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Maris and McGwire

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On this date in 1998, St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire shattered the longtime home run record set by North Dakota’s Roger Maris. With his historic homer electrifying baseball fans, both McGwire and Maris were front page news.

Roger’s 37-year-old record was a testament to the batting brilliance of North Dakota’s adopted son. “It would not have ended this way in the movies” wrote Mike McFeely of the Forum. “There was not enough majesty, enough drama, enough anticipation for Hollywood.”

McFeely continued: “McGwire is king of the tape measure, master of the upper deck shot.”

That new king paid a sensitive tribute to the player he had bested. The Forum’s Dave Kolpack reported that after the famous home run, McGwire “paid a final, and touching tribute to the Fargo hero, climbing into the stands at Busch Stadium and embracing the four sons and two daughters of Roger and Pat Maris.

On the back page of that day’s Fargo Forum, a stunning full color Maris caricature appeared by the hand of newspaper cartoonist Trygve Olsen.

Forum writer Dave Kolpack wrote that there was likely “only one man among the players in Busch Stadium during McGwire’s record-breaking Tuesday night who had actually visited the Roger Maris Museum at the West Acres Mall in Fargo.” That was Chicago Cubs catcher Scott Servais. He had strolled through the museum while on a trip to Fargo to watch his brother play football for the NDSU Bison.

Sevais said, “It was very cool. I was happy to have the chance to see the museum, especially with what’s happened this season.”

McGwire, in a press conference told reporters that he met with the Hall of Fame folks and they pulled out Roger Maris’s bat and allowed him to touch it. “I touched it with my heart. Now I can honestly say my bat will lie next to his, and I am damn proud of it!”

And what fate became the famous baseball that McGuire launched? McFeely wrote that the ball could potentially have become a million-dollar souvenir.

It landed in a Busch Stadium location inaccessible to the public. A groundskeeper named Tim Foranus retrieved the famous sphere and personally delivered it to McGwire.

What a fan!

Dakota Datebook by Steve Stark

Fargo Forum newspaper Sept. 9, 1998

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