Super Fan to the Nth Degree
By Bill McCurdy
One thesaurus describes nth
degree as the last or greatest digital
assignment in a series of increasingly higher
numbers. If theres a better way
to explain Andy Strasbergs lifelong fandom
relationship with former great ballplayer Roger
Maris and now, his ghost, I cannot find it outside
my copy of the Psychiatric and Statistical Manual
of Mental Disorders.
The difference between Andy Strasberg
and the multitude of over-the-top
hero stalkers is that Andy never lost that last
important sense of boundary that kept telling
him, no matter how much Roger Maris meant
to me as a young kid baseball fan from the Bronx,
the man has a life and a family of his own,
and I have no right to intrude upon their space,
if I am not asked. For good measure too, throw
in the facts that Andy also had a loving supportive
original family, a normal trek through a college
degree from Akron University, a 22-year career
as an employee of the San Diego Padres, and
a long, apparently happy marriage of his own
before he even went out to establish and run
a successful consulting company.
The guy just touched too many
healthy bases to be written off as a nut job.
On the other hand, on the magical side of things,
Andy Strasberg has had one incredible life as
the super-fan of former Yankee great
Roger Maris and, last night, Andy Strasberg
of SABR and San Diego was in Houston to speak
to our Houston SABR chapter about his amazing
personal experience at a meeting held in the
activities room at Cort Furniture on Richmond
at Bering. Forty-two local SABR members and
guests were in attendance.
Andy Strasberg of the Bronx was
12 years old when Roger Maris came over to the
Yankees in a trade with Kansas City in 1960.
Andy soon picked up on a news story from spring
training that described Maris as having a rejuvenating
effect on the Yankees, a club that had lost
the 1959 pennant to the White Sox, of all teams.
I didnt even know what rejuvenating
meant at the time, but I was prepared to accept
Roger Maris as my hero by the time he got to
For whatever reason, Andy had
never been a Mickey Mantle fan. Roger Maris
was destined to become his one and only baseball
As he could get there, Andy started
going to more and more Yankee games, and congregating
with other kids to greet the Yankees before
and after games. Andy used the time to send
signed written notes of support and opinion
to Roger Maris. Over time, Roger Maris came
to recognize the persistent young man for who
he was and their ongoing friendship grew from
there. Over time, Andy worked up the courage
to ask for a souvenir baseball, and then a bat,
and even the joint photo featured here, taken
in 1966, when Andy was 16.
When the Yankees dealt Maris to
the Cardinals in 1967, Andy hit his all time
low. In so many words, he said it felt like
the end of the world, but he never lost his
perspective. He had high school to finish and
college to reach and his own life to
Andy went off to Akron University
and shared a dorm room with a guy who put up
a giant poster of Raquel Welch from the movie
One Million BC, the view of Raquel
standing triumphantly on the mountainside at
the dawn of civilization.
Andy had a poster of Roger Maris
on his wall of the dorm room. He now says, tongue-in-cheek,
I cant imagine to this day what
my roomie got out of having that picture of
Raquel Welch on the wall!
Strasbergs poster became
the cornerstone on his freshman brag stories
about his good friend, Roger Maris.
By the 1968 season, Andy says that his college
friends were ready to put those words to a test.
With the Cardinals coming to Pittsburgh for
a weekend series with the Pirates, the friends
suggested they make the under two hours trip
there from Akron to see a game and give
Andy a chance to introduce them to his good
friend. Any gulped, a little, but he agreed
to the challenge.
The short of it is that Roger
Maris did remember Andy Strasberg. Andy,
Roger called out from the field in response
to a grandstand shout from Strasberg, what
are you doing in Pittsburgh?
Andy regaled in the moment of
introducing his friends, but before the day
was done, he would own even more magic to take
home with him from that day. During the game,
Roger Maris hit a home run and Andy Strasberg
was the fan in the stands who caught it. What
are the odds on that one?
The years rolled on and the relationship
grew. Andy and his wife began to socialize with
Roger and Pat Maris. Then the worst came hard.
Roger Maris died of cancer while he was under
treatment here in Houston at MD Anderson on
December 14, 1985.
Andy Strasberg flew from San Diego
to Fargo, South Dakota for the funeral. He has
since become an almost ex officio member of
the Maris family and now enjoys close ties also
with Rogers adult children.
When Bill Crystal started production
for the 2001 movie 61* n the late 1990s, Andy
Strasberg was retained as a technical advisor,
even ending up with a small acting part as the
only fan who runs on the field to shake Roger
Mariss hand after his 61st home run broke
Babe Rut;s single season mark in 1961.
You do not meet people like Andy
Strasberg every day. Well, maybe you do and
theyre just not talking about it so much.
Its still unlikely you will meet many
who have converted a fan brush with fame into
the overriding factor in their lives, as has
Andy Strasberg. Today Andy is also busy in support
of charity events sponsored in Roger Mariss
memory for the support of cancer research and
I caught the above picture of
Andy Strasberg at the end of the evening. I
simply asked him to give us his best Raquel
Welch pose. Those of you who couldnt make
it missed a fine and most entertaining evening,
one that also came with some DVD clips that
Andy used to help dramatize the wonderful story
of his love and appreciation for Roger Maris.
Thanks to fellow SABR member Mike
McCroskey, heres a website link that pretty
well covers the same ground Andy Strasberg traveled
in his fascinating talk to our Larry Dierker
Houston Chapter last night:
As for other meeting activity
from the February 24th gathering, the trivia
quiz prepared by Mark Wernick was a nettlesome
mind-twister, but it was won by Scott Barzilla
and Greg Lucas.
Other meeting notes: (1) SABR
needs volunteers to help with our research project:
Houston Baseball, the First 100 Years, 1861-1961;
(2) Our next monthly SABR meeting will be held
on Tuesday, March 29th, and our speaker will be
Astros broadcaster and fellow SABR member Bill