If you don’t follow baseball, then you might be unfamiliar (and understandably so) with the story of Mark McGwire’s 62nd home run and the interesting story that followed. Before we get into that, we need to discuss the significance of the 62ndhome run and most importantly, what it meant to baseball itself. This significance begins with Roger Maris, who held the home run record in 1961, beating Babe Ruth’s previous record set in 1927.
The expectation, in 1998, was that Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals would break the record, and he did not disappoint, hitting 62 home runs in a single season. This record would later be broken by Sammy Sosa with 66, and today, Barry Bonds holds the record with a total of 73 home runs. The focus of this story, however, is the ball.
Eye on the Ball
Before Mark McGwire even hit that 62nd home run, the IRS was paying close attention to it. As often happens at baseball games, it was likely that a fan would catch the ball, raising the question of how much they could sell it for. The IRS noted that it was difficult to place a monetary value on it, but as it turns out, they wouldn’t have to. Getting back to the actual moment, McGwire hit his shortest home run of the 98’ season at just 341 feet. It barely cleared the wall, and in fact, afterward, he is recorded as saying:
“I tell you what, I was so shocked because I didn’t think the ball had enough to get out, it’s an absolutely incredible feeling. I can honestly say I did it.”
After a 10-minute celebration on the field, they finally began to wonder where the ball had gone.
The Interception of 62
The ball landed in an area where fans could not reach it, but it was picked up by Tim Foneris, a ground crew worker. He claimed that he intended to give the ball to McGwire, but that was up in the air for a while.
“Right when it hit off the bat, I knew it was going out and it went right over the sign, was a bunch of ground-crew guys on the wall. But I was right on the edge and I said, `That ball is mine.”
Amazingly enough, Forneris did give the ball back to McGwire, and it happened in a special ceremony right on Busch Stadium field. The fact that he did so for free, when the ball was worth an estimated $1 million goes to show the extreme loyalty that fans feel toward their teams, but it hasn’t been a complete wash for Forneris.
18 Years Later
It’s been eighteen years since these events occurred, and Forneris claims that he has absolutely no regrets over giving up ball 62. Once again, it was estimated that the ball would have been worth $1 million, but Forneris states that his giving back the ball led to several opportunities, including a face to face being with President Bill Clinton. He also received a red minivan from Chrysler, and a watch forms the Cardinals.