Roger Eugene Maris was born on September 10, 1934 in Hibbing, Minnesota. When he was 12 years old, his family moved to Fargo, North Dakota where Roger played Little League and American Legion baseball. He led his American Legion team to a state championship and was voted Most Valuable Player. Roger attended Shanley High School where he competed in football, basketball and track. He still holds the school football record for returning four kickoffs for touchdowns in a single game.
Maris was recruited to play football at the University of Oklahoma, but opted to sign a minor-league baseball contract with the Cleveland Indians. Roger played in the minors with stops at Fargo – Moorhead, (North Dakota / Minnesota), Keokuk, Iowa, Reading, Pennsylvania and Indianapolis, Indiana, where in 1956, his team won the Little World Series.
A left handed hitting outfielder, Maris began his career with the Cleveland Indians, but was traded to the Kansas City Athletics midway through the 1958 season. After only a year and a half with the A’s, the New York Yankees came courting the young sensation to join their other outfielders, Mickey Mantle and Hector Lopez. Yankee scout Tom Greenwade helped engineer the deal which placed Maris in pinstripes. Roger immediately proved to Yankee ownership that he was worth every penny of his $18,000 contract by winning the American League MVP Award his first two years with the club. In 1961, his second year with the team, the outfielder cranked out 61 home runs and drove in an amazing 141 runs. His 61 round trippers are still an American League record, and arguably an MLB record. While displaying his power at the plate, Roger proved himself to be a complete ball player by winning the Gold Glove award the previous year. He was also the recipient of the Hickok Belt which was award to the top professional athlete in America. Maris was a seven time All Star and was awarded the Sultan of Swat Crown for both the 1960 and ’61 seasons.
After the 1966 season, Maris was traded by the Yankees to the St. Louis Cardinals for Charley Smith. Maris was well received by the St. Louis fans in 1967 who appreciated a player with a straightforward Midwestern style. The slugger played his final two seasons with the Cardinals, helping to win the 1967 and 1968 pennants and the 1967 World Series, hitting .385 with one home run and seven RBIs. He retired after the 1968 campaign.
All told, Roger Maris played in seven World Series, more than anyone in that decade, competing in five consecutive Series with the New York Yankees from 1960 to 1964, and two with the Cardinals in 1967 and 1968. He was on the winning team three times.
Roger, with his wife Patricia had six children; Roger Jr., Kevin, Richard, Susan, Randy and Sandra; 15 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.
Roger passed away on December 14, 1985 after battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for two years. Before his passing, the Yankees honored Maris by retiring his jersey number (9) on July 21, 1984.