Roger Maris no fan of N.C. sportswriters

“Roger’s long torturous season [1961, in which he hit a record 61 homers] was over…He had committed to a traveling, postseason home-run-derby exhibition that also featured Harmon Killebrew and Jim Gentile…. He had a miserable experience. Again, the press was at the heart of his problems. Gentile recalls:

” ‘We went to Wilson, Raleigh-Durham, Greensboro and a couple of other places….  After spending a whole season being given a hard time by hostile reporters in New York, having a bunch of new writers on his back was tough for him. He told them, “If I had known that you were going to ask me the same old questions, I would have brought a tape with me.”

” ‘In Wilson we had a real nice crowd, but then what Roger said wound up in the papers and it cut us down a little. They didn’t write anything nice about us after that ….

” ‘Poor Roger couldn’t go anywhere. He’d step out of the hotel and people were chasing him… I thought of Roger when I saw what happened to the Beatles.’ ”

— From “Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero” by Tom Clavin and Danny Peary (2010)

Maris died in 1985. Killebrew, whose only minor league experience came with  the Charlotte Hornets in 1956, died last week.  Gentile, 76, lives in Edmond, Okla.

12 thoughts on “Roger Maris no fan of N.C. sportswriters”

  1. I was 10 years old and went to the Home Run Derby in Greensboro. I still have my ticket stub signed by Roger, Harmon, Jim, and another person that I can’t make out his name. If anyone knows all of the participants, please reply or email me. Thanks.

  2. I remember going to this here in Charlotte. That was when the Charlotte Hornets were a baseball team. The Hornets were in the SALLY league, played a Griffith Park in Dilworth section of Charlotte.

    The participants were Maris, Gentile, Killebrew and a black guy that was the home run leader of the Sally league.

    How I remember so vividly is that I was a Little Leaguer there with a friend and we climbed a fence and snuck down in the dugout.

    Security came by and wanted us to leave, but one of the guys said…. “It’s ok, let them stay”. We did thru the whole thing, I got the three major players autograph on one piece of paper and lost it in my late teens.

    Boy, what an experience for a kid to rub elbows with them!!

  3. I was there in Durham, got an 8×10 glossy signed. Big Yankee fan, but Maris was a cold fish. Killebrew and Gentile nice. Still treasure that picture though.

  4. The black guy was: Charles, “Chuck” Weatherspoon. He played for the Wilson Tobs baseball team and lead the Carolina league in home runs with 31. His full name is Charles Benny Weatherspoon from Denny, Texas.

  5. I went to the wilson home run derby, caught a foul ball and had it signed by gentile, killebrew, and maris. great day never to be forgotten.

  6. I attended the wilson home run derby, caught a foul ball, had it signed by gentile, killebrew and maris. I have kept the ball all these years, the signatures have faded, but still legible. What a great day and memory.

  7. I’m looking for information . Does anyone know the final scores of any of the HR contests? Anybody take photos? Was anything reported in each town’s newspaper?

  8. I went to that Home Run Derby in Greensboro also. I was 15 years old at the time. The date was October 17th, 1961. I was able to get a foul ball that Maris hit in the 3rd base stands (there was a very small crowd…maybe only 500 or so, if that many…that night) and took it to the lobby outside the dressing room under the grandstands after the contest was over. Roger Maris’ brother was with him and he took the ball into the dressing room and got Roger to sign it for me.

    The reason why David might not have been able to make out the 4th name was because Chuck Weatherspoon shortened his autograph to Chuck “Spoon” to save time. He said that if he made it to the big leagues he would be happy to sign the full name as often as anyone wanted it!

  9. Five city North Carolina tour-

    10/15/61 Wilson: Killebrew 20 Gentile 15 Maris 7
    10/16/61 Durham: Maris 12 Killebrew 10 Gentile 5
    10/17/61 Greensboro: Maris 8 Killebrew 7 Gentile 4
    10/18/61 Charlotte: Killebrew 9 Gentile 8 Maris 8
    10/19/61 Winston-Salem: Killebew 9. Maris 7 Gentile 4

    Gentile developed painful blisters in Wilson which popped open the next evening at Durham. He finished the tour with bandaged hands.

    Clyde King and Jack McKeon pitched.
    Chuck Weatherspoon, who did the catching, also took a few swings in some of the contests, with McKeon covering for him behind the plate. Newspaper accounts reported that he hit one out of the park at Wilson (where he had played that season) and none in Greensboro.
    A few months later Chuck told a reporter that he had participated in three ten-swing rounds on different nights, teaming up with Killebrew against Maris and Gentile. He claimed to have hit 6 out at Charlotte.

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