|Intracoastal near Nick's at Sunrise|
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By Jane Feehan
Some say baseball great Roger Maris* (1934-1985) was never popular with the press, that he was baseball’s angriest man. Whether true or not, anger at being charged with assault and battery in Fort Lauderdale in April, 1965 may have played a part in his acquittal.
Partying after curfew during spring training season in Fort Lauderdale, Yankee right fielder Maris and team mate infielder Clete Boyer got into a fracas at Nick’s Cocktail Lounge off Sunrise Boulevard. Erstwhile model Jerry Modzelewski claimed Maris struck him in the throat but Maris said his only contact was when he was shoved into the model. Bar owner, Nick Sindicich** jumped in and tried to break up the fight with a headlock of one of the participants.
Maris, who was defended by attorney William Leonard, did not expect to take the stand but did when he thought testimony of others was leading the trial in the wrong direction. Red in the face and neck with anger, Maris told his side of the story. Maris avoided placing blame on Boyer, who was also charged, but it appeared Boyer played a more active role.
Judge Arnold Grevior acquitted Maris, saying he had “more than a reasonable doubt in his mind.” Maris filed a civil law suit against Modzelewski two days later. Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved. Jane Feehan.
*Maris hit a Major League record 61 home runs during the 1961 season for the New York Yankees, breaking Babe Ruth's single-season record of 60 home runs in 1927. He was an American League Most Valuable Player (1960–1961), All-Star (1959-1962), and Gold Glove winner (1960). He appeared in seven World Series, five as a member of the Yankees and two with the St. Louis Cardinals.
**Nick’s, located on the Intracoastal near Sunrise Boulevard, was a popular hangout for the Yankees. The bar closed in 1987; Nick Sindicich died in 2000 at 76.
Miami News, April 8, 1965
Sun-Sentinel, March 24, 2000
Tags: Fort Lauderdale history, Yankees in Fort Lauderdale, Roger Maris, historical researcher, film researcher