Mark Mcgwire Hits 70 Home Runs.
The Great Home Run Race ended with Mark McGwire hitting 70 home runs to set the major league baseball record and I was there!
Mark McGwire hits 70 home runs.
It was the summer of the great home run race and one that I will never forget. It all started as it does every year with many fans saying that this would be the year that someone would hit 60 home runs. It was unusual for someone to hit 50 home runs, that is until recently which gave fans hope that they would see the most prestigious record in baseball broken. Maybe they could take their kids to the ballpark and share a moment of history with them. They may even catch a valuable home run ball. But who would break the record? Would it be Ken Griffey Jr., Mark McGwire or would someone else break the record.
It all started for me in June. Mark McGwire was hitting home runs at a record pace. But I didn't think that McGwire could hit 60 home runs. I figured that if he got close to 60 the pressure would be too great. Not only was he on a pace to break the home run record but he was also being walked at a record pace. I figured that the pitchers would quit throwing him strikes if he got close. But, the National League record was only 56 set by Hack Wilson in 1930. I felt that Mark McGwire might break the National League record and this was my chance to witness history. Besides, I was a long time Cardinals fan and had many relatives who lived in the area. I grew up in rural Arkansas and usually went to a Cardinal's game every year. I had always dreamed of going to a game and witnessing history but it had never happened.
It was June and the Cardinals were really pushing the tickets, besides Mark McGwire was prone to injury and they didn't want to take any chances. If they could sell out the rest of the games now that would be great especially considering that they didn't have any pitching and probably weren't going to the playoffs. I didn't care; I called the ticket office and bought tickets for the last two games of the season. When I called I was amazed to find out that there were still tickets available in the left field seats. I bought four tickets to each game. Now, not only could I see history but also I would have a chance of catching the record breaking home run ball.
In early September Mark McGwire had hit 61 home runs and was going for 62, which would break the Major League record, held by Roger Maris. I thought that if he hit 62 home runs, it would happen at the end of September when I would be there. I set at home and watched as McGwire hit 62 and there was so much excitement in the stadium. I felt left out. I had tickets to the last two games but he may not even hit any home runs in those games. All this history and I wasn't a part of it after all. All I could do now is wait until September 26 and hope that McGwire would hit a home run during one of the last two games of the season.
Finally, the last week of the season was here but I had more to worry about. My dreams of seeing history were in jeopardy due to one person-Sammy Sosa. He had been hitting home runs at a frantic pace but every time he caught McGwire, Mark would regain the lead. I never took Sosa serious. He had always swung at too many bad pitches but not anymore. It was Friday night and we were driving up to St. Louis for the last 2 games of the season and hopefully see baseball history. I had impatiently been waiting all summer for this weekend. We were listening to the Cardinals game as we drove up and they were breaking in on the Cubs game when Sosa batted. They were both tied at 65 and the radio station switched to the Cubs game as Sosa was coming to bat. Obviously, I was rooting for the pitcher to strike Sosa out or anything but a homer and then it happened. Sosa hit a home run to take the lead. I couldn't believe it. I had waited all this time to see history and now Sammy Sosa was spoiling my chance to witness it. I knew something would go wrong. It just wasn't meant to be. I felt like everyone was pulling against me like the umpire who called fan interference and took one of McGwire's home runs away from him in Milwaukee. And now Sosa was trying to ensure that I wouldn't see history!
A few minutes after Sosa hit his home run, McGwire came up to bat. I tried to think positive besides McGwire had a knack of answering Sosa's home runs. McGwire was up and he had to know that Sosa had just taken the lead. All of the sudden the announcer got excited and shouted McGwire has just hit a home run. We were going crazy; I couldn't believe it but wait. The announcer quickly calmed down and said that it was a foul ball. How could this be? The announce explains that the ball went over the foul pole and it had looked fair but was ruled a foul ball. Was the umpire right or wrong, there isn't instant replay on the radio? The swing of emotion was devastating. I couldn't take much more of this. It made me remember a story that my brother had told me about when they built Busch Stadium. They made the foul pole real high so no one would hit a ball over it and the umpire could tell if it was fair or foul. But this was Mark McGwire who was hitting balls father than anyone I had ever seen. But his great power was his downfall here. McGwire stepped back in but it didn't matter now, he had been robbed of a home run and by his own great power. Then, all of a sudden, the announcer went got excited again! McGwire had hit another home run and this time it was definitely fair. I couldn't believe it and the emotion swung again. It was all that I could do to keep the car on the road. Maybe I would see history after all.
It was Saturday and we were finally going to the game. There were people everywhere. Some were wanting to but tickets. They were giving 500 dollars for any seats but I didn't have just any seats, I was in the left field seats in section 283. A home run ball would be worth thousands or possibly Millions. We walked in and set down. We had great seats; we were on the first row passed the isle. Then a man with a television crew came up to us and asked if he could interview my son for a Japanese television station. He was American but the rest of the crew looked Japanese. I guess he had to ask the questions in English and it would later be translated. His favorite question was what would we do if we caught the home run ball. My son said that he would give the ball to Mark McGwire and then he asked my brother. Much to my surprise he said the same thing but I knew better. That was all that we had talked about and we both agreed that we would sell it. My brother looked around and said that it was like a lottery except the odds of catching a home run ball were better than winning the lottery.
After batting practice everyone had to leave the left field area unless they had tickets. I figured that a lot of people would walk over to left field when McGwire came up to bat but there were security people everywhere. They wouldn't even let the vendors in the isles when McGwire came up to bat. This was great; it made my seats seem that much more valuable. When McGwire came up to bat everyone in the stadium would stand up and everyone in the seats around us had their gloves hoping to catch the million-dollar home run ball. McGwire was up and we were standing hoping to see history. Then it happened, McGwire hit the ball hard. It looked like it might come toward us but hooked over one section to my right and hit in section 282. A man caught it on the fly and before you knew it security was all around him and rushed him out. I couldn't believe it. Number 67 hit 20 seats from me. I didn't catch the home run ball but I didn't care. I had seen history and the crowd went wild. No one set down for the rest of the inning. Everyone was jumping and making as much noise as possible. No one even paid attention to the game. We had seen what we came for and after all of those times that I had doubted that I would ever see history. But the last two games had just begun and hopefully I would see more.
McGwire came up later in the game and everyone was standing. I just looked around the park in awe. I had never seen so many people and all standing waiting for the same thing. McGwire swung and connected again. Wow, another home run! This time it wasn't close to us. Instead it was hit into a crowd in center field. People were trying to take the ball away from the person who had it. It took security a while to make it to him but they finally did and escorted him out. I noticed that the person who caught the first home run ball never came back. They had taken him up to the booth and interviewed him and he stayed there the rest of the game. We looked at the scoreboard where they were keeping the McGwire and Sosa home run totals during the home run race. It now said McGwire 68 and Sosa 66. I told my brother that I wanted to go up and have my picture taken in front of the scoreboard. We went up to the scoreboard and there was a long line. They had to have ushers work the lines and take pictures. It took us nearly an hour before it was our turn.
I got to the park early on Sunday. My brother was going to be late because he was coaching a soccer team and they had a game. I had seen history but now I wanted to catch a home run ball. I went up to find my seats which were different ones than I had on Saturday. These were in section 282 where number 67 had landed. This made me feel lucky. I had everything go right even when it looked like it wouldn't. When I reached my seats much to my surprise I found myself on an isle seat. This was great, security would keep the isles clear and I had room to go after the ball if it was close. My brother didn't make it to the park in time for Mark McGwire's first at bat but that was OK because he didn't hit a home run. Shortly after McGwire's first at bat my brother showed up. He came up and sat down and said that the atmosphere wasn't like it was the day before. It was like everyone had used up all of his or her energy the day before.
Mark McGwire came up for his second at bat of the day. We all stood up and I wondered if this would be the last home run ball of the season, the record ball that would be priceless. Right as McGwire was stepping to the plate an old lady walked down the isle and stood right beside me. I thought that security would see her but they had all turned to watch the game. The next thing I know McGwire hit the ball hard. This one is real high and it is coming right towards me. I think to myself, this is going to my right and then it dawned on me that I might have to run over this old lady to get the ball. What would I do? The ball is still coming down and right towards me. A million thoughts went through my head and it seamed as if the ball would never come down. I thought it would hook but it never did and this time it hit in section 283 about 30 feet to my left. Some guy caught this one on the fly and was in a hard spot for security to get to him quickly. Another man that was setting behind him wrapped his arms around him and was trying to pry the ball loose but finally security got to him and rushed him away. Everyone felt that 69 would be the last home run for McGwire. Between innings people were sitting in the seat where the guy had caught 69 and were having people take their picture. My brother looked over to me and told me "now the atmosphere is like yesterday". McGwire came up for his last at bat of the year and the home run record in hand. I thought that it would be nice for him to hit seventy but surely he won't hit another one. The next thing I know the ball is heading right for me, but it is not high enough and goes into one of the seats below us. Mark McGwire had just hit number 70. I never dreamed that he would hit 60 much less 70. I didn't get a home run ball but I did see history and better yet with my 11-year-old son. Truly this would be one home run race that I would never forget.