Henry Repeating Arms Roger Maris Tribute Rifle

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posted on September 20, 2011
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Henry Repeating Arms is famous for its Golden Boy lever-action rifles, and lately it has been churning out special commemorative models for this or that cause or occasion, all of which are worthy collector's items. This one, however, stands out because of the unspoken, and perhaps unintentional, message it sends.

Here, I will divert commentary from guns to baseball. Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth's single-season home run record 50 years ago. At the time, the record was controversial thanks to Commissioner Ford Frick* deciding to put an asterisk next to Maris' season totals owing to the 1961 season being eight games longer than Ruth's 1927 season. Whatever your opinion of that decision, one thing is true: Maris still holds the record for home runs in a single season by a player not using performance-enhancing drugs.

From 1961 until 1998, no player hit 60 or more home runs in a season. Starting in 1998, however, 60 homers began to seem like an antiquated number. Mark McGwire hit 70, Sammy Sosa 66 and then Barry Bonds hit 73 in 2001. Oh how we rejoiced. Until it became obvious to all that each of these players used enough steroids (and/or other performance enhancers) to qualify for the East German Olympic Shotput team.

In honoring Maris, Henry is recognizing both the anniversary of his feat and the fact that his record should still stand. What's more, all proceeds from the auction on GunBroker.com will be donated by Henry Repeating Arms to the Roger Maris Cancer Center.

Of course, I could be wrong about the symbolism. We'll know in 2048 if Henry releases a Mark McGwire Tribute Rifle. One can assume it will only work if injected with a performance-enhancing lubricant every day.

Or perhaps we'll have to wait until 2057 for a Barry Bonds commemorative gun to "celebrate" his "breaking" Hank Aaron's career home run record. That gun might have headspacing the size of a basketball to recognize Bonds' greatest achievement.

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