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N.D. billboards tout Maris as the legitimate home run king

FARGO - Steroids have been a major sign of the times in baseball, so a local Fargo advertising company is going with a different sign.

Newman Outdoor Advertising is putting up a pair of billboards in Fargo touting favorite son Roger Maris as baseball's "Legitimate Home Run King."

"The whole issue of him not being in the Hall of Fame is a bungled-up mess, in my opinion," said Harold Newman, owner of Newman Outdoor Advertising. "The only legitimate player to break Babe Ruth's (single-season) home run record was Roger Maris.

"Hopefully this will draw some attention to it."

The billboards sport a headshot of Maris from his playing days with the New York Yankees on the right side, and a large number 61 on the left. In between, it reads "Fargo's Roger Maris 'Legitimate' Home Run King."

Both signs are going up in Fargo. One sign is up on the corner of Main Avenue and 18th Street, and the other will go on 45th Street, just north of Interstate 94.

The idea for the signs came from Harold's son, Russ Newman, who also designed the signs.

Russ Newman decided to run with his idea after Mark McGwire's recent admission of steroid use, including during the 1998 season when McGwire surpassed Maris' record by clubbing 70 home runs.

"I believe he should be in the Hall of Fame, and we're doing this just like an editorial in the newspaper," Russ Newman said. "McGwire, (Barry) Bonds, (Sammy) Sosa - take your pick. Maris played by the rules."

Editorializing on billboards isn't anything new for Newman. In the 1970s, when Jimmy Carter took away the farmers' ability to sell wheat to Russia and China, Newman's billboards that read "North Dakota farmers can't live on peanuts" became nationally known.

Russ Newman said he hopes these most recent billboards will also garner national attention.

Newman Outdoor Advertising is paying for the billboards out of its own pocket, and Harold Newman said he might not be done honoring Maris just yet.

"We're doing it gratis, and to us, it's well worthwhile," Harold said. "I'd also like to see a statue of Roger Maris built here in Fargo, and a great place would be in the southwest corner of Newman Outdoor Field."