As the saying goes: records are meant to be broken.
But this record has lasted some 61 years.
And to this day, Roger Maris’ picture and jersey still hang here in the city that helped launch his record-breaking career, even with current Yankees star Aaron Judge now poised to reach Maris’ American League single-season record of 61 home runs.
Maris played a dozen seasons in the major leagues, for Cleveland, Kansas City, St. Louis, and most notably, for the New York Yankees. But as a minor leaguer in 1956, he spent a rather important season here in Indianapolis with the Indians.
“(His) one year with the Indianapolis Indians was terrific,” said Indians broadcaster Howard Kellman. “(He) hit 17 home runs, led them to the championship and then he went on to play 12 years in the major leagues.”
But that one season Maris spent here in 1956, may have helped saved baseball as we know it here in Indianapolis, during a tumultuous time for the franchise.
In late 1955, the team’s major league affiliate had threatened to move the team to Wichita, and it took a massive grassroots effort to save the club. The next season, Maris led the team to a championship.
“Cleveland was going to move the franchise because it was losing money,” said Kellman. “There was a big rally, we got 6,672 stockholders for 10 dollars a piece, and they saved the team.”
They’d play another 40 seasons at the old Bush Stadium on 16th street, which had multiple different names over the years.
Decades later, Maris is still remembered fondly at the new Victory Field ballpark in Downtown Indianapolis, where you’ll see his picture hanging proudly on a banner in the concourse.
“He was an excellent right fielder, just excellent,” said Kellman, who also happens to be a lifelong Yankee fan.
“In 1961, I was a nine-year old boy living in New York and I loved the Yankees and Roger Maris,” said Kellman.
And earlier this month, he had the chance to fill in with the Yankees radio broadcast team- and hang out before the game with Aaron Judge.
“I’m pulling for him to do it and I think he is going to do it,” said Kellman.
Judge almost did tie the record Thursday night in a game against the Boston Red Sox that was broadcast live on FOX59, hitting a long blast to center field in the ninth inning that came just feet away from clearing the fence.
According to Kellman, when Judge does break the American League record, it’s likely to be considered the sport’s true mark of excellence, since all three National League stars who passed Maris’ record in the 1990’s and 2000’s were all linked to the steroid scandal that plagued the game in that era.
“In my eyes, yes, this is the legitimate home run record,” said Kellman. “Because there’s no question about the steroids with Bonds, Sosa and McGwire so (this record) is very significant.”