In the third inning Maris took a ball, a breaking pitch inside, swung and missed, took another ball and then hit No. 59, a 390-foot line drive that all but broke a seat in the bleachers. Three more at bats and one home run to tie.
When he came up again, Dick Hall was pitching. Maris took two strikes, and cracked a liner, deep but foul, to right. Then he struck out. When Maris came to bat again in the seventh inning the players in the Yankee bullpen, behind the fence in right center, rose and walked to the fence. "Come on, Roger, baby, hit it to me," shouted Jim Coates. "If I have to go 15 rows into the stands, I'll catch that No. 60 for you."
"You know," said Whitey Ford, "I'm really nervous."
Maris took a strike, then whaled a tremendous drive to right field. Again he had overpowered the ball and again he had hit a foul. Then he lifted a long fly to right center, and there was that eighth of an inch again. An eighth of an inch lower on the bat and the long fly might have been a home run—the home run.
Hoyt Wilhelm was pitching in the ninth. He threw Maris a low knuckle ball, and Maris, checking his swing, fouled it back. Wilhelm threw another knuckler, and Maris moved his body but not his bat. The knuckler, veering abruptly, hit the bat and the ball rolled back to Wilhelm, who tagged Maris near first base.
"I'm just sorry I didn't go out with a real good swing," Maris said. "But that Wilhelm." He shook his head. He had overpowered pitches in four of his five times at bat and had gotten only one home run. "Like they say," he said, "you got to be lucky."
Robert Reitz, an unemployed Baltimorean, retrieved No. 59 and announced that the ball was worth $2,500.
"I'd like to have it," said Maris, blunt to the end, "but I'm not looking to get rid of that kind of money for it."
The Yankees won the 154th game, 4-2, and with it clinched the American League pennant. Maris wore a gray sweater at the victory party, and someone remarked that in gray and with his crew-cut, he looked like a West Point football player. One remembered then how young he is, and how he believes in honesty as youth does.
"The big thing with you," a friend said to him, "is you tell the truth and don't go phony."