ST. LOUIS: Once again, history got itself a nice round number -- courtesy of Mark McGwire. With all due respect to the wild-card playoff game that Sammy Sosa and the Cubs will play against the San Francisco Giants on Monday, the 162-game regular season is over, and so is the historic 1998 home run race. Mark McGwire did that with four staggering blasts in two days, leaving his comrade-in-forearms Sammy blinking in the dust and trying to help his Cubs find their way into the playoffs. Any Sosa comeback now in his extra nine innings is practically an impossibility -- though the definition of that
word has changed a bit this year -- and perhaps no one is more relieved about it than Sammy himself.
The Sosa fans were the fans of the underdog; he was black, he was Dominican, and he was pill-free. He had the little body (by comparison) and the big smile. Teddy-bear-on-the-inside or not, McGwire was the hulk. The one with the glower. The one who was supposed to break Maris's record, if you could say that about anyone, and in that way it turned out right. Who but McGwire, after all, could not just pass Maris, not just leave the pesky Sosa behind, but keep piling on the homers until he hit a nice round number, just like Ruth? Mere players set records. When you're larger than life, only a plateau will do.
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