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Roger Maris's 61* anniversary: Today's sluggers might dream of such a feat (video)

Half a century ago, Yankees outfielder Roger Maris slugged his historic home run on the last day of the season. The majors' big bashers of today are trying to hit equally significant homers.

By Ross AtkinStaff writer / October 1, 2011

New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (2) presents a bat used by Roger Maris to his sons Roger. Jr., Kevin, Randy and Richard (L to R) at a ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of Roger Maris' record setting 61st home run before the Yankees played the Boston Red Sox their MLB American League baseball game at Yankee Stadium in New York, September 24, 2011

Ray Stubblebine/Reuters

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On the night baseball’s regular season ended there was only one home run that anyone paid any attention to – Evan Longoria’s walk-off shot in the bottom of the 12th inning versus the Yankees that secured a wild-card playoff berth for the Tampa Bay Rays.

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It is destined to be one of the game’s most remembered home runs, even if not a record like the one that the Yankees’ Roger Maris hit 50 years ago, on Oct. 1, 1961, to topple Babe Ruth’s long-held record of 60 homers.

As baseball harks back to that day, when a half-empty Yankee Stadium wtinessed Maris’s 61st homer, it also continues to mentally linger over Longoria’s unmajestic, but incredibly timed and superdramatic line drive that barely cleared the fence in left field corner of Tropicana Field. It was the final dagger plunged into the heart of the Boston Red Sox, who went from having baseball’s best record to ultimately losing a nine-game advantage in September in the wild-card race to Tampa, thus completing a virtually unparalleled collapse.

This not only placed a large exclamation mark at the end of the regular season, it totally eclipsed what was already a pretty overlooked home run race.

For those of you who weren’t following closely (which probably is the vast majority of people), Toronto’s Jose Bautista won his second straight home run crown, even if less impressively than a year ago when he had 54 homers. This year he fell off to 43, while runner-up Curtis Granderson of the Yankees had a career high 41. No one cracked 40 in the National League, where the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp took slugging honors with 39, one more than Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder had.

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