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Hayden Goethe, Published October 01 2011

Yankees fan recalls being at Maris' record day

FARGO – Eric Jensen often kept score when attending New York Yankees games as a youth. But once history is made, even the toughest habits can be easily broken.

Jensen was at Yankee Stadium 50 years ago today, sitting in a corporate box near the TV announcers when Roger Maris hit his 61st home run of the season on the final day of the 1961 season. That homer broke Babe Ruth’s single-season record set in 1927.

“I would usually keep score for a full game,” said Jensen, who is now 61 years old. “But I got caught up in the excitement.”

Jensen said last week from his home in Readington, N.J., that it’s amazing how well he remembers it.

“I can still see the green façade and the green seats,” Jensen said. “I miss the old Yankee Stadium.”

Jensen and two of his brothers attended the game with their father, who got the seats from his workplace.

“It just turned out that the tickets were there,” Jensen said. “And my father was like, ‘OK, I’ll take my kids.’ ”

Looking back on that game, it stands out to Jensen that the attendance was only 23,154, considering what was on the line.

But there were many factors at play, including that the commissioner’s office had said the record wouldn’t be official if not set in the 154 games Ruth’s Yankees played in 1927.

“The funny thing was there weren’t a whole lot of people rooting for (Maris),” Jensen said. “People wanted Mickey Mantle to do it.”

Jensen doesn’t have the ticket stubs anymore, but he still has his partially completed scorecard from the game. He’s admittedly a big fan of the 1961 season, which ended with the Yankees defeating the Cincinnati Reds in five games of the World Series.

One piece of memorabilia familiar to Maris fans is owned by Jensen and currently on loan to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Jensen bought the uniform that actor Thomas Jane wore while portraying Mickey Mantle in the movie “61*”. His son bought the batting helmet that Jane wore.

Considering that Yankee Stadium was half-empty for Maris’ big moment, the event seems to have taken on added significance today.

“Nowadays, you look at who has broken the record since then, everyone is implicated by steroids,” Jensen said. “I don’t think people appreciated it that much (back then).”

Readers can reach Forum Assistant Sports Editor Hayden Goethe at (701) 241-5558