Rick Weinberg
Special to ESPN.com

THE MOMENT
September 8, 1998, Busch Stadium, St. Louis.

There is a unique buzz as Busch Stadium fills. Mark McGwire is antsy, overanxious as he prepares to face the Cubs' Steve Trachsel in the second inning. The world seems to stop as McGwire steps in. The crowd rises and roars, waiting, hoping, praying for this to be The Moment. Camera lights flash continuously, thousands at a time. He needs one home run to pass Roger Maris' single-season record of 61.

Trachsel, determined not to become the answer to one of the sports' great trivia questions, works McGwire carefully and falls behind 3-0. But McGwire, anxious, goes against a philosophy he lived by all season and hacks at Trachsel's next pitch, grounding out weakly. The crowd moans and sits.

McGwire steps in again in the fourth inning. He digs in, his feet in his trademark pigeon-toed position, crouching, as Traschel winds and unleashes a fastball, about 88 mph. As the pitch spins toward the plate, McGwire, his eyes big, uncoils and takes a vicious cut. He connects.

The ball soars toward left field, a low laser. The crowd roars, the flashes of cameras light up the stadium. McGwire sprints toward first, eyeing the flight ball, wondering if this is the one. "I was sure it was going off the wall," he says.

Just as McGwire reaches first, the savagely struck ball disappears over the wall and bedlam erupts. No. 62, a magical figure no one thought anyone would or could reach, becomes reality.

McGwire is so excited that when he leaps in jubilation he misses first base, forcing coach Dave McKay to pull him back to touch it. "That never happened to me before," McGwire says. As he rounds the bases with his arm and fist raised, the Cardinals come pouring out of the dugout. Everyone's flushed, including the Cubs infielders, who give Big Mac a high five as he goes around. When McGwire reaches the plate, his son Matt is there waiting, and McGwire lifts him high in the air.

Sosa, who is battling McGwire for the home run lead and has 58 homers himself, runs in from right field and gives McGwire a huge hug, and they both perform Sosa's trademark celebration gesture in unison.

McGwire then goes beyond the Cardinal dugout to climb into the stands and hug Maris' five children.

"I touched your father's bat today; I touched it with my heart," he tells them. Maris' children begin weeping.

Later, after St. Louis' 6-3 victory, the Cardinals present McGwire with, fittingly, a '62 red corvette, which he drives around the stadium amid a roaring standing ovation.

"You can't use enough adjectives to describe being there that night," Cardinals outfielder Brian Jordan would say later. "I'm sure the people watching it on TV can't even find the right words to accurately describe it. That's how great it was. People talk about the Ripken game, and that was great, but this was truly the most amazing thing I've ever seen in sports. I've been involved in many great moments myself, and I've seen a lot of great, historic moments involving other sports Super Bowls, NBA games but Mac's 62nd home run is unquestionably at the top of the list."






The ESPN Take: 1-10

7: Magic Johnson announces he's HIV-positive

8: Ali lights the flame at the 1996 Olympics

9: Doug Flutie's Hail Mary beats Miami, 47-45

10: O.J. Simpson drives around in white Bronco

Best of 1998