(Copyright 1998. All rights reserved.)

The Tattoo

--- Making a Permanent Impression Since 1994 ---

Sept. 21, 1998

--- Opinion ---

Slugfest hits home

Collin Seguin
Tattoo Staff

61.

It is a number that is the greatest of numbers
in a game that is defined by statistics ---
baseball.  When New York Yankees right fielder
Roger Maris hit 61 home runs in 1961, it seemed
like the record would stand forever.  

Who would want to break it?  Maris had to
undergo intense media scrutiny, unfairly branded
as the "jerk" who had the nerve to break Babe
Ruth's record of 60 home runs in 1927.

This year, though, the "unbreakable" record
became suddenly very breakable.  Mark McGwire
and Sammy Sosa have made an assault on the
record as has never been done.  McGwire, of the
St. Louis Cardinals, has broken the record and
is now on 642, while Sosa, of the Chicago Cubs,
has 63.  Two superstars are slugging it out for
one of sports' elite titles.

Maybe it wouldn't be so special if Sosa and
McGwire weren't such great guys, if they weren't
so gracious at taking the attention that has
been thrust upon them. Maybe it wouldn't have
been so special if McGwire hadn't shown such
concern for how the family of the late Maris was
taking the attention, if he wasn't a father who
was enjoying the chase with his son by his side. 
Maybe it wouldn't be so special if Sosa and
McGwire didn't show such a genuine respect for
each other, an understanding that they can each
empathize with what the other is going through,
a feeling no one else can share. 

Maybe it wouldn't be so special if the game of
baseball wasn't still trying to recover from the
1994 strike that crippled it to the point where
no one thought it would recover.  In this year
of the home run, though, the game has made an
unbelievable recovery.  People who didn't even
care about baseball are tuning in to see if
Sammy or Mark has hit another home run.  The
game has taken that almost unreal feel to it,
that it is such a part of America's culture
again that it is impossible to take your eyes
off of what is happening.

So, keep hitting Mark and Sammy, and thank you. 
Thank you for bringing baseball up to its place
as a national pastime, for making baseball a
little boy's game, something beyond the money.

How did I watch the record?  How it was meant to
be watched, with my father.


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