In the summer of 1998, baseball was king, ballpark attendances were higher than ever before, and fans delighted in watching a then-record 5064 long balls sail over outfield fences. Two superstars were particularly in the spotlight: Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs and Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals were racing to break the all-time single season home-run record, which had been set in 1961 by Roger Maris, of the New York Yankees, who had hit 61 that year. Watching these two sluggers crush homers at unparalleled paces, America knew it could not be long before one or both hit a 62nd dinger.
All season long, McGwire and Sosa crisscrossed, one taking the lead from the other, one going on a hot streak. But on September 8, it was the Cardinals’ McGwire who broke the longstanding and heralded record. Appropriately, the McGwire’s Cardinals and Sosa’s Cubs were playing each other that day. Big Mac hit a big fly off of Steve Trachsel, his 62nd of the season, claiming sole possession of the single-season home run record. It was a liner over the left field wall of the old Busch Stadium. The crowd erupted, the game halted, Cubs infielders shook McGwire’s hand as he rounded the bases. In a show of true happiness and camaraderie, Sammy Sosa ran in from the outfield and hugged Mark, his friend and rival — a beautiful and appropriate culmination of the home run race of 1998.
Sosa would hit his 62nd home run 5 days later and finish the season with 66. McGwire finished with 70.