Appel: The 1961 expansion and the Roger Maris asterisk

From SABR member Marty Appel at The National Pastime Museum on July 26, 2017:

It’s the most famous asterisk that never was.

In the hall of fame for punctuation marks, it has its own wing.

In the annals of baseball history, it’s a one-word identification for Roger Maris and the 1961 season.

Here was the scene. It was the first year of expansion baseball. The American League added two new franchises (while moving Washington to Minnesota), putting the Los Angeles Angels and the “new” Washington Senators into the league, expanding the roster of teams from eight to 10, and adding eight games to the schedule, going from 154 to 162. The eight-team format had not budged since the league was born in 1901.

There was, from the start, speculation that records could be threatened. It wasn’t only the additional eight games, it was that there would now be 50 new players in the league who would otherwise have been in the minors. That would inevitably diminish the caliber of play. Even the New York Times, focusing on the game’s most heralded record, did a preseason story headlined, “61 Homers in ’61?”

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Originally published: July 27, 2017. Last Updated: July 27, 2017.