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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Father Raymond J. de Souza: Honouring Roger Maris, baseball’s moral champion

ABANDON THE WAY OF HATRED!

Bonds, McGwire and Sosa put up six seasons between them with more than 61 home runs, the old record held by Maris. Absent the steroid era, Maris would still have the record. If Maris were in the Hall, while the steroid triplets were kept out, it would be fitting way to honour the real home run record — held by a decent man who brought honour to the game.

Yet Roger Maris is not in the Hall of Fame, despite his record, despite being a two-time league MVP, despite various campaigns and petitions to get him inducted. Four years ago I wrote that inducting Maris would be a correction to the steroid era. In the intervening years, baseball’s steroid stain has only spread. Maris is needed now more than ever.

Fortunately, the process has also changed, and this year the Hall’s veterans committee will be asked to consider eligible candidates from the “golden era”, 1947-1972. In the 50th anniversary year of Maris’ most remarkable season, selecting Maris would be as timely as it is deserved.

When Maris last appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot in 1988, he was already dead. He had the home run record, thought by many to be unbreakable. His number was retired by the New York Yankees, and he had his plaque in Monument Park at Yankees’ Stadium. Perhaps that was enough.

The case for Maris today is not that he needs the Hall, but that baseball needs him in the Hall.

Repoz Posted: July 28, 2011 at 12:02 PM | 37 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, history, yankees

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   1. Cooper Nielson Posted: July 28, 2011 at 12:40 PM (#3887417)
Is there even any evidence that Roger Maris was an especially nice, friendly, helpful, clean-living guy? (Any more than his peers, that is.) Or is he a hero and "moral champion" simply because he hit 61 home runs before steroids were widely used?
   2. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: July 28, 2011 at 12:52 PM (#3887424)
I really hate this kind of crap.
   3. Rusty Priske Posted: July 28, 2011 at 12:56 PM (#3887426)
I read the headline and assumed the article was a joke.

'moral champion'?
   4. Bob Tufts Posted: July 28, 2011 at 01:08 PM (#3887435)
From an SI article in 1977:

"In one away game, angered by catcalls, he made obscene gestures to the crowd."

What's moral about running a beer distributorship in Gainesville after your career? Providing legal highs to college kids is Ok with the Father?
   5. Dale Sams Posted: July 28, 2011 at 01:16 PM (#3887437)
And he smoked!!!
   6. Bob Tufts Posted: July 28, 2011 at 01:29 PM (#3887442)
He had the legal vices down pat. I guess it's time to start advocating on behalf of Ron Santo to stop the Maris morality bandwagon.
   7. Gonfalon B. Posted: July 28, 2011 at 01:32 PM (#3887443)
And Red Smith coulda gotten killed by slipping on clumps of Maris' hair!
   8. Repoz Posted: July 28, 2011 at 01:50 PM (#3887451)
Yeah...and didn't Bouton say Maris dogged it in Ball Four!
   9. Bob Tufts Posted: July 28, 2011 at 02:03 PM (#3887457)
"In his book he called me the biggest loafer he'd ever seen, which was a compliment compared to what he wrote about the other guys."
   10. Don Lock Posted: July 28, 2011 at 02:09 PM (#3887460)
" He was not a bad fellow, no worse than most and probably better than some, and not a bad ballplayer neither, when they gave him a chance, when they laid off him long enough."

But not a Hall of Famer
   11. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: July 28, 2011 at 02:17 PM (#3887467)
" He was not a bad fellow, no worse than most and probably better than some, and not a bad ballplayer neither, when they gave him a chance, when they laid off him long enough."

But not a Hall of Famer


And that's all that really needs to be said.
   12. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: July 28, 2011 at 02:19 PM (#3887469)
Father Raymond J. de Souza is my new favorite baseball columnist.

His last 20 articles boiled down:

- The executive branch of Canada's government is usurping power from Parliament by refusing to allow cost estimates.
- Obama is treating the Muslim world no better than Bush did. However, starting the war in Libya is a good start.
- Both Liberals and Conservatives should be ashamed for no longer letting their members vote on who should be M.P. candidates.
- NASA is no longer sending men into space.
- (ruminations on Good Friday and a documentary about Benedictine monks)
- The Canadian Foreign Office needs an Office of Religious Freedom.
- The media should be ashamed for claiming that Indian-Canadians are voting Conservative for no good reason.
- (ruminations on Pope John Paul II's assassination attempt)
- There are two promising youngsters in Stephen Harper's new cabinet.
- Oprah's not that bad.
- Charles Foran's new Rocket Richard biography is great.
- That girl who silently protested during Stephen Harper's Throne Speech is a sad blight on our noble nation.
- Prisons are the most wasteful way to fight crime.
- Political issues are moral issues.
- Why did we start this war in Libya? It's preventing us from starting a war in Syria.
- Conrad Black is being tormented by cowardly statists.
- The British royal family loves Canada. Killer quote: "Queen Elizabeth II has visited New York City three times, which is the same number of trips she has made to Moose Jaw. She has gone where her duty takes her."
- China is trying to usurp ordination powers from the Holy See.
- Hopefully South Sudan will be a place of peace.
- Roger Maris should be in the Hall of Fame.
   13. Morty Causa Posted: July 28, 2011 at 02:20 PM (#3887472)
Bouton was hard on Maris in Ball Four. One of the few instances where I feel Bouton could have maybe been more sensitive, more understanding and charitable. But, then, that wouldn't be Ball Four, would it? There can be little doubt that Maris's experiences in '61 and the immediate aftermath first angered, then embittered him. He reacted much in the same way that many others before have, when they see themselves as being unfairly treated. See, for instance, Jackie Robinson, to name only one (or Ted Williams, to name another). Then, from there the whole thing just kept deteriorating, especially as Maris's production fell because of injuries/health. Maris's attitude undoubtedly changed and he reacted similarly to those who were catcalling--that's always a losing proposition. Bouton cuts him no slack, as I remember--but, then, maybe he was too close to fire and fury to be more objective and dispassionate. "Hit him with your wallet, Rodge".
   14. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: July 28, 2011 at 02:29 PM (#3887479)
Doesn't Bill James talk about Maris showing up at Whitey Herzog's place every morning over the winter of 1961-62, to help Herzog work on his house?
That's a good kind of friend to have.
   15. Morty Causa Posted: July 28, 2011 at 02:29 PM (#3887480)
But not a Hall of Famer


Well, you live by lame alibi-ing, you die by it. Just recently, many have mooted players for the HOF who, arguably, weren't as good as him. Indeed, there are players in the HOF who weren't as good as he was. Funny how often people will avail themselves of this approach--when they're predisposed to someone, then of course lament this same rhetorical ploy righteously when they aren't, but never actually accede to a method that applies across the board to everyone. But this is different, mom!
   16. Forsch 10 From Navarone (Dayn) Posted: July 28, 2011 at 02:42 PM (#3887491)
'moral champion'?

Claimed!
   17. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: July 28, 2011 at 02:43 PM (#3887492)
Morty, to follow up on what you just wrote, Ball Four is great entertainment and it's full of insights into the baseball culture of its time, but in a contest of who's more full of himself, Jim Bouton would stomp Roger Maris into the ground.
   18. Repoz Posted: July 28, 2011 at 02:45 PM (#3887495)
Dick Schaap, writing in 1962 on Moral Maris..."...Maris was abrupt and rude. In the crowded Yankee dressing room, celebrating the easy victory over the Cincinnati Reds, Maris shoved reporters, snapped at them and ignored questions. The man who couldn't wait for the season to end seemed resentful that it had."
   19. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: July 28, 2011 at 02:56 PM (#3887505)
'moral champion'?

Claimed!


Now sing that over-played Queen song, "We are the Moral Champions of the World"
   20. Dan Szymborski Posted: July 28, 2011 at 02:59 PM (#3887508)
"...Maris was abrupt and rude. In the crowded Yankee dressing room, celebrating the easy victory over the Cincinnati Reds, Maris shoved reporters, snapped at them and ignored questions. The man who couldn't wait for the season to end seemed resentful that it had."

Roid rage.

As I've noted before, there's a lot more circumstantial evidence around Maris steroid use than some of the players today that haven't failed tests but are suspected.

Really, what would the media's verdict today be for a player that took a huge step up the year after the first mainstream anabolic steroid was introduced to the US, had "rage" issues, had his career derailed due to injuries very early, and died young? That would be considered an open-and-shut case - if Bonds had lost hair due to stress, do you think anyone in the media would have gone along with that explanation?
   21. Morty Causa Posted: July 28, 2011 at 03:02 PM (#3887511)
duplicate
   22. Morty Causa Posted: July 28, 2011 at 03:02 PM (#3887512)
Doesn't Bill James talk about Maris showing up at Whitey Herzog's place every morning over the winter of 1961-62, to help Herzog work on his house?
That's a good kind of friend to have.


Yes. I don't think Maris was any more predisposed to be rude and surly than anyone else. It's about context. It's often just what happens when there's intense conflict, and when some see they can profit from conflict--hey, we now have tons of examples. And that can overwhelm someone untutored in notoriety who is woefully incapable of finding a way to resolve the conflict and extricate himself from it. Instead, everyone headed toward meltdown. Williams did the same thing. Williams is a very good comp. Maris just didn't have Williams's Augustan temperament. Williams thrived and flourished on it, even when he skirted with it destroying him. This enabled Ted to use it and in the end prevail in that contest with fans and press. Williams is that rarity--the Greek hero that doesn't fail and fall. Maris went through something that very few in sports and entertainment had before, and he really just didn't know what to do--and he didn't get much help from the Yankees or anyone else really.
   23. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: July 28, 2011 at 03:07 PM (#3887517)
What is it about Major League Baseball in the United States and Canada, as opposed to all other sports everywhere else, that engenders this kind of perpetual moralizing claptrap? Is there something inherent in the game itself that leads people to see it as a morality play? Its official histories and treatments are all in the key of Baseball Agonistes: Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Shoeless Joe, Jackie Robinson, Pete Rose, and now teh 'roids, and a sport that forever lurches through periods of rescue and cleansing by a savior.(**)

(**) Wherein even the saviors can quickly become antagonists, e.g. McGwire and Sosa.
   24. The elusive Robert Denby Posted: July 28, 2011 at 03:24 PM (#3887530)
Chris Truby looks forward to shuffling off this mortal coil, so that he may battle Maris in the ultimate conflict of good vs. evil.
   25. Morty Causa Posted: July 28, 2011 at 03:24 PM (#3887531)
Morty, to follow up on what you just wrote, Ball Four is great entertainment and it's full of insights into the baseball culture of its time, but in a contest of who's more full of himself, Jim Bouton would stomp Roger Maris into the ground.


Part of what makes Ball Four the lasting classic, a classic that is still read as if it is fresh off the press, is that Bouton is so open and revealing--sometimes in spite of himself. Many of us can't be honest in that way--Maris, I suspect was one. Not Bouton--Bouton was not, and is not, a private person. He loved that ####. He loved being in #### and stirring up #### and having it stirred up against him. Just read the first few pages of BF when he recounts his experiences on the Yankees and with Ralph Houk--the posturing and jockeying for position with Houk when it came to salary negotiations. That's just priceless. He's loving every minute of the conflict--indeed, he admits he loves it. Many us recoil from that--and we lose because of this timidity.
   26. Morty Causa Posted: July 28, 2011 at 03:28 PM (#3887537)
Williams is that rarity--the Greek hero that doesn't fail and fall.


To elaborate on my own post: it's also what makes TW so aggravating and so awe-inspiring. He didn't just refuse to bail out of that jet in Korea that was on fire. He didn't bail out ever, and more than once it came close to destroying him. But took the ####### chance and he ####### won.
   27. Morty Causa Posted: July 28, 2011 at 03:35 PM (#3887546)
Post 23:

Baseball is part of our myth. Those other sports and games aren't (although to be fair, there is some of it--think Jim Thorpe, or, more recently, Lance Armstrong). Constructing mythical narratives is about right and wrong, about what we value, about understanding and feeling that on a mostly a level that doesn't allow expression without loss of that feeling.
   28. Chicago Joe Posted: July 28, 2011 at 03:51 PM (#3887569)
Souza: Maris was a really cute kid.
   29. Walt Davis Posted: July 28, 2011 at 08:16 PM (#3887854)
What is it about Major League Baseball in the United States and Canada, as opposed to all other sports everywhere else, that engenders this kind of perpetual moralizing claptrap? Is there something inherent in the game itself that leads people to see it as a morality play? Its official histories and treatments are all in the key of Baseball Agonistes: Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Shoeless Joe, Jackie Robinson, Pete Rose, and now teh 'roids, and a sport that forever lurches through periods of rescue and cleansing by a savior.(**)

(**) Wherein even the saviors can quickly become antagonists, e.g. McGwire and Sosa.


As good a summary of Coover's "Universal Bsseball Association" as you're likely to find.

Anyway, given the good padre's job description is to provide moral leadership, I call EPIC FAIL.

You want to throw McGwire under the bus -- OK, he admitted usage. You want to throw Bonds under the bus -- that's a little dicier. He used a cream and clear substance provided by BALCO and they provided steroidal cream and clear substances to other athletes so we're extremely confident he used but the moral question is whether he knowingly used and that's hardly a closed case.

But Sosa? Nothing but an unsubstantiated report in the NY Times that he was on the list.

And of course none of that makes Maris a moral champion.

I had put a bunch in here about how Santo would make a much finer moral example than Maris but decided that's irrelevant and no reason to put Maris in a lesser light. What I am kinda pissed about is "Father" de Souza and his deeply immoral piece of crap and none of this really has to do with Maris or Santo. It's one thing for the Lupicas of the world to be moronic moralizers but this jackass is supposed to know the moral difference between innuendo and evidence. Let he who is without sin...
   30. Best Dressed Chicken in Town Posted: July 28, 2011 at 09:55 PM (#3887940)
Dayn, Moral Champion

We definitely thank you for appropriating the name, kind sir.
   31. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: July 28, 2011 at 10:04 PM (#3887945)
It's amazing to see how everyone and their mother wants to project attributes to Roger Maris that bear little relation to anything we've ever known about the real Roger Maris.

So we read that Roger Maris was a "moral hero", or he had "roid rage"**. Yeah, right.

Of course the reality is that he was an ordinary man who happened to be a very good ballplayer with a fly ball swing, whose career year*** happened to coincide with expansion, the protection of Mickey Mantle in the lineup, and a year free of injury. He was also a small town boy with a reserved manner who went into a quite natural culture shock at being all of a sudden the center of national attention, and also the center of a totally unfair debate about whether or not he was a "worthy successor" to the greatest player of all time.

I'd love to see how anyone here would have handled themselves in Maris's situation. I'll bet you might have snapped at a few chipmunks and other such creatures yourself.

**With absolutely no visible evidence of any bulking up, but who needs evidence?

*** At age 27, no less---how suspicious can you get?
   32. Jim Wisinski Posted: July 28, 2011 at 10:41 PM (#3887962)
It's amazing how Maris has been transformed (not necessarily commenting on this specific article, just the general attitude towards him in the media these days) into this aggrieved hero who should be held up as the true record holder when he was the original asterisked home run hitter. I was a long time from being born when he broke Ruth's record but from what I understand Maris was treated then like McGwire and Bonds are now.
   33. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 28, 2011 at 10:56 PM (#3887968)
Of course the reality is that he was an ordinary man who happened to be a very good ballplayer with a fly ball swing, whose career year*** happened to coincide with expansion, the protection of Mickey Mantle in the lineup, and a year free of injury.


That was basically my reaction when I saw this piece. Maris appears to have been, in temperament and morality, a perfectly normal person, with his good points and his bad ones. But when old fogies decide to hold him up as a moral exemplar for no purpose other than to take shots their ideological enemies, the logical result is that you get a lot of entirely deserved pushback - deserved in that the author deserves it, not necessarily that Maris does.
   34. Lars6788 Posted: July 28, 2011 at 11:31 PM (#3887979)
It is a conservative sport.

What is it about Major League Baseball in the United States and Canada, as opposed to all other sports everywhere else, that engenders this kind of perpetual moralizing claptrap? Is there something inherent in the game itself that leads people to see it as a morality play? Its official histories and treatments are all in the key of Baseball Agonistes: Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Shoeless Joe, Jackie Robinson, Pete Rose, and now teh 'roids, and a sport that forever lurches through periods of rescue and cleansing by a savior.(**)

(**) Wherein even the saviors can quickly become antagonists, e.g. McGwire and Sosa.
   35. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: July 28, 2011 at 11:46 PM (#3887986)
It's amazing how Maris has been transformed (not necessarily commenting on this specific article, just the general attitude towards him in the media these days) into this aggrieved hero who should be held up as the true record holder when he was the original asterisked home run hitter. I was a long time from being born when he broke Ruth's record but from what I understand Maris was treated then like McGwire and Bonds are now.

Only in the sense that both had problems with the media, but the reasons for those problems were entirely different in nature. Bonds had media problems before BALCO, but without BALCO they'd be but a fraction of what they are today.

---------------------------

That was basically my reaction when I saw this piece. Maris appears to have been, in temperament and morality, a perfectly normal person, with his good points and his bad ones. But when old fogies decide to hold him up as a moral exemplar for no purpose other than to take shots their ideological enemies, the logical result is that you get a lot of entirely deserved pushback - deserved in that the author deserves it, not necessarily that Maris does.

Yeah, but the better way to push back at the author is to do what Crispix did in #12, which is to place the idiocy of his BS about Maris the Moral Hero into the context of his other BS about the persecution of Conrad Black and China's muscling in on the Holy See. There's no particular reason why Maris should be caught in the crossfire of some stupid sublimated generational war where both sides are equally brain dead.
   36. Morty Causa Posted: July 29, 2011 at 03:27 AM (#3888056)
"There's no reason? There's every reason--when it's all you got left, what else can do except use what you got."

Isn't it funny (and funny peculiar) how we want to make everything be about God, the girl, and the gold watch? When at a lost to find a good reason for something, or if reason doesn't support your position much at all, but you just feel you should win (which is always), always make it about right and wrong, good and bad.
   37. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:33 AM (#3888068)
Anybody remember who wrote that great Maris piece that came out not long before he died?
It ends with Maris having a beer in a bar parking lot, unrecognized as any kind of sports hero, and saying basically "That's just the way I like it."
   38. Jim Wisinski Posted: July 29, 2011 at 10:45 AM (#3888112)
Only in the sense that both had problems with the media, but the reasons for those problems were entirely different in nature. Bonds had media problems before BALCO, but without BALCO they'd be but a fraction of what they are today.


I meant the treatment of their home run record. These days people want to tear down McGwire and Bonds and re-anoint Maris as the One Single-Season Home Run King to Rule Them All because he's the true champion getting passed unfairly. Yet 40 years ago Maris was being blasted as a false champion because of the extra 8 games and Ruth was held up as the aggrieved party who "really" held the record.

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