Memories of Maris and Mantle

Author Andy Strasberg's fondest childhood memories surround the iconic home run chase between Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle as they took on Babe Ruth's single season home run record.

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Sports

June 15, 2021 - 9:17 AM

Andy Strasberg weaves personal experiences as a 13-year-old with "The Year of the Home Run" in his book "My 1961." Photo by Kirk Kenney / San Diego Union-Tribune / TNS
Roger Maris in 1960

SAN DIEGO — While growing up in New York’s northern suburbs in the late 1950s, all of Andy Strasberg’s friends, “without exception,” were baseball fans.

And their favorite player was Yankees center fielder Mickey Mantle.

Which meant, of course, that Strasberg had to find someone else.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Strasberg says. “He was a great player — but I didn’t want to be like everyone else who idolized him.”

Adds Strasberg: “I’m not good when it comes to sharing food, toys or baseball idols with other kids. Ever since I was 9 years old back in 1957, I had been searching for a player I could call my own.”

Strasberg found that player in Roger Maris, who was traded to the Yankees before the 1960 season.

A year later, the right fielder broke Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record by hitting 61 in a 1961 season that featured a home run race with teammate Mantle.

It coincided with what Strasberg calls “my greatest year of growing up.”

Strasberg turned 13 that summer. Looking back six decades later, he wanted to examine more closely that transition from childhood to adolescence.

His obsession with baseball blossomed that year, as did observations of the outside world that included the Cold War, the Space Race and racial segregation.

The product of that effort is “My 1961,” a book published last month that is part journal, part memoir and part scrapbook.

It chronicles “The Year of the Home Run,” as many other books have done. This one is different because the story is shared through the eyes of the 13-year-old, including what went on in his day-to-day life while the M&M Boys chased one of baseball’s most cherished records.

“It was time travel,” Strasberg said. “I needed to go back and take a look at all the things that were the stepping stones, if you will, of my life, which provided me 40 years of working in major league baseball. … I’ve never taken that for granted.”

Strasberg spent 22 years as a Padres executive in marketing, then another 18 years representing players and serving as well as a consultant for MLB teams and the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

In 2001, he was a consultant for Billy Crystal’s film “61*,” sharing insight gleaned as Maris’ most ardent fan.

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