SBJ/September 21 - 27, 1998/No Topic Name

Sosa's No. 62 lands on back burner

When Mark McGwire hit home run No. 62, it seemed the whole world was watching. When Sammy Sosa duplicated the feat, Major League Baseball's head was turned.

Though the Chicago Cubs and baseball officials met to deal with security and celebration issues in the weeks leading up to the breaking of Roger Maris' single-season record, any plans to deal with Sosa's 62nd were seemingly scuttled when

McGwire broke the mark first.

"It was more on the back burner, everything happened so quickly over the weekend," Chicago Cubs security chief Mike Hill said. "But there was security in place inside the stadium."

The home plate umpire didn't hand Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Eric Plunk specially marked infrared baseballs before Sosa's at bats, as was done for McGwire. The celebration after Sosa's 62nd homer was limited to Cubs fans' throwing debris on the field instead of the postgame ceremony baseball held for McGwire. Even more serious was the lack of security on Waveland Avenue outside Wrigley Field, where mobs brawled over Sosa's historic homer.

"We were never notified by Major League Baseball," Hill said, adding that security outside the ballpark was left to the Chicago Police Department.

Major League Baseball officials said there was no need to mark the Sosa baseballs once McGwire broke Maris' record.

"The plan was to recognize the individual that broke the record and to authenticate the record-breaking ball, which we did," league spokesman Richard Levin said. He said that from now until the end of the season, baseballs pitched to both Sosa and McGwire will be marked to authenticate the final record-setting home run ball, which could fetch a fortune among memorabilia bounty hunters.

Major League Baseball officials and the Cubs organization also planned to give Sosa his due.

The Cubs were to honor Sosa with a ceremony Sunday at the team's final regular-season home game. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and a host of other city and baseball dignitaries were to be on hand.

"I think Sammy will be very appropriately honored on Sunday and he is also going to be honored during the postseason," Selig said last week. "When it is all said and done, people will see that Sammy will have been appropriately honored."

John McDonough, Cubs marketing vice president, said the team released its plan to honor Sosa two days before the Cubs right fielder caught McGwire.

The plan included flying Sosa's mother and other family members up from the Dominican Republic, so there was little choice but to wait until the final game at Wrigley since it was impossible to predict Sosa's power surge.

"We decided we would honor him on a special day and we thought it was important that his family be there," McDonough said. "We were absolutely prepared in what we wanted to do. Once somebody surpassed Maris, [Major League Baseball] had the feeling that the quest was over."

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