FARGO-When golfers convene in Fargo on Sunday and Monday for the 33rd Annual Roger Maris Celebrity golf tournament, you can bet someone, somewhere on Edgewood golf course will argue that Maris should be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
For the last four decades, support for Fargo's most famous sports hero to become a Hall of Famer has come and gone. We've heard it over and over.
The man who broke Babe Ruth's 34-year-old single-season home run record should be a Hall of Famer. Maris did that in 1961 with 61 homers.
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The man who had back-to-back most-valuable-player seasons should be a Hall of Famer. Maris, of course, did that in 1960 and 1961 with the New York Yankees.
Many of us from Fargo-where Maris grew up, was a multi-sport standout at Fargo Shanley High School and is now buried-are aware that Maris was on the Hall of Fame ballot for 15 years but never came close to the required 75 percent voter approval by the Baseball Writers of America. After his untimely death at the age of 51 in 1985, we saw support for Maris jump from 16% in 1982 to 43% in 1988.
But that's as close as Maris has come to becoming a Hall of Famer.
Just when you thought 'Maris-should-be-in-the-Hall-of-Fame' campaigns have become extinct, there is one that is alive and kicking-and it comes from a 20-year-old baseball fanatic who lives in the suburbs of Minneapolis. Meet Colin McCann, whose infatuation with Maris began when he was 14.
"That's when my parents bought me the DVD "61*," McCann said, referring to the HBO movie depicting Maris' pursuit of Ruth's home run record. "I thought, 'Wow, this guy went through a lot.' It really moved me. I watch it once a month. It still moves me."
It moved him enough to create his Facebook campaign for Maris (Get Roger Maris in the Baseball Hall of Fame). The site has more than 3,000 likes.
McCann also launched an online petition last December (Vote Roger Maris in the National Baseball Hall of Fame). He has more than 1,000 signatures and hopes to surpass 3,000 before he sends it to Jeff Idelson, the president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. His goal is to get Maris on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot.
"I still believe that someone who's held a home run record for over 50 years belongs in the Hall of Fame," said McCann, who lives in Rosemount. "But I'm trying now because of my admiration for him. From all the comments from people who've signed my petition, they all agree with me that someone of both Maris' athletic ability and Maris' persona deserves this."
Soon after watching the movie "61*" for the first time, McCann visited the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., and saw the ball Maris hit for his then-record 61st home run. Then last year on Father's Day, he and his dad made a stop in Fargo on their return trip from the Black Hills. He visited the Roger Maris Museum located in West Acres Mall and visited Maris' grave site in north Fargo.
"I was very moved by it ... standing by the grave site was very surreal," McCann said. "I've visited a lot of grave sites of past Presidents. But it's a different feeling standing next to a grave site of someone you have grown to admire."
If there is anything different with McCann's Maris campaign to all the others that have existed, it is perhaps that admiration.
McCann argues if there's any reason to induct Maris into the Hall, it's because of all the stress he had to endure during that 1961 season. Yankees fans wanted Mickey Mantle to break the record, not Maris. The media who covered Maris were not enamored with the introverted Maris-who preferred privacy over flamboyancy.
Many, including McCann, argue that reputation alone hurt Maris' chances of getting elected into the Hall voted upon by sportswriters.
"I'm probably just as introverted as he was," McCann said. "I can totally see myself doing the same exact thing that he did in 1961. There just seems to be a lot of bias against Maris. I have always been pretty amazed at the courage this guy had."
But courage probably isn't going to get Maris into the Hall. Some say Maris had a Hall of Fame peak but not a Hall of Fame career. Given that the Hall rarely enshrines players on short-lived brilliance, Maris' chances don't look great.
But that isn't stopping McCann-who says he will return to Cooperstown the day Maris gets into the Hall.
"If I can just raise enough awareness to get Maris back on the ballot, that's a start," said McCann, who admits that may be 10 years from happening. "Sometimes it takes awhile for dreams to come true, but that doesn't mean they don't come true. This guy belongs in the Hall of Fame."
Roger Maris Celebrity Golf Tournament
- 7:30 a.m. golf at Edgewood golf course
- 4 p.m. social and auction followed by magic show at Ramada Inn
- 7:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. golf at Edgewood golf course