Roger Maris' biggest fan speaks at OU
Andy Strasberg stood in front of a handful of students and more than a dozen aging baseball fans describing his fondest memories. He threw his hands about demonstrably in a gray long sleeve shirt with ‘Roger Maris Celebrity Golf’ across his chest.
He was in town to speak in front of Oklahoma’s chapter members of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). Strasberg also is a member of the San Diego chapter of SABR and counts himself as Roger Maris’ No. 1 fan.
The slender gray-haired man spoke with vitality about Maris Sunday afternoon in room 3160 of Gaylord College while the attendants ate Little Caesar’s pizza and drank soda while listening intently.
“Thank you for allowing me to be 13 all over again,” Strasberg said to the audience.
His love affair with the congenial crew cut man from Hibbing, Minn. began during what must be remembered as Maris’ greatest season.
Strasberg recounted the seasonal experience that made him a life-long Maris fan during Maris’ historic 1961 season. Near the end of that season the soft-spoken New York Yankee broke Babe Ruth’s single-season homerun record, and Strasberg had found his boyhood hero.
“I got my guy now,” he said after witnessing the Yankees’ 1961 season.
Maris came to know Strasberg as a fan so well that he said Maris actually handed him a cracked bat while at Yankee Stadium. He also has a portrait of himself and Maris inside the house that Ruth built.
“My life is not going to get any better than this.”
The former vice-president of marketing for the San Diego Padres vivaciously related anecdotes about different occurrences between himself, Maris and Maris’ family.
Strasberg’s relationship with Maris became so well known in later years that director Billy Crystal asked him to become a technical consultant for “61.” He was awarded a cameo appearance as the fan who charged the field to congratulate Maris for breaking Ruth’s record.
He is listed in the movie’s credits as “61st Home Run Fan.”
“That was cool,” said baseball fan Kalvin Zitterkob upon seeing Strasberg’s name roll in the credits.
Among the audience at the meeting to hear Strasberg speak was former major league pitcher Don Stanhouse. And Stanhouse is not a man lacking a sense of humor.
“At last count, I put close to 70 players in the hall of fame,” Stanhouse joked.
Perhaps, but he also was the ninth overall pick in the 1969 MLB draft. He won 38 games and lost 54 in a 10-year career that spanned four major league teams.
He was managed by Billy Martin, Tommy Lasorda and Ted Williams among others. Among his nicknames during his big league career: Stan the Man Unusual.
“It was rather bizarre,” Stanhouse said of his time in the majors.
The same could be said of the peculiar, heartening relationship of one of the game’s greatest players and — perhaps — his greatest fan.