As a public health precaution due to COVID-19, all Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are temporarily closed to the public as of Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. We are not announcing a reopening date at this time.
For more than three decades, Babe Ruth's single-season tally of sixty home runs in 1927 stood as baseball's most hallowed record. But when a home-run duel ignited between Yankee teammates Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in the summer of 1961, many fans found themselves rooting for Mantle to beat the Babe's mark. Since joining the ball club in 1951, the switch-hitting Mantle, with his huge swing and phenomenal power, had been widely regarded as the heir to such Yankee titans as Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Now, with four home-run titles and baseball's Triple Crown to his credit, Mantle seemed the natural choice to outdistance the newcomer Maris in the race for Ruth's record. The contest remained neck and neck until September when, sidelined by an infection, Mantle ended his quest at fifty-four home runs, while Maris powered ahead to a new record of sixty-one.