And so it began. On April 26, 1961, 50 years ago this very day, the chase for 61 home runs began for Roger Maris. It was the 10th game of the season for the Yankees against the Detroit Tigers in Motown. Maris's partner-in-crime, Mickey Mantle, already had five home runs to start the season coming into the game.
This was a game that certainly was not a pitcher's duel, even though Yankees ace Whitey Ford was on the mound that day. The Yankees certainly gave the Chairman of the Board run support, staking him to an early 5-0 lead in the first inning. In fact, Ford drove in two of those runs in the top of the first with a single to left, helping his own cause. Tony Kubek would extend the lead to 6-0 leading off the top of the second inning with a home run.
The Tigers mounted a comeback and by the time, Roger Maris stepped up to the plate in the top of the fifth inning, the lead was down to 7-5. The Yankees had already chased Tigers starter Don Mossi from the game and in to pitch was Paul Foytack. Maris and Foytack had seen quite a bit of each other before this at-bat. Maris had faced him 41 times and only had eight hits for a .195 average, but of those eight hits, three were home runs.
This was finally the moment. Maris, after not hitting a home run in the first nine games of the season blasted a solo shot over the right field wall, beginning one of the most thrilling summer chases in the history of baseball.
If you can believe it, this would be the last of the Yankees' scoring until late in the ballgame. The Tigers actually took an 11-8 lead going into the top of the eighth. Not to be outdone, Mantle stepped up to the plate against Jim Donahue and hit a two-run shot that knotted the game at 11 for his sixth home run of the season.
Entering the top of the 10th with the game still tied at 11, Mantle did it again. His two-run homer off of Hank Aguirre sealed a crazy 13-11 Yankees victory.
At days end, Mantle started the season off scorching with seven home runs in 10 games, while Maris was just beginning his pace. It certainly wasn't a chase yet, nor were they even keeping pace with Babe Ruth at this point, but after 10 games in 1927, Ruth had two home runs on the season.
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