On October 1, 1961, Roger Maris slammed home run number sixty-one into the stands. In the last game of the regular season, Maris broke the long-standing 1927 record of baseball legend Babe Ruth for the most home runs in a single season. Fans loyal to Ruth criticized Maris. They argued that Ruth hit 60 home runs in a 154-game schedule, while Maris hit only 59 home runs in the first 154 games of the season, not reaching 61 home runs until game 162, the last of the newly lengthened season. Attempting to avoid controversy, baseball commissioner Ford Frick ruled that Maris did not break Ruth's record. Instead, Frick held that Ruth and Maris owned separate records for, respectively, the most home runs in a 154- and 162-game season. During the next three decades it nevertheless became common, yet unofficial practice for an asterisk to be attached next to Maris' home run total in record books. In 1991, Major League Baseball's Committee for Statistical Accuracy ended this practice by asserting that no asterisk or other special designation should be used to qualify Maris' achievement.
Maris' record stood for thirty-seven years until it too was broken by both Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs within days of each other in September 1998. Sosa finished the 1998 season with sixty-six home runs, while Mark McGwire established the new single season home run record with seventy. In 2001, Barry Bonds surpassed McGwire's mark by hitting seventy-three home runs.
Considered an outstanding outfielder, a superb base runner, and a fine team player, Maris played on three World Series championship teams, twice with the New York Yankees and once with the St. Louis Cardinals.