I'll tell you everything I remember about the night of September 8, 1998.
I remember that...
-It was the night Mark McGwire - and the rest of his mediocre Cardinals - played the Chicago Cubs, with McGwire tied with Roger Maris for the record for most home runs in a single season with 61.
-Fox broadcasted the game, pre-empting the series premiere of Costello, a sitcom vehicle for a comedienne that nobody had heard of named Sue Costello. (The show ended up being awful.)
-The Maris family - including Roger's son - was in attendance. For some reason they didn't have front row seats; they sat about ten rows back at field level. Kind of fitting actually.
-Steve Trachsel was the starting pitcher for the Cubs; therefore I assumed number 62 would come in the first at-bat.
-McGwire hit the home run in his second at-bat, barely. In fact, it was basically a line drive that practically skimmed over the left field wall. Joe Buck would later say it was the shortest home run he hit all year.
-McGwire originally missed first base after hitting it, and when he crossed home plate his son -the ceremonial batting boy - gave him a hug. McGwire then went into the stands to hug the Marises.
-The Mets got destroyed that night by the Phillies 16-4, and if it wasn't for the fact that I remember Trachsel giving up the homer to McGwire I would have assumed he started that game. (Hideo Nomo was the actual culprit.) When Buck mentioned the score I felt really embarrassed. Couldn't they have gotten their beatdown when most of the country wasn't in earshot of the scores?
The other day, Mark McGwire admitted to taking steroids during his historic 1998 season. He said he wanted to tell the truth to Congress in 2005 but didn't get immunity, so he lied. To Congress. He said he lied to Congress because he didn't want to get in trouble. This didn't make sense to me until I read that his lawyer was Roger Clemens.
There were two things that popped into my head when all of this went down. Actually, three things if you count the thirty seconds or so I spent trying to figure out if anyone else has ever looked as much like a gigantic zit as McGwire. The first thing I thought about was how impressive Roger Maris' record really was. (Or is that "record really is"?) For some reason, despite the fact I always figured Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds cheated, Maris' true accomplishment never showed itself to my mind until the other day. Maris managed to break a thirty-four year old record with some of his teammates and about half of his team's fan base rooting against him (preferring Mickey Mantle break the record)and without the use of illegal substances (as far as we know). This record lasted for thirty seven years until the Big Pimple broke it, with asterisk. So that's pretty damn good.
The second thing I thought about was...well it's hard to say. It's kind of painful to talk about. May 22, 1998 - three and a half months before McGwire's asterisk historical night - I remember sitting in Spanish class. Edrin Pecani said he heard rumors that Mike Piazza was going to be traded from the Florida Marlins, a week after he was a Los Angeles Dodger.
"The Mets might get him."
"No they wont. Come on, they have Todd Hundley."
Hundley at the time was on the disabled list and not due to return until September, but he was still our catcher, our heart and soul. Getting Piazza would simply be superfluous. He was going to be a free agent after the season, and you know, the Mets having a superstar? I only remember the post-prime years of Doc Gooden and Strawberry; the thought of having a player who was a shoe-in for the All-Star Game every year on the roster never crossed my mind. That night, I went on AOL, checked ESPN.com (which was then http://sports.espn.go.com or something of that natue)and sure enough, Mike Piazza was traded to the Mets for Ed Yarnell, Geoff Goetz and Preston Wilson. I was shocked. I remember that it was a Friday night when the transaction took place. The Mets began a series against the Milwaukee Brewers that night and despite the fact Piazza wasn't in New York yet, attendance was higher than usual. The next afternoon Piazza doubled in a Met win, and he was ours, all ours. Our own Superman. I don't need to tell you about his two most memorable home runs (June 30, 2000 against the Braves in the 10-run 8th inning, first game after 9/11 in New York off of Steve Karsay). I was at the Padres/Mets game in 2006 when Piazza returned to Shea as a San Diego Padre. (I was also at the 10-run inning game, but I didn't want to brag outside of parenthesis.) He hit a home run, and he got a standing ovation. A Padre got a standing ovation for hitting a home run at Shea. He hit a second home run later in the game, and hilariously he barely got any applause for that. I have nothing but fondness for all of the moments that he gave us.
Matt Franco was in the Mitchell Report. So was Todd Pratt. Even Todd Hundley. But not Superman. No way.
I mean...he probably did. There's a fair amount of evidence. Just because you weren't implicated in The Mitchell Report doesn't mean you're not guilty. Ask Alex Rodriguez. But there's a chance that maybe...
There is going to be a day in the future. It will pretend to be like any other forgettable day. You will be at work. You will be at school. You will be at home. You will be in the car. You will read something, maybe hear something, that you never wanted to read or hear. And then it will be 1998 again. And you will start to think about every day since.