On October 1, 1961, in New York's final game of the regular season, Yankees slugger Roger Maris hits his 61st home run, becoming the first player in Major League Baseball to hit more than 60 in a season. He tops former Yankees great Babe Ruth, who hit 60 home runs in 1927.
After hitting 54 homers, New York's Mickey Mantle suffered a hip in September, leaving Maris to chase the record by himself.
Maris homered on his second at-bat in the 1-0 win against the Boston Red Sox. He let two pitches from Boston rookie Tracy Stallard go—one high and outside, one low and inside—before swinging hard at a waist-high fastball. “An ear-splitting roar went up,” the New York Times reported, as “the crowd sensed that this was it.”
Sal Durante, a 19-year-old Brooklyn truck driver, caught the home run ball about 10 rows back in the right-field stands. Maris trotted around the bases, stopping to shake hands with a young boy who’d managed to wriggle past security and onto the field.
On July 17, 1961, MLB commissioner Ford Frick announced at a news conference that record keepers should have two separate categories for a season home run record—one for Ruth's, set during a 154-game season, and one for any record set in a 162-game season. For the 1961 season, the American League expanded its schedule from 154 to 162 games after it went from eight to 10 teams.
In 1991, an MLB committee on historical accuracy voted to remove the distinction and award the record fully to Maris, who died of cancer in 1985.
In 1998, Mark McGwire (70) of the St. Louis Cardinals and Sammy Sosa (66) of the Chicago Cubs topped Maris’ 61. Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants topped McGwire's season mark with 73 home run in 2001. Each was dogged by allegations of performance-enhancing drug use.