Mark McGwire kept his word, and it lit up the face of 9-year-old Danny Rys.
"I'm excited!" Danny said Wednesday as he stood at the entrance to the Hall of Fame awaiting the arrival of the baseball that McGwire hit for his 62nd home run of the season.The more than 200 people who gathered near the entrance to the Hall broke into a chorus of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" just before the ball arrived. Around 3:35 p.m., a state police sport utility vehicle rolled down Main Street with the precious cargo.
"All right! 62! 62! 62!" they shouted in unison as a big red St. Louis Cardinals duffel bag full of baseball goodies was carried inside.
The ball, which was autographed by McGwire and dated "9-8-98," was significant.
"It's probably one of the most important artifacts in the history of the game," Hall of Fame president Don Marr said.
And it was only part of the haul.
Accompanying it were McGwire's brown, flamed-treated Rawlings bat, with his signature just above the label; his hat, uniform, size 13 cleats and batting gloves; the uniform his batboy son Matt was wearing; and the official scorecard of the game kept by Jack Buck, who noted the home run with a jubilant "62!"
"This is like Christmas," said Marr, who put on a pair of white gloves to hold the bat aloft for cameras to record the historic moment. "We knew Mark McGwire was going to be generous, but we didn't know it would be so spontaneous, in the heat of the celebration.
"It means a lot," Marr said. "The artifacts are terribly important in assisting us in telling the story."