As legend has it, after Roger Maris topped Babe Ruth’s home-run record in 1961, an asterisk was placed next to Maris’s name in Major League Baseball’s record books. Why? Because the unpopular slugger’s 61 round-trippers broke the beloved Bambino’s record during a season that had been extended from 154 games to 162. Never mind that Maris, as sportswriter Allen Barra pointed out, “hit his 60th home run in his 684th plate appearance, while it took Ruth 689.”
In fact, the Maris asterisk is a myth. There never was one, since Major League Baseball didn’t start keeping its own “official” records until the mid-1990s. That step came too late for Maris, who never got over how fans and scribes reviled him. At the 1980 All-Star Game, five years before his death, he lamented, “They acted as though I was doing something wrong, poisoning the record books or something.”
Maris didn’t deserve such shoddy treatment. However, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch* does. Following my lead, historians should add an asterisk whenever his name is written. His legacy and the legacy of the Court itself have now been poisoned by the blatant Republican theft of the seat he occupies.
Within an hour after confirmation of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February 2016, as Democrats were offering condolences to Scalia’s family, Republican Mitch McConnell made a shocking announcement. The U.S. Senate Majority Leader declared that he would not permit then- President Barack Obama to fill the vacant seat. Such a challenge was unprecedented in U.S. history.