I’m sorry, Roger

My most prized complete set is the 1963 Topps. Even with the ugly Pete Rose rookie and the equally unattractive 1962 American League E.R.A. Leaders with the brim of Whitey Ford’s card missing, I still love it.

Yet my set is a constant reminder of how stupid a 14-year-old can be.

I collected the ’63s from wax packs bought back then mostly at the local Peoples Drug Store in suburban Washington, D.C. That explains why I had the misfortune to be a fan of the Washington Senators. It’s where I grew up. Given how bad the expansion team was (those Nats lost 106 games that season, for instance) and how heart-broken I had been when the original Senators moved to Minnesota, it’s a wonder I remained a fan.

To make matters worse, my best friend John was a Yankees fan, or more precisely a rabid fan of a guy named Mantle. Of course, like just about every serious fan outside metropolitan NYC, I hated the Yankees, or more precisely, since 1961, a guy named Maris. How sad to follow the crowd and not even know it.

My hatred of Roger Maris was because – no surprise – he had broken Babe Ruth’s home run record. I knew enough about baseball to know that Maris wasn’t anywhere near the Babe as a player, nor was he even the equal of Mantle.  

Members of this SABR committee who have seen Billy Crystal’s film 61* (I loved Barry Pepper’s portrayal of Maris) surely are aware of the venom directed at poor Roger, how his hair fell out and the pressure he was under. Heck, it wasn’t his fault Yankee Stadium had a short right-field porch or that Mickey got hurt. Or that Ford Frick wanted that darn asterisk on the home run record. Maris was just doing his job.

Still, one day during the season, when I got the #120 Topps card of Maris, I took a needle and punched a bunch of holes in it. For some reason, however, I kept the card. Perhaps in my subconscious, a voice was telling me what a mistake I was making, surely not because the card might someday become valuable – it has, but not ridiculously so – but because  I was being really stupid, disliking someone I didn’t even know so much as to treat his card as if it were a voodoo doll.

A couple of years later, John and I got Mantle’s autograph as he got off the Yankees’ team bus outside of D.C. Stadium. We got Ford, Jim Bouton and Elston Howard, too. Maris walked by us unimpeded.

Fast forward to the early 1990s, when my wife and I were cleaning out the attic, I came across a bunch of 1963 Topps that I had forgotten I had saved. The discovery, which got me back into card collecting, include the defaced Maris card, reminding me what I fool I had been.

I knew I deserved it.

Author: Andrew C. Sharp

I'm a retired daily newspaper journalist and life-long baseball fan. I write biographers of players when I can for SABR's Bio Project and game stories for the Games Project. Please feel free to offer suggestions for blog post by emailing me at senators24@yahoo.com.

12 thoughts on “I’m sorry, Roger”

  1. Wow, so much to unpack here. Have you counted the stab marks in that Maris? Yikes. I hope you can forgive Young You. He didn’t know how he would make you feel years later when you found that card. (You have company. I’m still in a knot over Young Me defiling Peter King’s windbreaker with a fat black magic marker in catechism class.) I love the ’63 set’s floating heads and the overall front of card design. It has that nice little photo like a Facebook profile photo, something Topps repeated in 1983. A clean, beautiful design.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The 2003 Topps set also has that profile photo, though it’s a little smaller and is bordered by a baseball diamond rather than a circle. I think 2003 Topps is underrated, though I’m guessing that’s in part due to the blue borders (though I like those) and in part due to it being a more recent set.

      Not sure if it is coincidence that those three (1963, 1983, and 2003) have come 20 years apart.

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  2. Your penance is to take a trip to Fargo, ND, to visit the Roger Maris Museum. It’s in a shopping mall, but it’s well done and pays the homage that Mr. Maris deserves.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a pleasure to read. Thanks for sharing. I had plenty of similar incidents in my youth, including being far too critical of Larry Parrish in 1980 and ’81 (he was the Expos’ whipping boy those years). I’m sorry, LP!

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  4. As someone who grew up in Baltimore in the 60s, the ERA leader card brought to mind that 3 of those on it all had Oriole connections in that decade but never played on the team together: Chance was in the Oriole farm system before it left him unprotected in the expansion draft; Roberts was pitching for them; and Fisher would join them in 1966 after Roberts had left.

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  5. Chance was drafted by the new Senators as the 48th pick in the expansion draft, but they swapped that pick to the Angels. Ugh.

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