On this date in 1961, Yankees outfielder Roger Maris hit his 61st home run of the season, breaking Babe Ruth's 34-year-old single-season record. The home run came on the final day of the regular season.
Here's video of the record breaking blast, which came against Red Sox righty Tracy Stallard at Yankee Stadium:
For much of that summer Maris and teammate Mickey Mantle were locked in a race to see who would break Ruth's record first. Maris pulled away in September and Mantle finished the season with 54 home runs.
Maris' record home-run total has since been eclipsed several times -- Barry Bonds (73), Mark McGwire (65, 70), and Sammy Sosa (63, 64, 66) have all since bested 61 home runs in a season -- and like those recent record-breakers, Maris' 61 homers came with some controversy.
Back when Ruth hit his then-record 60 home runs in 1927, there were only 154 games in a season. Maris hit his 61 home runs in a 162-game system and the milestone homer came in his 161st game played. He was able to play seven more games than Ruth to set the record.
Maris hit only 58 homers in the Yankees' first 154 games that season, and yes, many folks wanted to put an asterisk next to his home run total in the record books. They didn't think it was fair he had the advantage of eight extra games to break the record.
Needless to say, no asterisk was applied. MLB doesn't do that. Many folks still consider Maris the true home run king given the performance-enhancing drug clouds surrounding the era in which Bonds, McGwire, and Sosa played. And yes, back in the day many still considered Ruth the true home run king because Maris played 161 games.
Either way, Maris remains the American League's all-time single-season home run leader with those 61 homers in 1961. The most home runs by an AL player since Maris broke Ruth's record is 57 by Alex Rodriguez with the 2002 Rangers.