Knowing it was just a matter of time before Mark McGwire tied Roger Maris' home run record, Jack Buck was prepared to make his small contribution to history.
Buck, the St. Louis Cardinals broadcaster for 44 years, was aware that his words would be forever connected with McGwire's deeds. He read from a script when McGwire connected in the first inning Monday against the Chicago Cubs' Mike Morgan.The call: "Look at there, look at there! McGwire Flight No. 61 to Planet Maris! Pardon me for a moment while I stand and applaud!"
Buck is one of four announcers rotating duties in the KMOX broad-cast booth, but he also got to call No. 60 on Saturday. For that one, "Wake up, Babe Ruth! There's company coming!"
If McGwire doesn't hit No. 62 Tuesday night, Buck will make a rare road appearance when the team heads for Cincinnati for a two-game series.
Among the broadcasters who didn't get to call it were Joe Buck and Mike Shannon, Jack Buck's sidekick the last 27 years. Shannon was a teammate of Roger Maris' with the Cardinals in 1967 and 1968.
Last week, Shannon said he had no idea what he would say if he got the call for No. 62. Now that the moment is imminent, he hasn't changed his game plan.
"I have no idea, none, and I ain't going to have one, either," Shannon said. "I ain't kidding you now."
MORGAN'S PITCH: Cubs right-hander Mike Morgan felt a lot worse about losing the game than surrendering McGwire's record-tying homer. The loss dropped Chicago into a first-place tie in the wild-card race with the New York Mets.
Morgan, who has played for 10 teams, has yet to play in the post-season.
"I hope Mark McGwire goes on and breaks Maris' record and we are crowned world champions," Morgan said. "That would be a dream come true.
"I hope I'll be pouring champagne in a few weeks when we win the wild card."
Morgan, 38, was acquired in an Aug. 25 trade with the Twins to bolster Chicago's shaky rotation. He's 121-170 in a career that began with Oakland in 1978.
After McGwire circled the bases in the first inning, third baseman Gary Gaetti came over to make sure Morgan was OK.
"Yeah, I'm all right," Morgan replied. "But I'd like to have that pitch back."
BIG MAC ATTACK: McGwire set the stage for his record-tying homer with his best batting practice session of the season.
McGwire's batting practices have been big crowd-pleasers since the Cardinals acquired him last July. He outdid himself this time with 11 homers in 15 swings against first-base coach Dave McKay, his longtime BP pitcher.
"Dave put every pitch on the tee," manager Tony La Russa said. "You know how hard it is to do that."
McKay estimates he's given up 8,000 pregame homers to McGwire over the years.
"He's the best BP thrower anybody could ever have," McGwire said.
BITTERSWEET FARGO: America loves Mark McGwire. Well, maybe not Fargo, N.D., Maris' hometown.
Ken Schwinden, a friend of Maris, said he hated to see Mc-Gwire tie the record, although he respected the feat.
"The kids are getting bigger and stronger today," Schwinden said from his Fargo home.
With 18 games remaining, Schwinden conceded it was only a matter of when - and not if - McGwire claims the record for himself.
"If he doesn't get six more, I'll be disappointed," Schwinden said.
Wayne Blanchard, a longtime Maris friend, said he believes Maris would have encouraged the St. Louis Cardinals slugger to go for it. Maris finished his career with the Cardinals in 1968.
"He wouldn't mind that much," Blanchard said. "I think the record meant a lot to him. But it wasn't a means to an end for him."