Fifty years ago this summer, Yankees teammates Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle waged the greatest (non-juiced) tandem assault on the record book in baseball history. Maris, of course, established a new single-season home run mark with 61, topping Babe Ruth's 154-game accomplishment, while Mantle fell short with 54. To commemorate the golden anniversary of their race, Phil Pepe, a beat writer for the New York World-Telegram & Sun over the season's final two months, has penned 1961*: The Inside Story of the Maris-Mantle Home Run Chase.
This ground has been covered before. Ten years ago, Billy Crystal directed 61*, the movie about the fabled season. Several books have been written about the record-setting campaign, and numerous biographies on both Maris and Mantle have documented that summer. Just last year saw the release of Roger Maris: Baseball's Reluctant Hero, by Tom Clavin and Danny Peary, and The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood, by Jane Leavy.
Pepe had the advantage over those authors of having witnessed the 1961 season firsthand, but last year's biographies, particularly the Maris one, tell the story of the chase better. For my full review, see BaseballAmerica.com.