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Directed by Billy Crystal
Produced by Robert F. Colesberry
Written by Hank Steinberg
Starring Thomas Jane
Barry Pepper
Music by Marc Shaiman
Distributed by HBO Films
Release date(s) April 28, 2001
Running time 129 minutes
Country United States
Language English

61* is a 2001 American baseball film, made for HBO, directed by Billy Crystal and written by Hank Steinberg. The film was first released on April 28, 2001.



The biographical film follows the quest during the 1961 season of New York Yankees sluggers Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris to break Babe Ruth's single-season home run record of 60 set in 1927. The story begins on opening day when Maris is presented with the Most Valuable Player award for the 1960 baseball season. Mantle is the team's superstar.

As the season begins, Mantle starts off hot, Maris not. Roger thinks he might be traded, but new manager Ralph Houk decides to have Mantle and Maris switch places in the Yankees' batting order to see if it helps. It does and Maris begins to hit home runs at a record pace. Mickey keeps pace and it becomes clear that both "M & M Boys" are going to make a run at the Babe's record.

Mickey's life off the field is taking a toll on his playing. He drinks, enjoys the Manhattan nightlife and comes to the ballpark hung over. More than once, pitcher Whitey Ford has to bail him out or sober him up. Maris and teammate/roommate Bob Cerv invite Mantle to move in with them in a modest apartment in Queens to stay out of trouble.

New York's fans and media are pulling for the popular and personable Mickey, a long-time Yankee. The quieter Roger is viewed as an outsider, aloof and unworthy.

As they get closer to the record, baseball commissioner Ford Frick, who also happened to be Babe Ruth's admirer and ghostwriter, makes a decision. Unless the record is broken in 154 games (the same number Ruth played in 1927), the new record would go into the record books with an asterisk by it, or a "distinctive mark" as Frick puts it, because baseball's season is now 162 games long.

It appears Mantle is not going to make it. His health deteriorates and he plays in pain. The relationship is taking a toll on Maris, too. Pressure is mounting and Maris feels antagonism from all sides. Roger is not accustomed to the kind of attention that Mickey gets every day. Mickey is more easy-going and knows how to handle the press. The fans heckle Maris, even throw objects at him on the field. The press dissect or distort everything he does and says. Maris is getting hate mail and even death threats. His wife (Jennifer Crystal) lives far from New York, usually available only by phone. The stress is so great that Roger's hair begins to fall out in clumps. The Yankees owner also tries to favor Mantle by asking Houk to switch Mantle and Maris in the batting order. Houk refuses, saying the lineup he has is winning for him, even remarking sharply, "The right guy is going to break that stupid record!"

Chronic injury and alcohol abuse catch up with Mickey, and an ill-advised shot by a doctor infects his hip and lands him in a hospital bed. Now the record is all Roger's to get. He comes up just shy in the 154th game of the season, but he does finally hit the record-breaking 61st home run—No. 61* -- on the last day of the season (although fan interest on his behalf is so low that the ballpark is barely half full).

The film flashes ahead 37 years to Maris' record being surpassed by Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals, before a crowd that includes Maris' children. His widow, Pat was hospitalized before the game due to complications from arrhythmia. She is shown watching the game on television from a hospital bed.

According to a voiceover (by long-time Yankee Stadium public address announcer Bob Sheppard), during the end credits, no asterisk was ever officially placed next to Roger's feat, due to separate records being created for the 154 and 162 game seasons. It is revealed that in 1991, six years after Maris' death, baseball's then-commissioner Fay Vincent decided that a season is a season, and therefore separate records would no longer be kept.


Filming locations

Most of the baseball action scenes, including those set at Yankee Stadium, were actually filmed at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, Michigan. A combination of strategic photographing and post-production effects were used to enhance the illusion of the "classic" layout of Yankee Stadium.


External links

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