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McGwire Pursues Record at Coors

July 6, 1998

DENVER (AP) _ Everyone was trying to guess just how far Mark McGwire would hit a baseball in Coors Field. And Matt McGwire had his own estimate.

``Out of the park, and into the street?″ said the 10-year-old son of baseball’s top slugger.

McGwire, who came into the All-Star break leading the majors with 37 homers, was expected to test the laws of gravity and baseball in Monday’s All-Star Home Derby.

Could he clear the scoreboard in left, over 500 feet away? Would he reach the Rockpile seats high above center field. Were the windows in Wyoming safe?

After a game of catch with Matt, McGwire warmed up for the contest with several monstrous homers during batting practice, including one that slipped through some girders next to the scoreboard in left and sailed out into a parking lot.

The St. Louis first baseman, along with Seattle’s Ken Griffey Jr. and the Cubs’ Sammy Sosa, have baseball fans wondering if this might be the season that Roger Maris’ 37-year-old record of 61 homers in a season will fall.

McGwire was the only one of the three scheduled to participate in this year’s home-run hitting contest, however. Griffey bowed out last month and Sosa has a sore left shoulder that will also keep him out of Tuesday’s 69th All-Star Game.

Griffey, the top vote getter in balloting by fans, has been criticized for skipping the contest and was booed when introduced before BP. Last year, he reluctantly entered after only getting a few hours sleep because the Mariners had to play a late Sunday night game before the break.

``I made my decision a month ago,″ he said when asked if anyone had tried to change his mind. ``Isn’t this an invitation? Don’t you have the right to say that you want to do it or don’t want to do it?

``It’s not like they held a gun to my head and said, `you’re doing it.′ They asked me, and I said no.″

Fortunately, McGwire didn’t. In fact, McGwire has had a difficult time saying no to anyone lately.

His pursuit of Maris’ record is the talk of baseball, and recently the Cardinals placed restrictions on the media in order to give McGwire a break from the constant attention.

``Well, I don’t know if I’ll ever enjoy it,″ McGwire said of dealing with the press. ``That’s just not me as a person. But I’ve come to realize that I have to do something about it, and that I have to talk about it.″

Talk that he belongs among the great home-run hitters in history makes McGwire shake his head in disbelief.

``It still blows me away, it really does,″ he said. ``Considering that when I was a kid, all I wanted to do was pitch. It wasn’t until my sophomore year in college that I turned into a hitter, never knowing I’d get a chance to go to the big leagues.

``The next thing you know, they’re talking about my name along with Babe Ruth, Maris, Mantle down the line. It’s overwhelming. I don’t think it will really hit me until I’m retired.″

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