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Their stats are undeniable, but their character has called into question their eligibility for the ultimate honor the baseball community can bestow: a place in Cooperstown. Barry Bonds, Pete Rose, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, even Shoeless Joe Jackson—all have their defenders and their detractors.

But the person who should enter before any one of the above—should it prove possible to separate out drug use or criminal activity from the totality of a career on the field—is Roger Maris.

Some would say that, on merit and stats alone, Maris doesn’t quite cut it . That’s debatable. But here is a guy who, before steroids and HgH, did what no one could do for 34 years—break Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record for a team whose fans had already chosen a favorite . Among Maris’ rewards was the ignominy of the virtual asterisk after that famous “61.”

Then Maris’ family had to watch McGwire shatter that record—only to find out later that the St. Louis first baseman had done so juiced.

The threat of that asterisk after “61” seems ludicrous now in comparison with the asterisk contemplated for, say, Bonds’ record. Moreover I think it would send just the right signal to open the doors of the Hall of Fame to a guy who lost his hair from the stress of competition—and not from liver damage.



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