Where were you for No. 62?
Momentous occasions are oftentimes remembered by what we were doing when they happened. Where were you when JFK was shot, or when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon? And what were you doing when Mark McGwire hit his 62nd home run this year, breaking the single-season record set by Roger Maris in 1961?
“I was watching the game, no doubt about it. You’d have to be crazy not to watch the game,” said Kevin Lummus, a consummate sports fan. “This record rates up there with Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth’s overall home run record. It is the greatest thing in my lifetime.”
Stan Zedalis, who pitched for the Orlando Senators in the 1940s and 1950s, was on his way back from Seattle when Big Mac slugged number 62. “I just missed it,” said Zedalis. “And I’m sorry I did. It’s right up there with (Cal) Ripken breaking Lou Gehrig’s record (for consecutive games played). And McGwire sets a good example like Ripken. He is a player with dignity and class. He’s done a lot for baseball.”
McGwire’s race for the record has sparked the enthusiasm of sport fans and non-sports fans worldwide. And the youngest generation of fans, the kids who may become the future Mark McGwires, are as savvy as their adult counterparts. Justin Bonesteel won’t forget the date of the record-breaking home run. It happened the day before his 10th birthday.
“I think this is really important because McGwire beat the record that has been around for a long time,” said Bonesteel a fifth-grader at Pinon Hills Elementary School. “Plus McGwire is a good player and he likes his fans. And he actually signs autographs.”
Carson Valley Middle School student and Little League player Travis Hawks said he was watching the game on TV because he liked the idea of Chicago Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa and McGwire playing each other while they were both chasing the record. He likes Sosa better.
“It was still pretty special,” said Hawks, who is in the ninth grade. “McGwire should be happy for himself. I think more people will be after the new record because McGwire made it look so easy. That will be the thing to do. And I think having his son there gave McGwire an edge. It was cool that he could show off to his son that way.”
Even though it is officially football season, Rocky Walling, a Pop Warner coach and a long time supporter of Carson Valley Little League said, “It’s the only thing the kids are talking about. And I think it’s great, too. It’s positive, a good influence on our young kids, and it certainly is the time for something positive to happen in this country.”
Rick Kester, with the Douglas County School District, was at a school board meeting when McGwire broke the record. Kester pitched for the Atlanta Braves from 1969-1972.
“That was in a different life,” said Kester. “This is now, and I think that there are certain records, that when broken, are monumental, like when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s overall home run record. I have a lot of admiration for Mark McGwire. This is an amazing accomplishment that is good for baseball. When people with class do great things, it shines. Mark McGwire is a special person who has been graceful under pressure.”
Of course, not everyone is thrilled that McGwire broke the record. Telsche Saunders, a college student, was eating dinner at a sports bar in Reno when McGwire slugged the sinking fastball over the left field wall.
“There were a lot of Sosa fans there,” said Saunders. “They didn’t want McGwire to get the record. But I’m happy for the guy. I think it’s pretty exciting. And I think it’s great that his son was there to see his father make history.”
The TV was on in the All Star Grill in Indian Hills, and co-owner Bill Tuinier said he would like to see McGwire and Sosa tie for the home run record at the end of the season.
“Records are made to be broken,” said Tuinier. “And I’ve always liked McGwire. I’ve followed him all through his career, I even have his rookie baseball card. But I’d still like to see the tie. I think Sosa is a pretty cool dude, too. Both of them (McGwire and Sosa) have a lot of class.”
Lars Baker, Douglas High School’s varsity baseball coach, was keeping one eye on the television and one eye on his two small children and a friend’s two children. He almost missed the 341-foot shot by McGwire. “I just barely got back to the TV in time to see the home run pitch,” said Baker. “It’s always a shame to see records broken, I’m a fan of the history of baseball. But this is good for baseball. People who aren’t part of the scene still understood the significance of the event.”
This baseball season is still far from over. Will Mark McGwire keep adding to the tally and create a record that will take another 37 years to overcome? Or will Sammy Sosa charge during the waning days of summer to overtake McGwire and steal the record away?
According to Baker, it doesn’t matter who ends the season with the most home runs. McGwire will always stand out as the one who broke a 37-year-old record.
“Sosa is as classy as McGwire,” said Baker. “But McGwire is consistent. He’s had 50-plus home run seasons three years in a row. That shows that this isn’t a fluke.”
Mark McGwire will be remembered not only as the man who broke Roger Maris’ home run record, but also as the man who breathed excitement back into baseball. What were you doing when history was in the making?
Predictions for the end of the season home run record.
*Travis Hawks: “I think Sosa will beat Maris’ mark, too, but that McGwire will end up with the most home runs.” McGwire with 73
* Telsche Saunders: “McGwire is strong. I’d have to go for him.” No prediction.
* Bill Tuinier: “A tie at 69.”
* Rocky Walling: “It’s hard to tell. Mark may have a “monkey off my back” period and fall into a slump. It’s a tough call, but I’ll go for McGwire at 68, Sosa at 66.”
* Lars Baker: “McGwire may sit out some of the games now that he’s broken the record. It’s hard to predict what will happen.”
* Justin Bonesteel: “I don’t know if Sosa can beat McGwire. He might beat the record too, but not McGwire.” McGwire with 69.
* Stan Zedalis: “I don’t know if McGwire will reach 70, but he sure is capable. The pitchers will throw differently. They didn’t want to walk him before because they would have been booed. Sosa’s chance of catching him? I’d like to see them end up in a tie. I think both of them are great ballplayers.” McGwire with 67.
* Kevin Lummus: “I don’t think Sosa will catch McGwire by the end of the season. But he will break the record, too.” McGwire with 70.
Additional quotes if you want to use them:Kevin Lummus: “McGwire is the epitome of class. He showed me a lot when we went into the stands the let the Maris children be part of this great event.”Stanley Zedalis: “McGwire doesn’t have to take that big full swing – he doesn’t need to. If he didn’t have a bat he could hit it out with his hand.”Rick Kester: “There will be no asterisks after this record.”Stan Zedalis: “Quality players like McGwire, Sosa and Griffey have done a lot to bring the people back to baseball.”Rocky Walling: “McGwire is a strong personality who does baseball credit.”Lars Baker: “As a coach I teach my players to keep a level head. Mark McGwire is a good example for them to follow.”Justin Bonesteel: “I wish it was Marquis Grissom who broke the record. He’s my favorite player.”Travis Hawks: It was really nice that McGwire talked to Roger Maris’ children. That showed me something.”
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