Muscle Sport Magazine

Yankees Trade Roger Maris To Cardinals – TDI Baseball 1966


The New York Yankees have 27 World Series championships for a litany of reasons, one of them being having a shrewd front office that has made some one-sided trades. But every once in a while, it works out the other way and the results are not quite what was expected. Such was the case on this day in baseball in 1966 when the Bronx Bombers shipped Roger Maris to the St. Louis Cardinals for Charley Smith.

The two-time MVP had a successful, yet semi-turbulent tenure in the Big Apple, always playing in the shadow of not only teammate Mickey Mantle, but the specter of Yankees legend Babe Ruth, as well. The fans never fully accepted Maris and when both he and Mantle were chasing Ruth’s single-season home run record (60) in 1961, the sentiment was that if the illustrious record were to be broken, Mantle should be the one to do it. But he suffered an injury towards the end of the regular season and Maris went on to hit his 61st long ball on the last day of the regular season.

Even the league seemed to put a damper on the new record, with commissioner Ford Frick floated the idea that unless Maris broke the record in 154 games (the total during the regular season in Ruth’s era), there should be a notation/mark stating that it was done in more games, a la, the infamous ‘asterisk.’ And there also were two expansion teams added that season (the Los Angeles Angels and the ‘new’ Washington Senators), watering down the quality of pitching league-wide.

Either way, Maris not only broke the record, but also was named the American League MVP (his second consecutive honor) and helped the Yankees with the World Series. The outfielder went on to make his fourth consecutive and seventh overall All-Star appearance in 1962 and saved the World Series with a hustle and great throw in the ninth inning of Game 7.

Maris endured some injuries in 1963 and 1965, but had a productive 1964. He played through a broken hand throughout the majority of the 1966 campaign, an injury that was misdiagnosed by team physicians. The result was a .233 average with only 13 home runs and 43 RBI, making him expendable to Yankees general manager Lee McPhail, who dealt Maris to St. Louis for journeyman third baseman Charley Smith.

The Cardinals won the World Series in Maris’s first season there and he went on to have two pedestrian years there before retiring. Smith ended up taking over for Clete Boyer, another big name Yankee who was sent away that offseason. Filling the shoes of not one, but two stars appeared to effect Smith, who had his lowest productive season as a starter and also had a rough time in the field, committing 21 errors. He became a back-up and pinch hitter the next season and then traded to the San Francisco Giants, a light hitting second stringer who played a total of one game in the Bronx before he, too, was traded to the Chicago Cubs for shortstop Lee Elia, who never played for the big league club in New York.

Sadly, Maris succumbed to non-Hodgkin lymphoma at the age of 51 in 1985.

His home run record has been surpassed by three players – Mark McGwire (70) and Sammy Sosa (66) in 1998, and Barry Bonds (73) in 2001. McGwire hit 65 and Sosa 63 and 64 in subsequent seasons. The issue with all three players is their suspicion using performance-enhancing drugs, leaving Maris as the true leader in many baseball purists’s eyes.


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