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Maris’ Hometown Reacts to HR No. 62

September 9, 1998

FARGO, N.D. (AP) _ Roger Maris, no longer the single-season home-run king in the major leagues, will never be forgotten in his home town.

``Not around here, they won’t,″ said Mike Engh, who played American Legion ball with Maris in their youth.

Maris is buried here. His museum is here. Many older residents who knew him from the days when he played in the local sandlot didn’t want to see his record of 61 homers that he hit in 1961 surpassed.

Most of Maris’ longtime friends watched from the solitude of their homes as Mark McGwire broke the long-standing record Tuesday night. There were no planned gatherings or parties to watch the game.

Orv Kelly, who has known Maris since high school in 1951 and drives a Lincoln with the license plate ``61 in 61,″ watched the Cardinals-Cubs game from his recliner in his bath robe at home.

When McGwire hit No. 62, he did not move, did not cheer, did not clap. He knew the record breaker was coming, but it was still hard to swallow, Kelly said. Maris is a ``Fargo boy,″ after all.

He only leaned forward to get a better look at the television across the neatly kept living room when McGwire moved into the stands to bear-hug Maris’ five children.

``There he goes over to the Marises,″ he said, folding the foot rest into the chair and turning up the volume.

``Roger would have been 64 the day after tomorrow, Sept. 10th,″ Kelly noted.

Don Gooselaw, who had known Maris since the mid-1940s and was a pall bearer at Maris’ funeral, said he felt a sense of relief when McGwire broke the record.

Gooselaw said his eyes welled up a little when McGwire hit the homer, but his thoughts were of seeing that Maris is duly honored in Cooperstown, N.Y.

``I think maybe now he’ll get his due and get elected to the Hall of Fame,″ he said.

Gooselaw and Kelly said McGwire looks to be as good a representative as Maris was in holding the record.

``He deserves it, I think,″ Gooselaw said. ``If he hits any more, this is going to be a tough record to break for another 37 years.″

Isabelle Weaver, who knows the Maris family well, was happy to see McGwire go over and hug the Maris family after the home run.

``Didn’t he do that right?″ Weaver said. ``That’s great.″

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