Just A Summer Sport
Baseball was not Maris' only sport. Growing up in North Dakota, it was never warm enough in spring to play baseball during the school year. At Fargo's Bishop Shanley High School Maris excelled in football, basketball and track. During his senior year he set a national high school record in football when he scored four touchdowns on returns in one game.
Maris was able to pick up a bat in the summer, though, when the American Legion ran a summer league. He was named league Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 1950. Upon graduation from high school in 1952 he considered playing football for the University of Oklahoma, but left the school during his entrance exam. He then opted to sign with a Cleveland Indians farm team.
Playing in the Class C Northern League in 1953, Maris was named the league's Rookie of the Year and the following season was promoted to the Class B Three-eye League. By 1956 he had been promoted to the Class AA farm team in Indianapolis and helped carry the team to the Little World Series Championship. During his time in the minors, Maris changed the spelling of his name from "Maras" to avoid the taunts of opposing fans.