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Home-run slugger Roger Maris was buried in a steady...

By CARRIE MUSKAT

FARGO, N.D. -- Home-run slugger Roger Maris was buried in a steady snowfall Thursday, borne to his grave by former New York Yankee teammates and eulogized as a baseball great who received a 'base on balls' to heaven.

Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Clete Boyer and Bill Skowron were among the pallbearers at Holy Cross Cemetery, where the family of Maris' wife Patricia Ann is interred.

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Other pallbearers included Maris' former St. Louis Cardinal teammate Mike Shannon, current Cardinal manager Whitey Herzog and former Minnesota Twin Bob Allison.

More than 600 people braved slippery roads and snow to fill alabaster-columned St. Mary's Church. Some stood along the walls and many more crowded the basement of the church where Maris attended mass as a boy.

Former teammate Bobby Richardson, a board member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, delivered the eulogy for his former teammate. He recalled a 12-inning game in May 1962 when Maris was walked four times.

'Roger electrified the baseball world and the nation in 1961 and it should have been and deserved to be Roger's finest moment,' Richardson said of Maris' heroic 61-home run season. 'Roger was one of the most feared power hitters in baseball.

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'And you know, I guess what I think about is Roger as a person, one who was perhaps misunderstood by the outside world.'

Maris, 51, died Saturday of lymphatic cancer after a two-year battle against the disease.

The Rev. John Moore, who admitted he 'recruited' Maris to Shanley High School in Fargo, delivered the homily, reading from the Book of Wisdom that 'the just man, though he died early, shall be at rest.'

'He was a heck of a man as Moose Skowron said -- in a little more salty terms,' Moore said.

'Some might say he struck out in his final time at bat. But I don't think so. I think of it as a base on balls, a free pass to heaven.'

Roger Maris Jr. spoke on behalf of the family, who filled 10 rows in the church.

'He treated every person he greeted as though he were standing on an identical pedestal, eyeball to eyeball,' said the younger Maris, the eldest of six children.

'His number one priority in life was to see that each and every day his family and friends received as much happiness as possible.'

Baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth sent as his representative Robert Fishel, executive vice president of the American League. Fishel was the Yankees' public relations director when Maris played in New York. Roy White, a coach, represented the Yankees.

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Other pallbearers were Dr. George Surprise of Kansas City, New York businessman Julie Issacson and Fargo residents Dick Savageau, Robert Wood and Don Gooselaw.

A folksy rendition of 'How Great Thou Art' was performed by the Shanley Boys Chorus in keeping with Fargo's attitude toward its most famous resident.

Gov. George Sinner, who ordered flags at half-staff Thursday, also attended the funeral.

A memorial service for Maris will be held Monday in New York at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

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