With Barry Bonds just two home runs shy of Hank Aaron's career mark of 755 after hitting a pair Thursday and two more immortals set to be inducted in Cooperstown next weekend, it's time to right a longtime wrong: Roger Maris belongs in the Hall of Fame.

It's the middle of summer, so please bear with us. We have a bone to pick with the sport of baseball.


With Barry Bonds just two home runs shy of Hank Aaron's career mark of 755 after hitting a pair Thursday and two more immortals set to be inducted in Cooperstown next weekend, it's time to right a longtime wrong: Roger Maris belongs in the Hall of Fame.


As performance enhancing drugs become part of the lexicon of baseball, it's becoming more apparent that those who swung the bats in the decades before BALCO are the true record-setters the public should revere.


Many say Maris had the one great season in 1961 and that alone is not a reason to elect someone to the exalted heights as Ruth, Gehrig, Cobb, Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance and next week's inductees, Cal Ripken Jr., and Tony Gwynn.


But that argument misses the fact that Maris was a complete player, a Gold Glove right fielder who won back-to-back MVPs, twice finishing ahead of his teammate and baseball god Mickey Mantle; was selected to the All Star team four times, playing in a total of seven when there were two a year; and played on seven World Series teams and won three championships with the Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals.


While everyone in these parts remembers the wondrous heat and scowl of the immortal Bob Gibson, we Red Sox fans might not have had to wait 87 years for a championship had not Maris hit .385 with 7 RBIs and a slugging percentage of .538 in that seven-game series.


And still we support his election to Cooperstown.


In fact, along with Aaron, Maris' record of 61 home runs in 1961 might be the only other true untainted mark when it comes to four-baggers.


When Babe Ruth hit his 60 home runs, a gold standard that stood for 34 years, balls that bounced into the stands were considered home runs. That was changed in 1932, making those hits ground rule doubles but there's no way of knowing how many of Ruth's home runs in 1927 were bouncing ball types.


In the public's mind, Bonds will always have an asterisk next to his name for the prodigious belts, and please don't give us this "Innocent until proven guilty" cliche. We are not trying Bonds for a crime; we are holding him to a standard of athletic excellence that cannot and should not be achieved through cheating.


No one will argue with the fact that Mark McGwire was shunned by three-quarters of Hall of Fame voters because of the taint of steroids tied to his home run records.


Even if 1961 were his only claim to Fame, would that make Maris any less Hall-worthy than, say, defensive magician Ozzie Smith, or little-known catcher Ray Shalk, whose .253 career batting average is the lowest of any position player in Cooperstown?


Part of the shame is Maris, a quiet although some say surly soul, barely received enough votes to remain on the ballot in the years after his eligibility. Only in the final two years after his death in 1985 did he get anything approaching 50 percent of the ballots cast, with 75 percent needed for election.


As the Veteran's Committee gears up for its next ballot in two years, we urge baseball fans to get on the bandwagon starting with this year's induction ceremony to place Maris in his rightful position.


More than any other sign we could send to baseball players and officials, that would be a message that performances enhanced by chemistry has no place in the national pastime.