Roger Maris looked straight into baseball writer Joe Reichler's eyes. With what Reichler described as a slight sneer, Maris told him, "I was born surly and I'm going to stay that way. Everything is tough in life."
In 1961, Maris was referred to as an angry young man. On occasions, even some New York Yankees' players called him "the red-necked Roger." Maris admitted that he sometimes was not easy to get along with.
New York is unfair, uncaring, brutal, demanding, dictatorial and detached.
Maris made the mistake of being a young player with the Kansas City A's who had great potential. In December 1959, Yankees general manager George M. Weiss brought Maris to New York for a group of Yankees players that had seen better days.
When Maris became involved in chasing Babe Ruth's single-season home run record with Mickey Mantle, the attention, which had been difficult to deal with his first season with the Yankees, became unbearable.
Baseball writers asked Maris the same questions over and over. Unlike most players who give inane answers to inane questions, Maris rebelled.
"You fellows are tougher than some of those pitchers," he told the writers. "Where do you think up those silly questions? How the heck do I know if I'll break Babe Ruth's record?"
Maris then committed sacrilege when he said, "Id rather have the dough than the record. If I have a real good season, I'm going to ask for real dough next year too."
Maris was having a great season. At the time he stated he wanted "real dough," he had hit 48 home runs in 119 games. He was making $32,500 ($246,364 today), while Mantle was being paid $75,000. It was expected that Maris would demand $75,000 in 1962.
Fans prefer platitudes and insipid responses to reality. Maris told the truth, which sometimes made good copy but often was in conflict with the media's agenda of giving the public "pap."
No one knew whether Maris would break Ruth's record. Instead of, "I'm giving it my best. I play one game at time. It would be a thrill to break the record," Maris said what he felt.
In his defense, Maris was a winner. He might not have said that he preferred "dough" to the record if had been badgered less, but it is true that he never really wanted either the record or the baggage that came with it.
Most Yankees fans didn't appreciate Maris until it was too late.
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