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Jeff Kolpack, Published January 12 2010

Kolpack: Credibility of Maris record may help Hall chances

Dear Any Kid Who Plays Baseball,

You know that movie “61*”? The one you watched over and over and over again? Well, we need to have a chat about it.

In fact, we probably need to delete some scenes and write some new ones. That’s because, on Monday, what we suspected all along became official: the single-season home run record is more fraudulent than George Costanza’s “Human Fund.”

Mark McGwire fessed up. He’s the same guy in the movie who during the postgame news conference after his 62nd home run cried tears of endearment when talking about the bat Fargo’s Roger Maris used to break Babe Ruth’s record. Turns out he took performance-enhancing drugs, and they weren’t exactly Cocoa Pebbles.

In other words, he cheated, kind of like how you were leading off second base when you were not supposed to last summer.

Now to the age-old question that may not have a legitimate chance of happening until Your Generation grows up: Should Maris be in the Hall of Fame?

This is preaching to the hometown choir, but perhaps the Hall may yet reach Maris. McGwire’s outing should put more heat on Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa. Those three all have more home runs in a single year than Maris and all did it in a four-year period between 1998 and 2001.

We in the adult word call that suspicious.

It’s a balancing act, this Hall of Fame stuff.

On one side are the statistical buffs who point to Maris’ lack of HOF-worthy career numbers. On the other side is the emotional tug, saying the 61 home runs was such a spectacular feat and that, combined with his Gold Glove defense and two MVPs, is enough.

Baseball-reference.com lists 10 players with similar career numbers as Maris. Bob Allison, Jay Buhner, Tony Armas, Jesse Barfield, Matt Stairs, Danny Tartabull, Eric Davis, Pat Burrell, Dean Palmer and Hank Sauer are not exactly Hall-worthy.

So it’s up to Your Generation to sell the 61 in ’61 to the next generation of voters on the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee.

But back to McGwire. What should we do? Let’s give him a timeout. But he told the truth, finally, and eventually he’ll be able to come out of his room and down to the dinner table.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546 or jkolpack@forumcomm.com