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Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Saturday, August 7, 1999



McGwire not needed
for baseball trip to Japan

WHERE have you gone Brandi Chastain? These indeed are the dog days of August in the world of sports now that the Girls of Summer have left us.

Some have had to turn their lonely eyes to major league baseball.

After all, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa are heating it up in the home run race once again. But this time, the thrill is gone. We're a little bored out of our gourd. Wake us up when they reach 60.

And I wonder how much McGwire's 60th home run ball will be worth this time around? Don't even dare think that the St. Louis Cardinal slugger will reach 70 again.

This time, though, I hope the Chicago Cubs' Sammy Sosa wins the home run title and gets his turn in the limelight.

It's not every year that you can hit 66 homers - surpassing the single-season exploits of Babe Ruth and Roger Maris - only to get second billing.

The only drama to 1999's Great Home Run Chase is whether or not McGwire will match Sosa's 66.

Though McGwire doesn't want to share his home run title with the rest of the world, especially Japan, the New York Mets are worthy representatives for two regular-season games in Tokyo next year - possibly against the Cubs.

REMEMBER, McGwire wanted nothing to do with playing in Japan. He said it was un-American, or words to that effect.

"I'm absolutely against it. Major league baseball belongs in the United States," McGwire griped.

"The Japanese have Japanese baseball, so there's no reason for us to go over there ... The game belongs here."

McGwire's attitude is quite the opposite of Sosa's. Popular in Japan, Sosa is anxious to play two in Tokyo.

"It's a team decision and I'll definitely go with the team," Sosa told the Associated Press.

The Mets will be intriguing enough in Japan anyway. Even without McGwire.

For one, the Mets have a starting pitcher who's a Tokyo native - Masato Yoshii.

More interestingly, it would be a triumphant return of sorts for Mets manager Bobby Valentine, who coached the Chiba Lotte Marines to their best season ever in 1995.

Imagine if Valentine returns as manager of a Mets team that won the National League or even the World Series.

Don't laugh. The Atlanta Braves aren't.

THERE'S an interesting sidebar to San Diego's Tony Gwynn reaching his 3,000th-hit milestone last night.

McGwire might want to note that the Padres' future Hall of Famer recorded his milestone achievement on foreign soil - Canada - against the Montreal Expos.

It was also in Montreal that Pete Rose got his 4,000th hit. The game of baseball certainly doesn't only belong in America.

Also, Rose was on the field in a Philadelphia Phillies uniform in 1982 when Gwynn made his major league debut, getting his first two hits to launch his amazing 18-year career- all with the Padres.

And just think. Five of Gwynn's 3,003 hits - he wound up going 4-for-5 for good measure last night - were struck outside of North America as well.

Gwynn went 5-for-13 during the Padres' three-game, regular-season series against the Cardinals at Aloha Stadium in 1997.

McGwire wasn't with the Cardinals then. Just as well. He probably would have whined about having to come here.



Bill Kwon has been writing about
sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.



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