Many Yankee fans were so enamored of the Babe that they rooted for Maris to fail. He received loads of hate mail —even death threats— aimed at keeping Ruth's record intact.
Home run records seem to be the only ones that can cause such a frenzy. For example, Oakland star Rickey Henderson is on pace to break Ruth's all time record for walks in a career within the next couple of years. Whoo hoo!!
Now, Henderson is a truly phenomenal player and an obvious first-ballot hall-of-famer, his surly, self-centered reputation notwithstanding. The mark he will eventually set is certainly not to be taken lightly. Something tells me, however, that the hordes of media personnel and thousands of fans showing up hours early to watch McGwire take batting practice won't be following Henderson with the same vigor when he approaches the walk record (which, by the way, is 2,056).
Our love affair with the home run has caused such a media blitz that the three parties involved sometimes seem as though the chase is more of a burden than a dream. At least in the case of Griffey, Sosa and McGwire, they each have the other two to alleviate some of the attention.
Maris was essentially by himself, and didn't have the luxury players of today have of closing doors to the press. He told stories about horrible anxiety and his hair falling out in clumps during the final weeks of the season. He also had to deal with the legend of Ruth. Many Yankee fans were so enamored of the Babe that they rooted for their own player to fail. He received loads of hate mail, and even death threats aimed at keeping Ruth's record intact.
So far, our three heroes seem to be taking all the attention in stride. Each remains humble in the chase. McGwire says Griffey has the best chance to break the record. Griffey says Sosa. Sosa says McGwire.
Sosa seems to love the attention and is rarely seen without a smile on his face. Griffey tends to downplay the chase, opting to focus his interview time on his team's lack of winning. McGwire, at 6-5, 253 pounds, with mammoth biceps and home runs to match, has grudgingly accepted what seems to be the brunt of the media onslaught.
McGwire himself has said that unless he has 50 going into September, he wouldn't have a legitimate shot so it's not even worth talking about. Well, Mark, it's about that time. At present, McGwire had 47, Sosa 46 and Griffey 41 with 20 days left in the month. One may do it, all may do it, or, most likely, none will do it. But whatever happens, it's gonna be fun.
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