Home run #: 1
Date: March 31
Opponent: Los Angeles Dodgers
Location: Busch Stadium
Pitcher: Ramon Martinez
Runners on: 3
Distance: 364 feet
End of day Sammy Sosa total: 0
End of day Ken Griffey Jr. total: 1
Mark McGwire wasted no time showing that his power surge at the end of 1997 was no fluke. In fact, it was more of a harbinger. It’s hard to remember at one time that Ramon Martinez was the star of his family and there was a little doubt whether his younger sibling, Pedro, would be more than a reliever. By the beginning of ’98, Pedro had eclipsed his brother but Ramon was still a very solid major league pitcher. I mean, you don’t start Opening Day on a fluke, assuming your team has any sort of quality pitching. In fact, 1998 was a very good year for Ramon, though it was cut short due to injury. McGwire could destroy good and bad pitching, however, and being an Opening Day guy didn’t spart Martinez from the onslaught. McGwire struck out in the first and doubled to lead off the fourth before coming up with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth.
I graduated high school in 1997 and was eventually hired by the accounting firm of Deloitte and Touche in the fall with a start date of January. Unfortunately, they’d hired a number of folks expecting attrition in their current ranks, attrition that not only didn’t happen but resulted in me being let go around Memorial Day. (Thankfully, my father’s firm back home created an opening, so I was out of work for like a day.) With the overstaffing, that meant that the last half of my time with Deloitte was spent studying for the CPA exam and playing around on this newfangled Internet thing.
I still remember watching the rudimentary ESPN GameDay on that afternoon, seeing the little dots indicating a bunch of ducks on the pond when McGwire stepped up. And then, given the lag that usually happened with the Internet at that time, waiting and waiting to see what happened, then quietly exulting when the screen was cleared and a 4 showed up in the runs column. 1998 was off to a roaring start. We had an inkling that it was going to be a special year, but I don’t think any of us realized just how special it would be.