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.