Like the Arthurian years at Camelot, the Sixties constituted a breakthrough, a fleeting moment of glory, a time when a significant little chunk of humanity briefly realized its moral potential and flirted with its neurological destiny, a collective spiritual awakening that flared brilliantly until the barbaric and mediocre impulses of the species drew tight once more the curtains of darkness.
From the Author
To be accurate, there never was an asterisk on Roger Maris’ 1961 home run record that surpassed Babe Ruth’s mark that stood for thirty-four years. The notion of an asterisk was a myth created by the country’s sportswriters looking for the simplest explanation of then baseball commissioner Ford Frick’s mid-season ruling that Ruth’s record would have to be broken in the same number of games, 154, that existed in the Babe’s season in 1927.
Never mind that those same sportswriters were tripping over themselves in the frenzied reporting that continued on Roger’s chase of the record even after that season’s game 154 came and went. Baseball’s record books, what there was of them, never placed anything remotely resembling an asterisk on what Maris ultimately accomplished in 162 games. The asterisk, though, became part of the game’s mythology, unfortunately misleading many to look upon Roger Maris as some kind of second-class home-run record holder. He was not.
In the years after 1961, that asterisk — again, an asterisk that never existed — haunted Maris and his legacy. When Maris died, the invisible asterisk was a centerpiece of his story and how his legacy was weighed and measured. The fact of the matter is that Ruth and Maris were recognized separately. But with no asterisk anywhere. Just acknowledgment by the Elias Sports Bureau, official record keeper for Major League Baseball, of the Babe as the home run record holder for the 154-game season and Roger as the home run record-holder for the 162-game season. That designation remained in place for three decades. Then in 1991, nearing the 30th anniversary of Maris’ 61-homer season, baseball commissioner Fay Vincent declared that Roger deserved to be recognized as the single season home run king irrespective of the number of games in a season.
From the Inside Flap
Presidential historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. once told a Harvard symposium on the Age of John F. Kennedy that the early 1960s in America were possibly defined as much by Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle as they were by President Kennedy himself… which is high praise indeed by a member of Kennedy’s inner circle.
Maris & Mantle: Two Yankees, Immortality and the Age of Camelot is a book not only about the friendship of the two Yankee icons but also of how they were part of an age when the country saw their heroics as more proof that there were no Earthly limits and that nothing seemed beyond the reach of American power, prestige and ability. It was an innocence, which would soon have the pride and over-confidence in that sentiment exposed.
By the mid-1960s, Kennedy had been assassinated, the Yankee dynasty was dead, Mickey Mantle was over the hill, and Roger Maris… the Yankee who had broken Babe Ruth’s 34-year-old single season home run record… was no longer even playing in New York… And by the end of the decade, Americans were being forced to accept limits to U.S. power and to acknowledge that their reach had exceeded their grasp.
From the Back Cover
About the Author
TONY CASTRO is a Harvard and Baylor University-educated historian, Napoleonic and Hemingway scholar and the best-selling author of the literary biography Looking for Hemingway and the landmark civil rights history Chicano Power, which Publishers Weekly acclaimed as “brilliant… a valuable contribution to the understanding of our time.”
His eighth book, Maris & Mantle: Two Yankees, Baseball Immortality, and the Age of Camelot, will be released on September 28 by Triumph Books. He is currently working on a biography of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Mr. Castro’s latest book, Mantle: The Best There Ever Was (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019) was the finale of his Mickey Mantle Trilogy that includes Mickey Mantle: America’s Prodigal Son (2002) and DiMag & Mick: Sibling Rivals, Yankee Blood Brothers (2016). The New York Times hailed Mickey Mantle: America’s Prodigal Son as the the definitive biography of the baseball icon.