September 28, 1998
Mark McGwire wins the home run race, hitting numbers 69 and 70 in his last game of the season.
JIM LEHRER: And speaking of homer, we move to another kind now, where in the end the number was 70. The great homerun race ended Sunday with Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals hitting numbers 69 and 70 in his last game of the season. He's now four ahead of the Chicago Cubs' Sammy Sosa, who's on a playoff game tonight. Here's how it looked it on Sunday.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
NEWSHOUR LINKS: SPORTS
September 4, 1998:
A discussion on the home run race.
September 1, 1998:
A Jim Fisher essay on record-breaking baseball .
March 31, 1998:
Major League Baseball and corporate ownership.
March 31, 1998:
The Minnesota Twin look to build a new stadium or move cities.
October 17, 1997
Doris Kearns Goodwin shares her baseball memories.
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Major League Baseball.
Baseball Hall Of Fame.
St. Louis Cardinals' Official Web site.
Chicago Cubs' Official Web site.
SPORTS CASTER: Down to one/one - And to left field - back at the track at the wall - historic number 69! (crowd cheering wildly)
SPORTS CASTER: First in third - two out. Number 70! How much more can you give us, Big Mac? Number 70!!! (crowd cheering wildly)
MARK McGWIRE, St. Louis Cardinals: I can't believe I did it. Can you? (laughter) It's absolutely amazing! I mean, it's unheard of for somebody to hit 70 homeruns. I'm like in awe of myself right now.
JIM LEHRER: With us now, baseball fan and NewsHour essayist Roger Rosenblatt. Roger, it wasn't very long ago where on this program and elsewhere people were talking about baseball being a kind of game of the past, that it had passed its prime, it was only for diehards, et cetera, and look what's happened.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: It's just great. Structurally baseball is so well made that if you get the right players in the right year, it can revive probably easier than other sports. And this has just been the best baseball year ever.
JIM LEHRER: And it wasn't just Sosa and McGwire.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: No. They gave us the homerun. I mean, there's nothing better than a homerun. And all those last minute heroics with Sosa hitting 66 and 45 minutes later McGwire catching up and then finally McGwire finishing with 70 - we had a year of heroics; we had a year of perfection. We had David Welles' perfect game, an amazing thing to see. We had excellence - the Yankees winning 114 games, more than any team in the history of the American League, two shy of the Major League record - and excellence all around. And then, which was awfully nice, we had nobility, people being nice to each other in a high-minded, honorable way. Cal Ripken stepping down so that the attention in the Baltimore Orioles wouldn't be on him but on the rest of his team. The way Sosa and McGwire behaved with each other - that cute business of you're the man and you're the man and the embracing of the Roger Maris family to make it right by them, and that fan who retrieved his 62nd homerun of McGwire wanting to return the ball without any monetary award, this was all pretty good stuff.
JIM LEHRER: And McGwire, you know, McGwire and Sosa, as individuals kind of moved it beyond the baseball fan, did they not?
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Yes. I mean, particularly in a year in which you saw so little good behavior elsewhere, here are two guy who just wanted the best for each other. There's no question there, there had to be some competition between them. But the whole idea of just breaking the record, of doing a wonderful thing, and behaving well towards each other, you rarely see that. Frankly, you rarely see it in sports, you rarely see it anywhere, and to see those two prominent men under such pressure, act so well toward each other, it was a great year.
JIM LEHRER: Because we had gotten used to - here again, we - I think you and I have even talked about this on the air, about the kind of showboating and grand-standing that had become associated with professional sports, particularly football and basketball, then here you had these two men who were suddenly out of another world.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Yes, or maybe they weren't out of another world, Jim. Maybe they were out of the world we wanted to retrieve and had forgotten existed.
JIM LEHRER: You mentioned something also, that the timing of this - this happened to come along at a time when the Washington political world was not so pleasant.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Think of it. We talked about heroism, excellence, perfection, and nobility. Where in Washington have we seen anything approaching those four virtues?
JIM LEHRER: Yes. Yes. Now, of course, a lot of people who - who have always tried to draw great analogies out of baseball - baseball is the game of life and baseball is all this kind of thing - books - countless books have been written about it, but it's still basically a game, is it not, Roger?
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Yes. And the nice thing about it is we get our news in three parts. We get the news; we get the sports; we get the weather. Frankly, the weather hasn't been so great lately; the news has been abysmal; but the sports has been wonderful. So, taking it for what it is, it gave pleasure to citizens who attached the sport to America.
JIM LEHRER: And even to citizens who couldn't have cared less about baseball until McGwire and Sosa came along.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Frankly, I don't know that they know more about baseball now, but they saw two gentlemen behaving well towards each other.
JIM LEHRER: Somebody reminded me today - just on this program - tonight - the conversation that you and I are now having is about the fourth or fifth time we have talked about Sosa and McGwire, and we began after 61. We began running each homerun, unprecedented for our serious news program.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Yes. I mean, we stayed off O.J. all year long, but this we can't resist.
JIM LEHRER: Yes. Because it's real news.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: It is.
JIM LEHRER: Okay. Thanks, Roger.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Thank you.