Roger Maris Museum.

Sultan of Swat - Roger Maris

Field review by the editors.

Fargo, North Dakota

Roger Maris was an outfielder for the New York Yankees. In 1961 he became "Baseball's Single-Season Home Run King," the only player in the major leagues to that time to ever hit 61 home runs in a season -- one more than Babe Ruth, who hit 60 in 1927. This would seem to be a worthy and clear-cut claim to fame, except that Ruth hit his 60 in a 154-game season, while Maris hit his 61 in a 162-game season. And Babe Ruth went on to hit more home runs, a lot more. Roger did not. His power stroke vanished, he was traded to St. Louis, and six years after his record-setting season he was out of baseball.

Fargo loved Roger nonetheless. In 1984 a delegation from its American Legion asked the Single-Season Home Run King if he would agree to donate his memorabilia to a local museum. Roger agreed, but -- perhaps familiar with the hundreds of obscure Pioneer Heritage museums that dot North Dakota -- he demanded that his museum be where a large number of people could see it. The American Legion put their heads together and came up with a practical idea. They put Roger's museum in a mall.

The West Acres World Shopping Center is the biggest in Fargo and the largest, according to its promotional literature, between Minneapolis and the Pacific Ocean. The Roger Maris Museum has a perpetual lease in it, with displays that try very hard to show Roger as something more than the Single-Season Home Run King. One exhibit notes that he was "a complete athlete" and calls attention to his 39 homers and Gold Glove award in 1960. His "Sultan of Swat" crowns from 1960 and 1961 are highlights, as are his 60th (but not his 61st) home run baseball and his picture on the Wheaties 60th (but not its 61st) anniversary box. Despite its efforts, the museum's abundance of awards from 1961 only makes the absence of those from other years more apparent.

Perhaps befitting a celebrity whose fame is based on a loosely-defined term, the Roger Maris Museum is not really a museum. It's an oversized high school trophy case, 72 feet long and two feet deep, pressed against the wall between a beauty salon and an herb store. Poor Roger, fresh-scrubbed steak-eater that he was, is probably spinning like a knuckleball in his grave.

Maris died of cancer less than 18 months after the museum opened (he was 51) and was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery, one of a row of tiny burial grounds lining the south side of Fargo's 32nd Avenue North. Holy Cross is the last in line, under the landing path of Hector Airport's runway. His tombstone is diamond-shaped (the way a baseball infield would look when viewed by a blimp or an angel), and jet black.

RoadsideAmerica.com Team Field Report

Sultan of Swat - Roger Maris

West Acres Mall

Address:
3902 13th Ave. South, Fargo, ND
Directions:
West side of town, just west of I-29 exit 64, in the West Acres Mall.
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Roger Maris's Grave

Holy Cross Cemetery

Address:
1502 32nd Ave. N, Fargo, ND
Directions:
Take Broadway north to the edge of town, then turn left onto 32nd Ave. North. At the far end, in Holy Cross Cemetery, adjacent to Hector Airport's runway. The tombstone resembles a large black baseball diamond.
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Nearby Offbeat Places

Space Aliens Grill & BarSpace Aliens Grill & Bar, Fargo, ND - < 1 mi.
Fargo Walk Of FameFargo Walk Of Fame, Fargo, ND - < 1 mi.
Woodchipper from the Movie FargoWoodchipper from the Movie Fargo, Fargo, ND - < 1 mi.
In the region:
World's 2nd Tallest Manmade Structure, Blanchard, ND - 39 mi.

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May 22, 2019

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