"Down the left line, is it enough?! Gone! There it is! 62!"
These were the words exclaimed by Joe Buck when Mark McGwire broke Maris' 37-year-old single season home run record in 1998.
The 1998 baseball season was one that helped bring more attention to Major League Baseball. Instead of being concentrated on a specific team, all eyes were on two particular players: Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.
These were two of the classiest and most respectful players in the modern era. There are very few players who could have matched the charisma and charm that made that season extraordinary.
Just the thought of having two players in a pursuit to break one of the most coveted records in baseball was enough to gain attention, but this chase was speacial for other reasons. The two were from different backgrounds, McGwire from California and Sosa from the Dominican Republic. Not only that, they played for rival teams, the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs.
These were two of the classiest and most respectful players in the modern era.
At the start of the season, no one really knew which player was going to reach the milestone first, but there was not much doubt that one would break the record. As the summer progressed, the question was no longer whether anyone would break the record, but rather when it would happen.
These two players stayed with each other throughout the entire season, but McGwire held the lead for most of it.
McGwire tied Roger Maris with 61 homeruns on Sept. 7. Ironically enough, homeruns 61 and 62 came against the Cubs.
Then the magical night of Sept. 8 came.
The night was extraordinary. It was the perfect climax to a spectacular homerun race. McGwire comes up for his second at-bat in the game, against the rival Cubs and his opponent in the home run race. On the very first pitch, McGwire sends a line drive down the line. The fans, players and even announcer Joe Buck didn't know if it was headed out of the park, and the suspense was palpable. McGwire's shortest home run ended up being the most memorable of the season.
The good character of both players' hearts came out once again after No. 62. McGwire circled the bases and hugged every one of the Cubs' infielders. After the Cards met McGwire at home plate, Sosa came in from his position in right field to congratulate McGwire. This showed pure class from Sosa.
And the goodness did not end there. McGwire then proceeded to visit with the children of the previous record holder, Maris. He spent a few moments hugging all three of Maris' children to show his respect and gratitude to that family. In a post game interview, McGwire said exactly how he felt when he had the honor to hold Maris' bat.
"I touched it," McGwire said. "I touched it with my heart. Now I can honestly say that my bat will lie next his and I'm damn proud of it."
Despite all of the accusation and controversy today over steroids, nothing will change how special that season was. That race brought out the best between two of the classiest men and that will forever be remembered by this baseball fan.