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Pride Of The Yankees

Sept. 28, 1998
Sept. 28, 1998

Table of Contents
Sept. 28, 1998

Pride Of The Yankees

I agree. The coverage of this home run chase has been racist,
jingoistic and shameful. One man has been ignored in favor of
the heroic native son. An entire nation owes this man an apology.

This is an article from the Sept. 28, 1998 issue

I only hope Mark McGwire isn't too hurt to accept it.

Hell, yes! In the Dominican Republic, homegrown Slammin' Sammy
Sosa has received boatloads more attention than McGwire has.
Television has shamelessly hyped Sosa over McGwire. Day after day
Sosa stories have been longer than ones about McGwire. You talk
about a bunch of homers.

In the U.S. we're much too PC for that. Anyone with the nerve to
openly root for the American to beat the Dominican in the Greater
Tater Race is a swine-breathed right-winger with all the racial
sensitivity of pine tar.

In a USA Today poll asking people which player they would rather
see win the race, 79% said McGwire, and columnists all over the
country started pulling their hair out. Hank Aaron said he
thought people favored McGwire over Sosa because Sosa is "from
the Dominican and also happens to have black skin." In an
Internet interview last week one of my colleagues, Gary Smith,
wondered if "unconscious racism" was at work in the coverage.

Bullchip!

What kind of numbers do you figure a similar poll would've had
in Dominican Today? Sure, Sosa hasn't had as much media coverage
in this country as McGwire, but he hasn't done badly. He has
been on the cover of this magazine twice by himself. He is
getting standing O's in every ballpark. He is a lock for
National League MVP. Not bad for never having the home run lead
by himself.

Well, O.K., he had it for 57 minutes, on Aug. 19, but got
Macuumed up again. McGwire, meanwhile, has slept with the home
run lead, and all the heat that goes with it, every night since
May 16. You tell me, who are we supposed to cover more? Even
Sosa expects Americans to root for McGwire. "Why?" somebody
asked him.

"Because he's American," Sosa said.

Remember, this is how Sosa wanted it. He has called McGwire "The
Man," rooted openly for McGwire to exceed 61 first and worked
his ex-shoeshine-boy, just-happy-to-be-in-America shtick.
Meanwhile, he kept free-swinging like mad, happy in the big
man's shadow.

You don't think the homers have come easier to Sosa? Please. He
has had one fifth the attention, a better hitter batting behind
him, a better team around him and all the daily clubhouse juice
that comes with being in the wild-card race, and he has taken
about 260 more cuts than McGwire. Remember, when the spotlight
was the brightest on Sosa, during the two monster games at St.
Louis on Sept. 7 and 8, he hardly got the ball airborne. McGwire
hit 61 and 62 in what may have been the best hitting performance
under pressure ever.

All this doesn't make Sosa less of a hitter than McGwire, it
just gives you some idea of what an edge it has been for him to
be playing the Catskills all the time McGwire was under the
klieg lights of Broadway. Sosa's plan was brilliant, and he just
might pass McGwire at the end thanks to it.

True, you could've fit all the media who came to watch Sosa's
62nd into a VW Bug, as opposed to the 600 who made the
pilgrimage to see McGwire's. No national network showed it live,
nobody gave him a blue Corvette, and no baseballs pitched to him
were dipped in decoder ink. The Maris family wasn't there, and
neither was commissioner Bud Selig.

That was because his home run did not set a record. Why should
the Maris family have been there? Their father's mark was toast.
Sosa has been Sammy Sequel all the way. Ever heard of John Landy?
He was the guy who ran a sub-four-minute mile after Roger
Bannister. Were we supposed to throw him a parade, too?

I don't care who wins this. Sosa has been wonderful. McGwire has
been wonderful. Throughout this whole Goosebump Festival, both
have shown enough class, humor and sportsmanship to get us
through the next dozen NBA seasons. But only one of them has had
to slash his way through the attention and the pressure and the
bunting the whole way, and it has been McGwire. What are you
going to do? Some people feel a little patriotism in that.

So sue.

COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA [Rick Reilly]
Sosa expects Americans to root for McGwire. Why? "Because he's
American," Sosa said.