Game 57

June 14th, 1958 – Roger Maris’ Last Home Run as an Indian

Every baseball fan knows the name Roger Maris as the first to break Babe Ruth’s mark of 60 home runs in a season. Few know that he began his career with the Indians and developed that prolific power swing in the Tribe’s farm system.

While playing for the Three-I League’s Keokuk Kernals in 1954, manager Jo Jo White taught Maris to pull the ball. This transformed the talented prospect from a contact hitter into the power hitter that is remembered from his days in the MLB.

Maris helped the Indianapolis Indians win a minor-league championship in 1956 and then started the season in Cleveland in 1957. In his two years with the Indians, he slugged 23 home runs (14 in 1957 and 9 in 1958).

On June 14th, the Indians were in Washington to face the Senators (the ones that became the Twins) in Griffith Stadium. Maris was hitting in the leadoff spot. He started the game by taking Senators starter Hal Griggs deep with a solo home run. The Indians manufactured two more runs in the inning and were out to an early 3-0 lead.

They extended that lead in the top of the third via a Preston Ward home run, a wild pitch that scored Mickey Vernon from third, and Maris drawing a walk with the bases loaded.

The Senators got on the board with an RBI single in the bottom of the 5th, but could not sustain the rally.

Rocky Colavito lead off the 6th with another home run, and the Indians eventually scored four in the frame.

McLish was fading a bit when he gave up a solo home run in the bottom of the 6th to Neil Chrisley. Herb Score came in to pitch in the bottom of the 7th and recorded a nine-out save. The leadoff home run was Maris’ last as an Indian.

After the game, and under the wire of the June 15th deadline GM Frank “Trader” Lane made one of his signature moves. Lane dealt Preston Ward, pitcher Dick Tomanek, and Maris for Woodie Held and Vic Power. Lane had previously attempted to trade Maris for Yankees second-basemen Bobby Richardson. He was later quoted, ““Before I let the Athletics have him, I made sure they wouldn’t turn around and trade him to the Yankees. They assured me they would keep him themselves.”

After the 1958 season, the A’s did indeed send Maris to the Yankees and eventually into the record books.

Baseball Reference Box Score


Game 14

May 4, 1966 – Wagner and Brown Collide on Maris Pop Fly

The Indians started the 1966 campaign red hot, coming into New York for a mid-week series with an 11-1 record. With Sam McDowell, Sonny Siebert, and Luis Tiant in the rotation and hitters like Rocky Colavito, Leon Wagner, and Fred Whitfield, the 1966 Indians were one of the more promising teams since the mid-50s. Luis Tiant threw a four-hit shutout on against the Yankees Tuesday night, setting up a Wednesday evening showdown in the Bronx.

Leon Wagner was one of baseball’s most endearing characters in the 1960s. The muscular, always affable Wagner was the first star of the expansion California Angels. After two All-Star performances some disputes with management, “Big Daddy Wags” was traded to the Indians in 1964.

Both Sonny Siebert and Mel Stottlemyre came out firing. The Tribe recorded only one hit through the first three innings. Likewise, Siebert retired the first eleven Yankees in order.

With two outs in the fourth, Roger Maris popped a fly into short left field. Shortstop Larry Brown raced into the outfield, as Leon Wagner charged in from left field. There was a spectacular head-on collision in left field. Both players lay motionless near the left field foul line for several minutes. Some sources indicate that Brown swallowed his tongue and nearly died in Yankee Stadium. Brown credited trainer Wally Bock with saving his life and carrying him off the field.

Wagner had a concussion and a broken nose, but returned to the field only a few days later. Brown fared far worse. He suffered multiple skull fractures, a broken nose, and broken eye sockets.

“I’ve played college football, and I’ve seen split lips, smashed noses, cut faces, and earlobes torn off. But this was the worst I’ve ever seen.”

Indians third baseman Max Alvis

Brown spent 18 days in the hospital in New York, and did not return to the field for six weeks. He lost 10 pounds while in the hospital, and was out of condition when he returned. His batting average dropped 24 points from the .253 he posted in 1965.

Dick Howser replaced Brown at short and Chuck Hinton replaced Wagner in left field. Siebert and Stottlemeyer continued their pitching duel until Sonny Siebert helped out his own cause, leading off the top of the 8th with a bunt single. Vic Davalillo grounded to short and Siebert was thrown out at second. Davalillo then stole second. Chuck Hinton hit one back at Stottlemyre on the mound. Stottlemyre’s throw to first missed the mark, and Davalillo was able to score on the error.

In the bottom of the 8th, the Yankees would manufacture one run when Lou Clinton hit an RBI single pinch-hitting for Stottlemyre.

In the top of the 9th, Steve Hamilton replaced Stottlemyre on the mound and gave up a leadoff home run to Indians first baseman Fred Whitfield. Hamilton would be pulled in favor of reliever Pedro Ramos in short order, but the damage was done.

Siebert would go on to record the complete game win, and moved the Indians to 13-1 for the season.

1964 turned out to be Wagner’s most productive year with the Tribe. He totalled 100 RBI with 31 home runs, and 14 stolen bases. As productive as he was on offense, Wagner was sometimes comically bad in left field. When asked why he caught foul balls with only his glove hand he once quipped, “I’ve found that I field better if I catch the ball with only one hand. When you use two hands, the other one just gets in the way.”