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Kevin Schnepf, Published January 12 2010

USA Today writer says McGwire admission could bolster Maris' Hall chances

Longtime baseball writer Mel Antonen said he thinks Mark McGwire’s admission to steroid use may help get Fargo’s Roger Maris into the Hall of Fame.

In 1998, McGwire broke Maris’ single-season home run record of 61 – a record that stood for 37 years. Since then, Maris’ 1961 record has been surpassed by Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa – players also linked to steroid use.

“Maris’ record took a beating,” said Antonen, a baseball writer for the USA Today newspaper for the last 22 years. “He was honest and he deserves to be remembered for what he did.”

Maris would have to be nominated by the Veterans Committee – which provides an additional opportunity for Hall of Fame election to players passed over in initial Hall of Fame balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Already voted down by the Veterans Committee, which now has more than 80 members, Maris would need to receive 75 percent of the vote in the next election scheduled for 2011.

“Some of the members of the Veterans Committee may give him some understanding and sympathy,” Antonen said. “He has been the forgotten man in all of this.”

Richard Savageau of Fargo, a Maris friend and fellow Fargo Shanley High School graduate in 1952, said he was shocked when he heard Monday’s news of McGwire’s admission. But he admitted he suspected something was up after talking to Maris’ widow, Pat, on the phone Monday morning – hours before the admission was announced.

“She told me McGwire’s manager had left her a message wanting to talk to her,” Savageau said. “I figured something was up. Still, I was kind of shocked to hear it.”

According to Savageau, McGwire has written more than $12,000 worth of checks during the last several years to help the annual Roger Maris Celebrity golf tournament held in Fargo.

“We never really had any hard feelings about all of this,” Savageau said of McGwire’s steroid use. “It does say he’s being honest about it now. And it does say maybe it’s another opportunity to get Roger into the Hall of Fame.”

Walt Seeba of Fargo, Pat Maris’ brother-in-law, agrees.

“Maybe now, there is a certain amount of justice that may arise from this,” Seeba said.

Savageau said Pat Maris did not want to answer any questions regarding McGwire’s announcement. One of Maris’ sons, Randy, did not return phone calls made Monday.

“I do know Pat would be happy about this,” Seeba said.

Orville Kelly of Fargo, another Maris friend and 1953 Shanley graduate, said he has nothing bad to say about McGwire. Does the announcement give Maris another chance at the Hall of Fame?

“I would like to say yes,” Kelly said. “But I really don’t think it will. It’s water over the dam. It’s unfortunate. At least we all know Roger is in our Hall of Fame.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549