Maris museum ceremony highlights renovations
Judging from the reactions of Roger Maris' family and friends, West Acres hit one out of the park. The mall's Roger Maris Museum was rededicated Tuesday in a ceremony attended by Maris' widow; all six of his children; all but three of his 15 gran...
Judging from the reactions of Roger Maris' family and friends, West Acres hit one out of the park.
The mall's Roger Maris Museum was rededicated Tuesday in a ceremony attended by Maris' widow; all six of his children; all but three of his 15 grandchildren; and a crowd that packed one end of the mall wing where the museum is located.
Speakers recalled Maris' 1961 breaking of arguably the most hallowed sports record, Babe Ruth's 60 home runs in a season. But they also spoke of his roots in Fargo, where he grew up.
For example, West Acres Development CEO Brad Schlossman, introduced Maris' wife, Pat, by noting that she was his babysitter.
Schlossman talked about how Maris became a home run hero. "By breaking Babe Ruth's record, he dethroned a king," Schlossman said. And while that put him under enormous pressure, "he did it with honor and he did it with humility."
Schlossman detailed how the museum's current curator, Mara Pierce, has improved its lighting and air circulation to better preserve the items. And he touted the new museum video room, which features seats that were in Yankee Stadium when Maris played there.
"Odds are, Roger lined a homer into those seats at one time," Schlossman said.
Jim McLaughlin, who was instrumental in starting the museum 15 years ago, recounted how he and the late Bob Smith convinced Maris to loan memorabilia to the project. McLaughlin teared up and nearly lost his voice.
McLaughlin also drew chuckles and applause with a bit of hometown pugnacity. He noted that Maris still is the only American Leaguer to hit 61 home runs and the only left-hander, so "as far as I'm concerned, Roger's still got two records left."
He was rewarded with a hug from Pat Maris when he stepped off the podium.
The entire Maris family lined up -- filling most of the museum's façade -- to cut the ribbon for the rededication.
Pat Maris, who first saw the museum briefly Thursday, marveled at the change.
"They just did a beautiful job," she said after the ceremony. "You can see everything so well now, all lightened up."
She said even though Roger's record has been eclipsed, he still is remembered "because he did the unthinkable of his day, beating Babe Ruth, and people really didn't expect it and they didn't want it.
"Plus the way he did it; Roger was really kind of a humble man. You watch the guys today, they're tooting their horns."
Mark McGwire's 1998 breaking of Maris' record also brought her husband new fame, she said.
"A lot of people, they learned then about Roger Maris," she said. "I think it brought a whole new fan to him."
While the museum honors Maris for accomplishments noticed by the whole world, Friday's ceremony stirred more personal memories for some.
Maris' boyhood friend Dick Savageau of Fargo recalled Maris as "really kind of an ordinary guy. But he was a great athlete; it's kind of hard to be ordinary in Fargo and be a great athlete, but that's the way he was."
His strongest memory of Maris doesn't even have much to do with athletics. It's about eating chicken at a golf outing.
"Roger's standing in back of a station wagon digging in with both hands to get the chicken out and tossing the bones to the side," Savageau said with a fond smile. "That was his day. He was having a great time."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Pantera at (701) 241-5541