Baseball; McGwire and Sosa set to make history

THROUGHOUT THE season they have tracked each other. Tonight Mark McGwire, of the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Chicago Cubs' Sammy Sosa go head-to- head in a two-game series which could witness the demise of the most famous record in American sport.

On Saturday night, against the Cincinnati Reds, McGwire clubbed his 60th home run of the season, to equal Babe Ruth's feat in 1927 and bring him within one of tying Roger Maris' record of 61, which has survived for 37 years. Sosa, meanwhile, smashed his third homer in four games, to lift his season's total to 58, a feat achieved by only five others in baseball history.

Conceivably the record could have already gone, in yesterday's third face-off between the Cardinals and the Reds. But there would be no more fitting moment than tonight or tomorrow, when the two hitters, whose contest has made baseball the national pastime once more, slug it out face-to- face in Busch Stadium St Louis.

"It's unbelievable, what can you say ?" said a relaxed McGwire after smiting No. 60. "Without a doubt, the fans are coming back. What's happening with myself and Sosa has brought baseball back, and it's brought America together."

Their exploits are all the more remarkable in that both play in the National League, where the pitchers are regarded as better, and the stadia are larger, than in the rival American League, where both Maris and Ruth played for the New York Yankees.

The two Cardinal/Cubs games have long been sold out, and tickets are exchanging for a fortune on the black market. But the really big memorabilia money is yet to be made. A businessman enthusiast has reportedly offered $1m (pounds 602,000) for the ball which goes for the 62nd homer - guaranteeing an instant fortune for the fan sitting in the right seat at the right moment.

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