BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A — 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 64, 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.
Collin Seguin is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.