Before 'the 61 season began, the AL expanded from eight to ten teams, adding the Los Angeles Angels and the Washington Senators by way of an expansion draft. Both teams selected Yankees with their first picks; the Angels took Eli Grba and the Senators claimed Bobby Shantz. The Yanks also lost Duke Maas, Dale Long, Bob Cerv, Ken Hunt, Bud Zipfel. The expansion draft weakened the overall talent pool in the league fairly significantly, but despite the pillaging, the Yankees were among the teams least affected.
That same season, the schedule was lengthened from 154 to 162 games. Commissioner Ford C. Frick, initially announced that in order to break Babe Ruth's record, it would have to be done in 154 games. He said:
Any player who hit more than sixty home runs during his club’s first 154 games would be recognized as having established a new record. However, if the player does not hit more than sixty until after his club has played 154 games, there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154 game schedule and the total of more than sixty was compiled while a 162 game schedule was in effect.
Regardless of his perceived bias, Frick was making a logical choice. The tag of single season is rather arbitrary and it was clearly easier to reach 60 home runs given 8 extra games to say nothing of the substantially thinner pitching that resulted from expansion. Frick was stuck with two difficult choices: keep two separate rule books for each season length or give all players who came after 1961 an unfair advantage in breaking counting stat records. It was popular at the time, but his choice of the latter allowed one of the most hallowed records in sports to fall under dubious circumstances.
Despite breaking one of the most hallowed sports records of all time, Maris remained sour about the experience. During an interview at the 1980 All-Star game, he said:
They acted as though I was doing something wrong, poisoning the record books or something. Do you know what I have to show for 61 home runs? Nothing. Exactly nothing.
Maris was a victim of our casting. Despite the fact that sports are unscripted, we still expect the right characters to come out on top. Mickey Mantle was the former farmhand, Yankee legend, the Hall of Famer, the rags to riches story from Oklahoma. He partied with the rat pack, Joe D. and Marylin Monroe, and had the key to the city. He was supposed to be the one to break Babe Ruth's record. Maris was the ostracized Kansas City transplant, who should have came up short. But that's not the way life works and while Maris' peak was far too short to earn him a spot in Cooperstown, he has a place in Monument Park.