Roger Maris was known far and wide by the late summer of 1961, but four years earlier, he was just a young player hoping to stick in the major leagues. Images of Maris’ first season with Cleveland are not plentiful but a new discovery adds one more to the list—and this one may be one of the most important photos of Maris ever taken.
Maris had made the Tribe’s roster that spring after a couple of strong minor league seasons. Cleveland opened on April 16, 1957, their only home game before the file date on the back of the Cleveland Press news photograph, which is the 19th. There is bunting in the background, which would seem to indicate it is indeed from Opening Day.
Cleveland’s afternoon games began at 2 p.m. and the opener against the Chicago White Sox went to 11 innings before the Sox prevailed 3-2. The game lasted three hours and 29 minutes and it’s not a stretch to say Maris may have been waiting in the on-deck circle with the Municipal Stadium lights on by late afternoon, trying to ward off the chill.
In either case, the photo remains in near perfect condition, with the stamp of photographer Bob Tomsic on the back, accompanying the date it was filed into the newspaper’s archive. There is a hand-written note, presumably from a photo editor, that serves as a caption.
Maris, by the way, would hit his first big league homer on the 18th, one day before the picture was filed away for possible later use. Eventually, he would be traded to Kansas City and then flipped to the Yankees, where he would make history in 1961 by breaking Babe Ruth’s single-season home run mark.
The Maris photo is one of over 300 images in RMY’s Holiday Auction, which is now underway.