Maris Family Keeping An Eye On Howard

If Ryan Howard passes the 61 homerun mark of Roger Maris, there are some who may consider him the true holder of the season homerun record. Many don't believe the "steroid era" records of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa should be recognized. So, how does Maris' family feel about Ryan Howard.

Growing up in Fargo, North Dakota, Chris Coste would watch his hometown receive national attention whenever a slugger approached Roger Maris' record of 61 homers in a season. Maris, a Fargo native, held the mark until Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa surpassed it in 1998.

But the suspicion that McGwire and Sosa used steroids has clouded their feats. If Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard exceeds 61, many in Fargo - including Maris' family - have said he should be credited with the record.

Coste isn't one to judge. He's just happy people are talking about Fargo again.

"Every baseball season, Fargo was put on the map to some extent whenever a guy got close to (61)," Coste said. "In '98, I think people were a little disappointed the record was broken, but they said at least it was broken by a guy like Sammy Sosa or Mark McGwire.

"Now, with all the steroid stuff, I don't know how people feel. But one of the good things that come out of '98 was that Roger's memory came back. People in Fargo were very happy with the attention that Roger Maris and his family got."

Maris' family played the role of the good soldiers when McGwire and Sosa assaulted their father's record that had stood since 1961. The Maris family had been relatively quiet about the steroid controversy, except for a couple of generic remarks about steroids in general and the fact that Roger Maris didn't set his record with the help of any such pharmaceuticals. That changed recently when Maris' son Rich talked about 1998. "We were along for the ride with the rest of the country," said Maris. "Everytime McGwire hit one it was like, 'Wow, he did it again.' And now, you just look at that and laugh," admitted Maris.

Maris believes that Howard is the real deal. "If he breaks it, it's legit," said Maris. "My dad's pretty much an afterthought. All of a sudden‚ it's like everyone has this new perspective‚ like the heck with McGwire and Bonds."

Now, with Howard at the 57 homerun mark, Maris' family has said that they would be at peace with Howard moving past their father on the homerun charts and they're saying so publicly.

"It's a big statement coming from his family," Coste said. "The way I read into it, it's almost like they've changed their minds. In my mind, they're the only ones who have a legitimate right to state that. Obviously, if the commissioner says he wants to change it, it will happen. But beyond that..."

People look at the Roger Maris Museum at a shopping mall in Fargo, N.D., Wednesday, Sept. 2, 1998. Maris requested that most of his memorabilia be displayed in his hometown of Fargo. (AP Photo/Dan Koeck)

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