In the late Maury Allen's biography, Roger Maris, a Man for All Seasons, he explains what happened next and how the myth of the asterisk was born. During Frick's press conference, Dick Young called out loud, "Maybe you should use an asterisk on the new record. Everybody does that when there's a difference of opinion." Frick said that he agreed, and many took him at his word: There would, they assumed, be an asterisk next to Maris's name in the record book, or books.
What Pepe and other baseball historians didn't understand is that Frick was not making a ruling but merely stating an opinion. In fact, he had no power to place an asterisk or any other qualifier on anything. There were several record books in use back then, but they were all independent of the commissioner's office. In 1998, Total Baseball was given the job of being the "official" record book of major league baseball. Needless to say, there is no asterisk in Total Baseball's record book next to Maris's entry, nor any double entry.
Amazingly, the mythical asterisk has survived even Ford Frick's denial.
Practically no one remembers that Frick wrote an autobiography published by Crown in 1973, Games, Asterisks and People. "No asterisk," he wrote, "has appeared in the official record in connection for that accomplishment." Frick, though, couldn't resist reminding us in his book that "[Maris's] record was set in a 162-game season. The Ruth record of 60 home runs was set in 1927 in a 154-game season." Since practically no one read Frick's book, his denial of the asterisk did nothing to erase it from the collective memory of American baseball fans.
In a bizarre postscript to the asterisk story, in 1991 Commissioner Fay Vincent issued a statement indicating that he supported "The single record thesis," meaning that Maris held the record for most home runs in a season, period. The Committee on Statistical Accuracy, appointed by Vincent, then voted to remove the asterisk from Maris's record. Thus, a commissioner of baseball voiced his support for removing an asterisk that a previous commissioner denied ever having put there in the first place. Probably nothing did more to enhance the myth of the existence of the asterisk as Vincent's "removal" of it.
So far, the combined efforts of two commissioners, Phil Pepe, Maury Allen, and myself have done nothing to obliterate the legend of the asterisk. The irony is that if it had been real, Fay Vincent's pronouncement probably would have done away with it. The fact that is never existed in the first place has made it impossible to erase from our subconscious.
Then, in 2001, Billy Crystal captured the era and the excitement—as well as the misinformation—in his wonderful baseball film, 61*, with Barry Pepper as Roger Maris and Thomas Jayne as Mickey Mantle. And so a new generation of baseball fans has grown up believing in the asterisk that never was.
We'll give the last word to David James Duncan:
The perfect justice of a Hereafter is seldom obtainable in the here, but in the Otherworldy world of baseball lore the Commissioner's asterisk has in fact received an unusually just reward: question a crowd of baseball buffs today and you'll find that Frick, if remembered at all, is remembered solely as the guy who branded Maris's sixty-one homers with the *.
Whereas everybody remembers Roger Maris.