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McGwire Feeds St. Louis’ Economy

September 29, 1998

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Mark McGwire gave St. Louis more than a home run record. His historic season also lifted more than the spirit of baseball fans.

McGwire’s 70 home runs also supplied the power behind a healthy St. Louis economy that experienced an increase of up to $60 million this year, according to the St. Louis Regional Commerce and Growth Association.

``It’s the kind of thing that can both be measured, and as that MasterCard commercial says, `Is priceless,‴ Dick Fleming, president of the association, said Tuesday.

Consider the numbers:

_ The St. Louis Cardinals this season sold 60 percent more T-shirts, caps and other souvenirs per fan than last season. Total sales increased by more than 100 percent, according to the Cardinals.

_ Beer, hot dogs and other concession sales were up about 20 percent per fan. Total sales increased about 50 percent.

_ The team set a season attendance record with 3,195,021. A record-breaking season for a team that finished 19 games out of first place.

Fleming said local hotels, restaurants, bars and downtown parking venders benefited the most. And yes, he said, all economic indicators point to McGwire.

``You’d have to say he is responsible. With all due respect to the Cards, they had a pretty mediocre season,″ Fleming said.

Fans from around the country traveled to St. Louis during the last two months of the season as McGwire closed in on Roger Maris’ hallowed home run record, selling out each game and filling up local businesses. Often they didn’t have tickets but were satisfied with being near the excitement while watching McGwire at a local bar, said Karen Gitto-Vangeo, manager of Charlie Gitto’s Restaurant in downtown St. Louis.

``We do well anyway, but at this point in the season he kept the stadium filled, and he kept us filled,″ she said.

It seems everyone got a piece of the McGwire pie.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch scored a winner when McGwire hit home runs 61 and 62. The paper printed special commemorative editions that increased ad and circulation revenue to an estimated $1 million and caused lines to spill into the street for days.

Bob Freesmeier, comptroller at Sportsprint Inc. in St. Louis, said his company increased profits by about 17 percent solely by distributing McGwire souvenirs to companies throughout the country.

``The dominoes all fall in sequence. The distributors, the retailers ... the local UPS certainly benefited,″ he said. ``My glory, this is exciting.″

Fleming said the long-term effects of McGwire were harder to measure than the immediate impact.

McGwire’s name can, and will, be used to draw corporations as well as residents to a city that has seen its population dwindle over the years. He said ``you couldn’t write a better script″ to promote St. Louis to the rest of the world.

``It’s not a big stretch. Here’s a man that had his pick of the litter among communities and he choose St. Louis. That’s powerful,″ he said.

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