BASEBALL: Homer unites America

WHEN IT came, the home run that broke the US record was hard, fast and so low that it seemed at first it might not make it over the fence. But, so much energy did Mark McGwire put into the shot, it would probably have punched a hole through in any case.

America has been on the edge of its seat for weeks as it became clear that McGwire would beat the record of 61 home runs in a season set back in 1961 by Roger Maris. Mc Gwire, of the St Louis Cardinals, and Sammy Sosa, of the Chicago Cubs, have both been in contention, but it was McGwire - in a match against the Cubs at the Cardinals' home field - who finally broke through.

He chewed nervously in the dug out before he took the field, almost visibly imagining the pitches. When he walked out to face Cubs pitcher Steve Trachsel, a hush fell on the stadium. Trachsel threw him a fastball and, at 8.18pm precisely, McGwire swatted it with tremendous force down the left line. He had almost run to first base before it was clear that he had taken his place in history. The field erupted into fireworks, hoarse cheers and a splatter of flash bulbs for 11 minutes.

The home-run race has helped to restore some lustre to a game that, after the players' strike in 1994, had seen fans turn away in disgust.

McGwire himself is a charismatic but modest figure, whose first impulse after exchanging high-fives and salutes with his team-mates was to hug the members of the Maris family who had come to see him break the record. His use of a medical supplement, which is legal in baseball though not in many other sports, has barely dented his image.

The feat has taken the 34-year-old only 145 games, giving him plenty of time to take the tally well above 62. The legendary Babe Ruth's highest was 59, and when Maris broke that he was booed by many people. McGwire, in a summer when America is enjoying something of a golden glow, has become a towering hero. "I will tell you, the whole country has been involved in this," he said. "People have been saying it is bringing the country together. So be it. I am happy to bring the country together."

Both the bat and the ball were flown straight to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. The ball was recovered by Tim Forneris, a 22-year-old groundsman. "Right when it hit off the bat, I knew it was going out and it went right over the sign," Forneris said. "There was a bunch of ground-crew guys on the wall. But I was right on the edge and I said: `That ball is mine'."

Forneris promptly returned the ball to the slugger. That was no mean gesture: an anonymous benefactor had promised $1m (pounds 0.6m) for it, and on the private market it could have fetched twice that. "What are dollars? It's all about experiences. What I have here, I can never change; no one can take it away from me," said Forneris yesterday.

"Baseball is back alive again and for me to be a part of it, it is truly an honour."

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments