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Jeff Kolpack, Published March 16 2010

Roger Maris book on shelves today

As a kid growing up in the Bronx, Tom Clavin recalls the boos Roger Maris got at Yankee Stadium. He remembers the back-to-back Most Valuable Player awards and the single-season home run record.

He remembers the harsh treatment Yankee fans gave their own player. He heard the stories of how the media fought with Maris.

“I thought maybe it was all legend,” Clavin said.

So in 2008, he and co-author Danny Peary embarked on a book project with the intent of it becoming the true biography of the slugger from Fargo. Their result – “Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero” – is being released today in Fargo and across the country.

The initial response was so good, Clavin said, that the publisher – Simon & Schuster – has scheduled another printing.

“We wanted to do the definitive work,” he said. “We wanted to try and get as complete a picture of Maris as possible.”

It’s not the first book about Maris, but Clavin said it is the first biography.

Harvey Rosenfeld wrote “Roger Maris* A Title to Fame” released in 1991, which Clavin said was more of Rosenfeld’s personal appreciation of the Maris years. Five years earlier, Maury Allen’s “Roger Maris: A Man for All Seasons” hit the bookstores a year after Maris died in 1985.

It’s considered to be more of a book on Maris as a player and not as much as Maris as a person.

“There’s a lot not in there about Roger,” Clavin said.

Also, Ron Smith released “61*: The Story of Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle and One Magical Summer” in 2001 – the same year Billy Crystal’s HBO movie “61*” came out.

One year later, Rosenfeld released another book titled “Still a Legend: The Story of Roger Maris.”

What sets the latest book from the rest, Clavin said, is the depth of research. He and Peary conducted 130 interviews and spent a year and a half collecting information.

They spent five days in Fargo during the 2008 Roger Maris Celebrity Golf Tournament. They were introduced to Pat Maris, Roger’s widow, and the Maris kids by the late Johnny Blanchard in an attempt to get family cooperation for interviews.

Pat Maris essentially said thanks, but no thanks.

“They were very cordial,” Clavin said. “She said they are private people and they feel burned by the McGwire thing. And that was before the recent revelation where McGwire, shall we put it gently, misled them.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546