Yankees honor Maris on anniversary of 61 in '61

Yankees honor Maris on anniversary of 61 in '61

NEW YORK -- The grainy, black-and-white images of Roger Maris hitting his record-breaking 61st home run flickered across Yankee Stadium's high-definition video screen on Saturday. Fifty-five years to the date of the event, the slugger's family gathered at home plate and said they felt goosebumps.

Wearing pinstriped jerseys with their father's No. 9 on the back, Maris' four sons watched the familiar sequence -- dad's drive into the right-field seats at the old Stadium off Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard, then Phil Rizzuto narrating the trip around the bases before Maris was pushed out of the dugout by his teammates for a curtain call.

And just as they did in 1961, the fans stood and cheered.

Maris' son throws first pitch

"I think that day, to him, it was just a numb feeling," Roger Maris Jr. said. "Even when he hit it, I remember him rounding the bases. You're just numb. You know you just did it, but you're just running. You don't even remember running, you're just shaking hands and all that stuff.

"Then as time goes on, you think back and you go, 'Wow, what did I do? What just happened?' I think in the beginning, he was just numb."

Maris' sons Kevin, Randy and Richard were also on hand as the Yankees celebrated their father's accomplishment with a ceremony and bobblehead giveaway. Maris' 61st home run of 1961 came at the conclusion of a summer-long competition with teammate Mickey Mantle, who hit 54 homers before ending his season due to injury.

Though Maris eclipsed Babe Ruth's 34-year-old single-season record of 60 home runs, the accomplishment was viewed in a different light at the time because Ruth played a 154-game schedule. Maris had 58 homers through game No. 154.

The story of Maris' summer has been immortalized on film by Billy Crystal's '61*,' in which Maris is depicted having difficulty dealing with the stress of the chase, even losing some of his hair. While that is accurate to a large extent, Randy Maris said that his father treasured what transpired that season.

"Even though it had some pressure towards the end, he really did enjoy that season as much as any season he probably ever had," Randy Maris said. "'62 was probably a little more pressure, because he'd already broke it and everybody wants more. I think he thoroughly enjoyed that season more than people think."

Maris' single-season record has been surpassed six times in recent years, with Mark McGwire (70) setting a new mark in 1998 that was eclipsed by Barry Bonds (73) in 2001.

Sammy Sosa also hit more than 61 homers three times, and though those numbers are accompanied by the cloud of suspected performance-enhancing drug use -- admitted, in McGwire's case -- Maris' family said that they have come to terms with how the leaderboard currently looks.

"Your hands are tied. It's not up to us, it's up to Major League Baseball," Roger Maris Jr. said. "If they want to change some of the records, they can do it, but you have to come to the reality that they put the record there as it was with McGwire and then it was Bonds.

"It's really the public opinion poll. People come up to me all the time, as I'm sure they do with my brothers, talking about dad, 'He's the real record holder.' There might be people that believe differently, but for us, in our hearts, that's what we believe."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.