Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Opinion

August 11, 2013

SINGER: When baseball had icons

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — The latest, serious taint involving A-Rod among other baseball notables must sadden regional Yankee fans, making a former star badly treated during his New York years shine more brightly in retrospect. I’m speaking of Roger Maris, subject of a recent, co-written paperback surpassing the rest on this great, but semi-tragic figure.

Unable at first to deal with the heartbreak of his Yankee years, particularly from ‘61 onward, I started with Maris blessedly migrating to St. Louis his last two seasons in baseball, 1967 and ‘68. He was grateful to be in a new, more appreciative National League town, and one learns via interview chunks from Gibson and the rest how clutch Maris still was. I knew he’d always been stellar defensively, but not how he would invariably procure sacrifice flies when needed, break up double plays with aggressive slides–the complete package, despite a bad hand (which the Yanks hadn’t allowed to heal properly) no longer letting him drive balls as he’d once done.

Ex-players give him big credit for helping St. Louis win pennants those two years. And of course they also won the Series in ‘67, where obviously Gibson was the major figure, but where Maris had a high average and contributed as well.

Going back to the book’s beginning, I had to alter my old view that Maris was a WASP from Fargo. In fact, he only migrated to Fargo after growing up in Hibbing, Minn., and Grand Forks, N.D. — and as a Croatian Catholic. That background included a pistol of a mom, who loved to get out on the town, yet obviously gave her son the right kind of love.

Maris then became one incredible athlete, including at football, subsequently chose baseball, did almost too well in the pros–and it goes and ruins his life! Talk about an American tragedy...

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