By Sweeny Murti
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The reaction from almost every fan I talked to Saturday morning after they heard that Giancarlo Stanton was about to become a Yankee was the same.
“All I’ve got to say is, WOW!”
I got versions of that from dozens of texts and tweets, but this particular quote came from a different kind of Yankees fan. It came from Roger Maris Jr.
“I knew if anyone could swing it, (the Yankees) could swing it,” Maris said from his home in Florida. “With the direction they were going I wasn’t sure, but man what a great day. It was amazing!”
Last September, Maris and his family were rooting for Stanton as he neared the old home run standard set by the elder Roger Maris in 1961. Roger Jr. was even planning to meet Stanton late in the season, but Hurricane Irma interfered with his travel plans.
“I never did (meet him) because of the hurricane, but I guess now it’s the best. I’ll get to meet him in pinstripes,” Maris told me Saturday.
Stanton finished this past year with 59 home runs for the Marlins. Aaron Judge hit 52 for the Yankees. And in 2018 they will get a chance to recreate the great home run chase of 1961 when Yankees teammates Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle chased after the legendary Babe Ruth’s record of 60. Maris set a new standard with 61 (a mark broken six times at the height of steroid madness between 1998 and 2001), while an injured Mantle fell short with 54.
The 115 home runs by Maris and Mantle in ’61 are the most ever by two teammates. Barry Bonds (73) and Rich Aurelia (37) combined for 110 in 2001. The closest two teammates have ever come to each hitting 50 home runs in a season since Maris and Mantle was when Alex Rodriguez hit 52 and Rafael Palmeiro hit 47 with the Rangers in 2001. But, again, all of this was done before PED testing.
Now a new set of Yankees teammates searching for a nickname as crisp and catchy as “The M&M Boys” will begin their own chase of a 57-year-old record.
“I think it’s just going to be an amazing year from the get-go, the Dynamic Duo,” Maris beamed.
David Mantle, the third of Mantle’s four sons, has not kept up with baseball lately, but was intrigued by the idea of a pair of Yankees rekindling the 1961 magic.
“Oh, that would be pretty cool,” Mantle said. “Records are, I guess, made to broken, but it would be sad to see Roger’s go. He’s one of Dad’s teammates. We’ve always just stayed loyal to the Maris family. If it’s going to happen I’d like it to be on the Yankees and keep the tradition going.”
Maris is still a huge fan of the game and the Yankees (“Putting Stanton on the Yankees is about as good as it gets”). And he is already thinking about this pair of giant sluggers doing something that will transcend the game.
“Those guys are going to put on such a show,” Maris said. “It’s going to be a must-see event night in and night out. Even if you’re not a baseball fan you’re going to want to see what these guys can do.
“Going back to when dad and Mickey were there and the show they put on, and (Mark) McGwire and (Sammy) Sosa and what they did (in 1998). I think we’re going to get a treat again to see this. The only difference is this is going to be like Dad and Mickey — it’s two teammates. These guys are just gargantuan guys and they hit the ball a long, long way. It’s going to be very, very exciting and fun to watch.”
Judge and Stanton would still be viewed as players who could go after the Maris record even if they were on different teams next season. But putting them in the same Yankees uniform will give them a friendly competition that could put them both in the history books.
“Oh, the competition is going to be amazing,” Maris said. “I don’t think there’s any better competition than friendly competition. They’re going to have the support of each other. If something goes bad, they’re going to be able to talk to each other. There are so many things you can do when you’re friends trying to attain the same common goal. It’s going to be a great thing for both of them.”
So many Yankees fans are giddy about the possibilities in 2018 and beyond. Maris, who was only a toddler when his dad hit 61 in ’61, is one of them.
“Obviously coming from my family, we love the long ball,” Maris said. “But this is going to be super, super special. You talk about the number 61 — if they aren’t knocking on the door again next year, they’re going to blow the door in.”
Please follow Sweeny on Twitter at @YankeesWFAN