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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Roger Maris's 61st Bat and Ball and a Visit to the Roger Maris Museum

Fargo's Roger Maris Museum had a special guest Monday, as the bat and ball from his 61st home run made an appearance. The two baseball artifacts were in town on loan from the Baseball Hall of Fame, and on-lookers got the opportunity to take a peek at a big part of baseball's history.

While there, people also got the chance to glance at the various artifacts from the museum. It is actually located in Fargo's West Acres Mall, and consists of a line of display cases containing the various items from his career.

The exhibit starts off with this Replica of Maris's New York Yankees locker, which contains a full uniform and a few bats.

Next, we have a wide range of trophies given to Maris, which range from his playing days to his retirement, including some very important ones, like his 1960 & 1961 MVP Awards, his 1960 Gold Glove Award, and a trophy given to him by the fans of the Baltimore Orioles, the team he hit #61 off of.

The centerpiece of the exhibit features a painting of Maris, along with a few key items. His two Sultan of Swat Awards frame a bat an ball display. The bats are commemorative versions which pay tribute to various achievements in his career, like his home run record, MVP seasons and World Series Championships. The baseballs, however, are game used, as each one is one of the 61 home runs. There are nine balls on the rack, with blank spots for two others. The missing spaces represent home run #59, which is owned by a private collector and #61, which is (usually) on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

While he is mostly known as a Yankee, the museum also recognizes the other teams he played for, with jerseys and caps from the Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Athletics, and St. Louis Cardinals.

The display finishes off chronologically, spotlighting some of the things he was involved with once his career was over, specifically the Roger Maris Celebrity Golf Tournament. Maris was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 1983, and put together the first annual tournament in 1984 to raise money for cancer research and treatment.

Maris passed away in 1985 in Houston at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (which is the same hospital where my wife would be treated for thyroid cancer 27 years later), but his legacy lives on in Fargo. Billboards across the city claim Fargo to the the home of  baseball's "legitimate home run king." The cancer unit of Fargo's Sanford Hospital is named the Roger Maris Cancer Center, and every year local business host the week-long "61 for 61" fundraiser, which raises money for the cancer center.


  1. Great post, Matt! Thanks for the look at the museum.

    I was lucky enough to see a couple of Maris' 61 in 61 and I became as much of a Maris fan as a non-Yankee fan could be back then, if that makes sense.

  2. That's awesome! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Great post. That was my chance to visit the museum also.