The national record for most kickoffs returned for touchdowns in one game (four) was established by a person from North Dakota.
Eleven years later, that same person would establish another memorable record, 61 home runs in one major league season. Of course, that person is Roger Maris.
Roger Eugene Maras was born in Hibbing, Minn., on Sept. 10, 1934, to Rudy and Connie Maras. Later, the family name was changed to Maris. His father was a mechanic with the Great Northern Railroad at the time of Roger's birth. Roger was the younger of two sons. Rudy Jr., or Buddy as he was called by his family, was 15 months older and one year ahead of Roger in school.
In 1946, Rudy Sr. was promised a promotion if the family relocated to Fargo. Buddy became a standout football player at Central High School his sophomore year and the brothers dreamed of playing together the next year. However, Central High hired a new coach and, for some reason, he was not fond of the Maris brothers. Buddy became a part-time player and Roger was cut from the varsity. Disheartened, the brothers transferred mid-year to Shanley, a Catholic high school, where both were ineligible to play for the remainder of the season. In 1950, Shanley hired a new coach, Sid Cichy. Cichy immediately saw the potential of the Maris brothers, as they became key members of the Shanley Deacons backfield.
High school football history was made during the 1950-51 season when Shanley played Devils Lake on the road. Roger set a national record by returning four kickoffs for touchdowns. He scored the game winning touchdown.
Buddy graduated after the 1951 season, and the Deacons were not as good as the year before. Shanley won their first game of the season, once again against Devils Lake, when Roger rushed for five touchdowns to set a state record in a 33-20 victory. Roger loved football and intended to follow in Buddy's footsteps by attending the same college as him so they could again play football together. Tragedy intervened when Buddy came down with polio and, even though he recovered, was never the same athletically as before the illness.
Roger excelled in all kinds of sports. However, it was on the baseball diamond where people believed he had a chance of establishing a professional career.
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He began playing American Legion baseball in 1949 as a pitcher and outfielder. In 1950, he batted .367 and was voted most valuable player. After having another excellent season in 1951 professional scouts began taking notice.
Roger now had two great offers. University of Oklahoma football coach Bud Wilkinson wanted him and the Cleveland Indians were willing to do what was needed to sign Maris to a baseball contract. The Indians offered him a $5,000 signing bonus with an additional $10,000 if Maris made it to the majors. That extra incentive was the kind of challenge Maris craved. He had no doubt he would play major league baseball and loved being rewarded for something he accomplished.
Maris moved steadily up the minor league ladder by playing for Keokuk in 1954, Reading in 1955 and Indianapolis in 1956. Each minor league team he played for won the league pennant. On Oct. 13, 1956 Roger married his high school sweetheart, Pat Carvell.
Maris made his debut with the Indians on April 16, 1957, the opening day of the season.
His record-breaking home run season of 1961 was chronicled in the motion picture "61*."
After a long battle with cancer, Maris died on Dec. 14, 1985. Citizens still wait for the day when he will be elected to the baseball Hall of Fame. Whatever the case, North Dakota is proud to boast Roger Maris as one of its own.
(Written by Curt Eriksmoen and edited by Jan Eriksmoen. Reach the Eriksmoens at cjeriksmoen@;cableone.net)