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Maris’ Hometown Reacts to HR No. 62

September 9, 1998

FARGO, N.D. (AP) _ Orv Kelly watched television wearing his bathrobe and sitting in his recliner as Mark McGwire broke his friend Roger Maris’ home run record.

When McGwire hit homer No. 62, Kelly didn’t cheer and didn’t clap. He didn’t even move. He knew it was coming, but it was still hard to swallow.

Maris is a ``Fargo boy,″ after all. And Kelly, who had known Maris since high school in 1951, still drives a Lincoln with the license plate ``61 in 61,″ for the year of Maris’ triumph.

Kelly only leaned forward to get a better look at the television across the neatly kept living room when McGwire moved into the stands to 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, September 10th.″

While McGwire has the spotlight now, people in Fargo won’t soon forget Maris.

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

Maris, who died of cancer in 1985 at age 51, is buried here. His museum is here. Many older residents who knew him from the days when he played in the local sandlots didn’t want to see his record of 61 homers surpassed.

Like Kelly, most of Maris’ longtime friends watched Tuesday night’s game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs from the solitude of their homes.

Still, Don Gooselaw, who had known Maris since the mid-1940s and was a pallbearer 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.

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

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

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