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Yankees History: A look at some of Roger Maris’ best performances from 1961

With Maris on the mind, let’s look back at some notable efforts from his record-breaking ‘61.

Chicago White Sox v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Roger Maris has been on the mind of Yankees’ fans a lot this season. With Aaron Judge making a run at and eclipsing Maris’ AL record 61 home run season of 1961, his name has been brought up a lot. From family members attending games as Judge was closing in on the record, to the various TV networks showing highlights of Maris’ milestone homers, he’s never been far from view during September Yankees’ games.

The reason all that’s happened has been Judge’s season, which has been a memorable one. Even beyond the home runs, there’s probably a bunch of performances from this year that you could recall.

While there are plenty of people who could do the same with Maris’ 1961, that season was 61 years ago now. While he’s still on our minds, let’s look back at some of Maris’ best and most impressive games from his record-breaking year.

In terms of home runs in a single game, Maris had seven two-homer games over the course of the ‘61 season. One of them came on July 25th, which also featured him driving in five runs, which was also his high for the season in that stat. However, his most important two-homer game probably came on August 16th. That day, he went deep twice and drove home four of the Yankees’ five runs. Those runs kept the Yankees in the game, and allowed them to eventually win 5-4 on a Bob Cerv walk-off hit by pitch.

Speaking of importance, his highest Win Probability Added game came against the Senators on July 1st. After going 2-for-4 in his few couple at-bats, scoring one run, Maris stepped to the plate with the Yankees down 6-5 in the bottom of the ninth. With Tony Kubek on first after a single, Maris then homered, giving the Yankees a 7-6 win. In terms of WPA, the homer added 67%, after the Yankees had been down to just a 33% chance of winning before the homer. In total Maris’ WPA for the game was +0.735 or 73.5%.

Another quite important moment from him came in Game 3 of that year’s World Series. With the series tied at one and the game tied at two, Maris led off the top of the ninth for the Yankees. His home run put the Yankees ahead, and allowed them to take a lead in the series. His play that day was worth 10.26% in Championship Win Probability Added. Maris actually struggled in the World Series otherwise, but according to cWPA, that home run was the most important play of the 1961 season.

While his home run total was obviously the most notable part of Maris’ season, he was also just good in general. His best multi-hit game in total was arguably on June 22nd against his former team, the Athletics. He only went deep once, but in total went 4-for-5, also hitting two doubles and driving home four runs.

Of course, any list of notable games from Maris’ ‘61 season has to include the actual game where he broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record. On October 1st, Maris broke both a 0-0 tie and the record with a famous fourth inning homer.

On top of the historical-ness of the homer, it also ended up being the only run of the game. The Yankees had already locked up the AL, so while it wasn’t of massive importance to get the win, it’s still a bit funny that that home run had a notable impact in a couple different ways.

Roger Maris hit 61 home runs and won AL MVP in 1961. So yeah, you can go through dozens of other box scores and find some impressive or notable performances. However in honor of Judge’s season and Maris’ back decades ago, we hope you enjoyed a look at some of them.