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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Maris, 51, loses battle with lymphatic cancer
By Larry Schwartz
Special to

Dec. 14, 1985

Roger Maris, a two-time American League MVP who broke Babe Ruth's cherished home-run record, dies in Houston after a two-year battle with lymphatic cancer. Maris was 51.

"All baseball is saddened by the loss of one of its true heroes," says Commissioner Pete Ueberroth.

"The greatest single feat I ever saw was Roger hitting 61 home runs to break Ruth's record," Mickey Mantle wrote in his autobiography, 'The Mick.' "I was with him practically every step of the way, and I know the dues he paid to get there."

One of those dues was that his hair began falling out as the pressure intensified late in that 1961 season. Often surly, Maris was not the favorite of the fans or the media, who wanted Mantle - and not Maris - to break Babe's mark of 60 homers. When Maris broke the mark in the Yankees' final game, commissioner Ford Frick put the accomplishment in the record book with an asterisk because Maris did it in a 162-game season, and not in a 154-game season, as the Babe had.

This was the only time in his 12-year career that Maris hit more than 40 homers. After helping the Cardinals win back-to-back pennants in 1967 and 1968, he retired with 275 homers and a lifetime batting average of .260.

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