NEW YORK — Yankees center fielder Harrison Bader never met Yanks legend Roger Maris, who passed away in December 1985, 8 1/2 years before Bader was born. However, Bader calls Maris one of his favorite players while growing up in Bronxville, N.Y.
Bader, 28, learned a lot about Maris through the movie “61*,” which was directed by Billy Crystal. The film is about the home run battle between Maris and Mickey Mantle, teammates on the 1961 Yankees who were trying to break Babe Ruth’s record of 60 home runs.
While watching the movie as a kid, Bader learned through his father, Louis, that the movie depicted Maris and Mantle accurately.
“I enjoyed the story. For whatever reason, I was younger, I just took a liking to Maris’ story because of the adversity he experienced [in ‘61],” Bader said. “For whatever reason, everybody loved Mickey Mantle. There is not a reason not to love Mickey Mantle. The Roger Maris story [is] chasing the home runs and ultimately overtaking Mantle. Yankee fans almost hated [Maris] for it.
“For whatever reason, I just resonated with that. I just didn’t get it. As a fan of the game, I almost felt like the disliking of Maris overtaking Mantle, it kind of hurt me. I just took Maris’ side. It sounds a little backwards, but a guy [like Maris] who prepares every day, is a winning player, gets booed as a result, it didn’t seem justified.”
Bader, who said he would like to meet the Maris family, hopes to continue to play well for the Yankees. Since joining the club this week, Bader has made his presence felt, going 4-for-11 (.364) with six RBIs in three games entering Friday.
“He has impacted the game in some way shape or form — baserunning, situational hitting, a big hit, how he moves in the outfield, the energy he plays the game with,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Getting to see his instincts up close and personal, it has showed up in the first few games. It has been impressive.”