Jeff Kolpack, Published June 27 2009
‘61*’ event lets family relive RogerThree of the four boys of Roger and Pat Maris belted their way around Rose Creek Golf Course on Friday. Asked during a break how many grandchildren there are of Roger Maris, they had to stop and count.
The total: 15 grandkids and three great grandkids. With the exception of Steve Maris, the oldest son of daughter Susan, the rest have virtually no memory of Roger when he was alive.
The owner of 61 in ’61 died in 1985, which makes tonight’s Fargo Theatre showing of “61*” hosted by Bob Costas and Billy Crystal all the more inviting.
“It’s great for them to relive that,” Pat Maris said of her grandchildren. “They’ll be thrilled.”
The movie about grandpa and Mickey Mantle created by Crystal in 2001 tells the story of the 1961 New York Yankees and the pursuit of Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record.
It’s the main reason why in Fargo you see the Roger Maris Museum at West Acres Mall, Roger Maris Drive around Lindenwood Park in south Fargo and Roger Maris Gardens at Jack Williams Stadium. The entire celebrity golf tournament weekend raises money for the Roger Maris Cancer Center.
“A lot of young people in their 30s and 40s knew of him but didn’t know him,” said Dick Savageau, who graduated with Maris at Fargo Shanley. “What this does is it keeps it going for them.”
There are plenty of family angles to go around all weekend. Take Crystal, for example.
The script to the movie was finished when he went in search of an actress to play Pat Maris.
He said it just felt right to him that his daughter, Jennifer, was perfect for the part.
“But we just couldn’t give her the part,” he said. “We had to put her through the process.”
She auditioned as Jennifer Foley, her married name, and actor Barry Pepper, who played the part of Roger Maris, didn’t know she was Billy’s daughter during the audition.
“They read several scenes together and when she left, she was so much better than everybody else with him,” Billy Crystal said.
The casting director said the same thing. And tonight, Jennifer Foley Crystal will be on stage at the Fargo Theatre.
Billy Crystal asked about the Fargo Theatre in a phone interview earlier this week. He was told it was a historical landmark in Fargo.
“So they probably went on a date there,” he said, of Roger and Pat Maris.
Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the WDAY Golf Show, 10 a.m. to noon on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.
Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found