Maris originally was signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1953, making his big league debut four years later with the team in 1957. As a center fielder, he hit .235, 14, 51 and was traded to the Kansas City Athletics during the 1958 season. Because of the history of the Athletics had for being a training and development program for the New York Yankees, there was talk as early as 1958 that Maris would eventually be traded to the Yankees. Playing a total of 150 games for the Indians and Athletics in 1958, Maris hit .240, 28, 80. While he hit .273 in 1959, he was slowed by injuries keeping his total power numbers down. His 18 HR and 72 RBI were impressive considering he played in only 122 games.
The Yankees acquired him during the 1959 offseason as part of a deal for World Series heroes Don Larsen and Hank Bauer. Of course, the rest is history as Maris would win the MVP in both 1960 (.283, 39, 112) and 1961 (.269, 61, 141). As has been told several times, Maris had difficulty dealing with the pressures of the home run chase. The New York media, as cynical as it is right now, reported that Maris and teammate Mickey Mantle were rivals and did not get along. There was never any evidence to support this claim, as both players denied the gossip and said the exact opposite was true. He would put up good numbers in 1963 (.256, 33, 100), 1964 (.269, 23, 53 in just 90 games) and 1964 (.281, 26, 71). After that, he had some injury issues that kept him from returning to form. He was traded to the St Louis Cardinals after the 1966 season, as the Yankees were getting older and losing their edge as a AL Pennant contender.
While Maris' number in his two seasons with the Cardinals were less than spectacular, many in the Cardinals clubhouse praised Maris for his presence. Some said Maris "showed them how to win" as they won the AL Pennant in 1967, beating the Boston Red Sox in the World Series and returning to the fall classic in 1968, losing a seven game series to the Detroit Tigers. In 1967, he hit .385 in the seven game series against the Red Sox, but struggled a year later hitting just .158 against the Tigers.
The reason Maris is not in the Hall of Fame has more to do with the length of his career and his injuries than how good of a ballplayer he was. He was a leader and a winner, but had just five Hall of Fame seasons, with two good seasons beforehand. He was done playing by age 34. His 61 HR season will never be forgotten and that will always be part of the HOF. After his retirement, it was a debate over whether Maris was Hall of Fame worthy. The writers woud debate it from 1974 until 1985, with Maris getting from 18.4- 32.4 % of the vote. After his death, the percentage rose to 41.6 in 1986, 42.6 in 1987 and 43.1 % in 1988, his final year of eligibility.
People who are against Maris being a Hall of Famer think he should not be given entry just because of the 61 HR in 1961. They are neglecting the fact that he was a winner (3 World Series titles and 3 League Pennants), was a very clutch player and was one of the best in the game during the prime of his career. Maris is a symbol of what is great about the game of baseball. He cared about playing the game, and winning. None of the other stuff mattered to him, something players of today should take a look at. To me, Maris is a Hall of Fame player whose career was cut short. By both injuries and the mental effect the 61 HR season had on him.