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PEDs push Maris back into the spotlight ...

In this second installment about the Baseball Reliquary announcement of three 2009 inductees for the Shrine of the Eternals, I wanted to talk about two of the inductees: Jim Eisenreich and Roger Maris. The third, Steve Dalkowski, I don’t know much about, beyond his being the inspiration for the Tim Robbins character Nuke LaLoosh in the movie Bull Durham. Oh, yeah, and the reported 110 mph fastball lore.

But my connection to Roger Maris is more visceral and substantive, since I rooted for him even back into the 1960s when it was more conventional to link oneself to either Roger or Mickey, with the vast majority leaning to the latter. I opted for both, and the biggest reason for connecting to Maris was the feeling that Maris was a major league underdog.
(Maris artwork by Arthur K. Miller;

As the Reliquary press release notes, Maris got posthumously shoved back into the spotlight 11 years ago when Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire electrified the baseball word with their epic pursuit of his 37-year-old single-season home run record. It is now a good deal more than historical footnote that the fall of his bittersweet home run crown may have been tainted by the very same PED’s that have bedeviled dozens of players and the game itself for several years since the first revelations.

For me, the home run battle 11 years ago was pretty cool precisely because it provided a renewed and re-energized appreciation of Maris, just as the steroid revelations of the last few years have probably left millions of fans feeling like the record may still belong to Roger rather than where it technically resides.

That can only give great comfort to a considerable legion of Maris fans who still clamor to have their guy enshrined in that other Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Ironically, unless MLB and the good burghers of Cooperstown figure out a way to reconcile the steroid decade and the havoc in has created with the MLB record book, having a shadow Hall of Fame seems like something we’re going to have to get used to – and least for awhile.

Jim Eisenreich shall be the topic du jour tomorrow.


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