The most infamous asterisk in sports history wasn’t an asterisk. It was a sketchy statistical differentiation. As Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle — as of Sept. 10, 1961, Mantle had 53 homers to Maris’ 56 — chased Babe Ruth’s record, the spoilsport commissioner Ford Frick decreed that, to be deemed the single-season home run champ, a player would have to better Ruth’s 60 in 154 games, which once constituted a season. By ‘61, baseball had adopted a 162-game schedule.
After the Yankees’ 154th game, Maris had 59. (Mantle, who sustained a hip injury, finished with 54.) No. 60 came in Game No. 158. No. 61 was struck off Tracy Stallard on the season’s final day. Big drama, right? Uh, no. Thanks in part to Frick’s party-pooping — FYI, the commish was a friend of Ruth’s family — attendance in Yankee Stadium, was 23,154, nearly 40K short of capacity.
The next year’s record book bore no asterisk. It read this way:
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