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BASEBALL DROPS THE ASTERISK* FROM MARIS' RECORD

Babe Ruth, the most famous name in American sports, has been dropped from his hallowed spot in baseball's record book.

An eight-man panel - the committee for statistical accuracy - voted Wednesday to remove the mythical asterisk next to Roger Maris' 61 home runs and to drop baseball's greatest power hitter from the most hallowed section of the record book.Ruth, who hit 714 home runs, lost the career record when Hank Aaron passed him in 1974 en route to a total of 755.

"This decision does not diminish or demean the contributions of Babe Ruth to the game of baseball," commissioner Fay Vincent said. "He is, among other things, responsible with Judge (Kenesaw Mountain) Landis for saving our game after the Black Sox scandal of 1919. He is surely the most famous player in the history of the game and will remain so for generations to come. This change allows Roger Maris to receive the recognition he deserves."

Vincent, the committee chairman, pushed to reverse the decision made by former commissioner Ford Frick, who ruled on July 17, 1961 that Ruth's record of 60 would stand unless it was broken within 154 games, the length of the pre-expansion schedule. Maris hit 59 in 154 games and connected for No. 61 in the final game of the season.

"Obviously, it's great," said Roger Maris Jr., a son of the former New York Yankees star. "I never felt it should have been put there to begin with. The only reason I ever felt there was an asterisk was to take away from what he accomplished in 1961. I think people felt, with the extended season, people would be hitting 70 homers."

Maris, who died in 1985, had felt slighted by the asterisk.

"I didn't make the schedule," Maris once said. "And do you know any other records that have been broken since the 162-game schedule that have an asterisk? I don't."

Vincent said the impetus for the change was an article about home runs by Roger Angell in the May 27 issue of the New Yorker.