Card of the Day: 1958 Topps Roger Maris rookie card

**Note: With the All-Star game taking place this week at Yankee Stadium, I will spend the next several days showcasing cards from my Yankee collection.

One of my favorite baseball movies of all time is Billy Crystal’s *61, the tale of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle’s chase for Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record. I know what you’re thinking: A Billy Crystal movie is one of your favorites? Yes, it’s true. I’ve got an odd taste for movies. I’m not a big horror or action flick guy. I’m all about comedies and sports movies, particularly ones involving baseball. But *61 is actually a neat little movie that came about in the wake of the Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire chase for Maris’ record in 1998. It’s no Emmy winner, but it did draw more attention to the record Maris set in 1961.

As I sat here yesterday writing my piece about Lou Gehrig, I had the movie on in the background. I figured this would be as good of time as any to discuss Maris, since I’m showcasing the Yankee collection, and show off the rookie card. You’ll quickly notice that Maris is not wearing a Yankee uniform, or the Cardinals one he donned at the end of his career. Most baseball fans know that Maris was not a career Yankee, although his legacy — and is image for the most part — pretty much were defined by his first three years in New York. After starting his career in Cleveland and spending a little more than a year with the Kansas City Athletics, Maris moved onto New York and was an instant hit. He won back-to-back MVPs (1960 and 1961), slugged a then-record 61 homers in 1961 and managed to make the All-Star team during those three seasons. He also was a part of five straight Yankee teams to appear in the World Series. (Note: in all he appeared in seven World Series and is a three-time champion.) But his offensive career numbers really weren’t all that impressive. Although he knocked 61 bombs in 1961, he ended his 12 seasons with 275 round trippers, a .260 batting average 851 RBIs. In other words his season average would have looked similar to Andruw Jones’. Maris’ jersey number (9) was retired by the Yankees in 1985 (the same year he died), and on the club’s Web site it notes that Maris was considered one of the best defense outfielders in team history.

Despite all of this, Maris is not in the Hall of Fame. Shocked? I was too at first. When you hear the name Maris you instantly think legend, a no-brainer choice to be enshrined in Cooperstown. But bottom line is Maris was not one of the greatest players of his generation. He had four fantastic years (his 59 campaign with Kansas City made him a first-time all-star), and won a pair of MVPs. But it’s that Yankee mystique that we all get caught up on. His association with the team has jaded our thinking.

In closing here’s a little factoid for you to chew on: Maris is one of only two two-time winners of his league’s Most Valuable Player award not to grace the halls of Cooperstown. The other? Dale Murphy.

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