Mickey Mantle And Roger Maris' Friendship Was Overshadowed By A Media-Created Rivalry

In the world of sport, there have been some epic rivalries over the years Some of the most recognizable include the likes of Magic Johnson versus Larry Bird , Muhammed Ali versus Joe Frazier, Hulk Hogan versus Andre the Giant, Sydney Crosby versus Alex Ovechkin, and Peyton Manning versus Tom Brady (per Bleacher Report). IThere is one sport in particular that has produced some of the most legendary rivalries to date. That sport is baseball.

America's national pastime has arguably produced some of history's greatest athletes. Joe DiMaggio, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and of course Babe Ruth are all names you probably know, even if you've never watched baseball. Also among the baseball greats are Mickey Mantle (above) and Roger Maris, two of the biggest home run hitters of all time. As the two teammates completed to break one of the most revered records in history, a rivalry for the ages would also be born.

Teammates chasing a record

According to Biography, Mickey Mantle began his career with the New York Yankees in 1951, and eventually replaced another Yankee great, Joe DiMaggio. Mantle built a promising career over the next decade and in 1960, Roger Maris (above) joined the Yankees. Maris soon showed he was a force to be reckoned with as well. The following season, these two would go on to create one of the most memorable seasons in baseball history.

Both Mantle and Maris proved themselves to be big hitters during the 1961 season. The two teammates were both chasing down the home run record of the game's greatest slugger, Babe Ruth, whose single season record of 60 home runs was the gold standard of baseball at the time. Both Mantle and Maris were on track to break it. Ultimately it would be Roger Maris who broke the record with 61, after Mantle suffered an injury late in the season, leaving him with 54 (per SportsCasting).

The rivalry that really wasn't

As with any big story in any industry, the media was reporting on the home run record chase constantly. Unfortunately for Mantle and Maris, a story of two friends and teammates just participating in a friendly competition didn't sell papers. Controversy, however, always makes money. Despite the fact that they were roommates and friends, the media was reporting the contrary (per History).

Mantle was the Yankee fans' favorite, while Maris was more like the new kid on the block during their epic season. The media outlets of the day used the differences in the players' personalities and their time with the Yankees to create an illusion of conflict when one did not really exist. They pushed the narrative that the two did not get along, and put both players under lots of stress. Maris' hair began to fall out under the pressure. Even after breaking the record, Maris was quoted as saying, "As a ballplayer, I would be delighted to do it again. As an individual, I doubt if I could possibly go through it again." Maris and Mantle eventually left the media pressure behind. Mantle died of a heart attack in 1995, age 63. Maris was just 51 when he died of lymphoma in 1985 (per History).