66 homers in 1998, then belted 63, 50, 64 and 49 homers in his next four seasons. McGwire had a 65-homer season in 1999.

Bonds was tried in federal court earlier this year on charges he lied to a grand jury when he denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs. A jury found Bonds guilty of obstruction of justice for giving an evasive answer under oath more than seven years ago about alleged use of a banned substance. They could not reach a decision on the remaining charges Bonds faced.

Two of Mickey Mantle's sons were also at Yankee Stadium on Saturday to commemorate Maris' 61st home run, along with former teammates Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra and Bob Cerv. Mantle and Maris engaged a season-long home run race in 1961. Mantle finished with 54 home runs.

"Roger, to us, is still the single home run leader for one season with 61 home runs," David Mantle said. "That's how we feel because some of the stuff that has happened and changed (in the game), I don't agree with."

Randy Maris and Roger Maris Jr. also argued that their father belongs in baseball's Hall of Fame.

"I just think too many people get fixated on the one year," Randy Maris said. "Hitting 61 was actually a curse because everybody goes, 'Hey, he was just a one-year guy.'"

Added Roger Maris Jr.: "Three years in a row he was pretty much as good a player there was in the game, if not arguably the best."

Maris finished with a .260 batting average, 275 home runs and 851 RBIs. He had season averages of 23 homers and 73 RBIs, which were, of course, affected by years in which he was injured.

Saturday's on-field ceremony prior to New York's game against Boston included a $10,000 donation by the Yankees Foundation to the Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo.

Wearing white gloves, Yankees captain Derek Jeter brought onto the field the bat Maris used to hit the record-breaker. Sal Durante, who was 19 years old when he caught the record-breaking drive off Tracy Stallard into the right field stands on Oct. 1, 1961, brought the ball onto the field, also using white gloves. Both items were on loan from the Hall of Fame.

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.