The Pinstripe Alley Top Moments Tournament moves into the 1960-1979 period bracket. Vote for the moment that deserves to move on in the poll below.
(#1) Maris sets single-season home run record
One of the greatest records in sports, not just in baseball, is the single-season home run record. For 34 years, this incredible feat was held by Babe Ruth, as the Sultan of Swat swatted 60 home runs in 1927. The record he had broke that year was previously his own when he hit 59 in 1921. Fast forward to October 1, 1961 on an afternoon in the Bronx against the Boston Red Sox. With the game scoreless in the bottom of the fourth, Roger Maris stepped up to the plate and blasted a Tracy Stallard pitch into the right field stands to give the slugger his 61st, and record-breaking, home run of the season.
Maris' record-breaking home run, in fact, came on the final game of the season. The 1961 season also featured an intense home run race between Maris and his teammate, Mickey Mantle, who ended up hitting 54 home runs that season himself. Overall, Maris finished the season with a .269/.372/.620 batting line with a Major-League-leading 141 RBI and 132 runs scored to go along with those 61 homers. Maris' incredible '61 campaign also netted him his second consecutive Most Valuable Player award by edging out his teammate, Mickey Mantle, by just three points for the award.
For some, Roger Maris' 61 home runs is still considered to be the "true and clean single-season home run record" given the Steroid Era which produced monster single-season home run numbers from Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and eventually Barry Bonds. For the record, I, personally, don't consider this to be the case, but that's a completely different topic for another day.
(#8) Mantle calls his shot to win Game 3 of the '64 World Series
Runs were hard to come by during Game 3 of the 1964 World Series, as Cardinals' left-hander Curt Simmons clashed against Yankees' right-hander Jim Bouton. The two essentially matched each other pitch-for-pitch as Bouton tossed nine innings of one-run ball on six hits, three walks, and two strikeouts. The opposing starter, Simmons, tossed eight innings of one-run ball while punching out a pair and allowing four hits and three walks. The run Simmons allowed came on a Clete Boyer double which drove home Elston Howard from second with two down in the home second.
The Yankees held their 1-0 lead in the fifth until Simmons helped his own cause by singling his catcher, Tim McCarver, home from first. The run was unearned, however, as Mickey Mantle, who was dealing with pain in his right knee, allowed McCarver's single to go through his legs, thus allowing the latter to advance to second earlier in the inning. The then 32-year-old Mantle would later have a shot to redeem himself.
After tossing eight strong innings, St. Louis decided to pull their starter in favor of reliever Barney Schultz for the bottom of the ninth. With the game still knotted at one, Mantle stepped up to the dish to lead off the frame and blasted a Schultz splitter into the right field upper deck at Yankee Stadium to give the Yankees a 2-1 Game 3 win and a 2-1 series lead. Mantle, in fact, called his shot prior to the game-winning dinger. When the Cardinals had pulled their pitcher, Mantle told Elston Howard, who was on deck, that he would win the game with a home run. He knew Schultz liked to throw a get-me-over splitter to get ahead on the count, and he sat on that pitch and ended up crushing it to win the game.
The Yankees, unfortunately, would go on to lose three of the final four games of the series to drop the 1964 World Series in seven games to the Cardinals. Despite that, Mantle's "called shot" was certainly a pretty big highlight in an exciting Fall Classic.
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