While not matching the astronomical tally of home runs brought in by McGwire vs. Sosa in 1998, the Home Run Derby II -- The Sequel, still caught the attention of collectors and fans across the country this fall, with various auctions producing impressive results for home run balls and memorabilia.
The question is, can it continue, and more importantly, how will the future of McGwire vs. Sosa III, IV, etc., affect the market including this month's Collectors Auction One of a Kind Auction on Oct. 30th, where three important home run balls will be offered, including McGwire's 500th, Mantle's 500th, as well as Sosa's 64th and other auctions involving the hottest commodity in sports collecting today -- the home run ball?
Sluggers Not Always Destined to Stay With One Team
One interesting possibility, previously thought to be totally out of the question, is whether either Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa will finish their careers with their current teams. McGwire, who has hit 156 home runs in a little less than two and one half seasons, is under contract through the year 2,000, with the St. Louis Cardinals, who also have an option for his services for the year 2,001. The Cardinals, who been the beneficiaries of near sellouts for their home games since McGwire's arrival in August 1998, are expected to exercise that option for McGwire, even though he will have passed his 38th birthday.
Sosa, four years younger than McGwire, has two more years left on his current contract with the Cubs and there have already been some murmurings that he wants to renegotiate his contract for an extension. More disturbing are calls by some local columnists that the Cubs would be better off trading Sosa before Sosa's contract demands put the club in a difficult position, unable to attract other players.
Jay Mariotti of the Sun-Times is of the opinion that, "it is now time for the Cubs to think of doing what is best for the team and that is to trade Sosa while his trade value is at his highest." Mariotti even mentioned the Atlanta Braves, who could use a gate attraction such as Sosa, as a possible suitor.
For his part, Sosa too, is happy with the Cubs but he has stated publicly he wants to be paid "what I am worth," and that could be more than the current $10 million a year pact he has with the Cubs.
McGwire has indicated he would like to stay with the Cardinals until he retires. But he began in the American League with the Oakland A's who, ironically, are better positioned to winning a pennant than St. Louis. Then there's the incentive of the designated hitter in the American League which would allow McGwire to rest his chronic back ailments and play well into his 40s.
"I haven't given it much thought," McGwire has said of what he will do after his current contract runs out, "Right now, I'm very happy being a St. Louis Cardinal."
If McGwire plays another five years, particularly if he would go back to the American League, he would have a shot at eclipsing Hank Aaron's mark of 755 career homers. In order to surpass Aaron, he would have to average around 48 homers a year, mild numbers in comparison to his previous three seasons but more difficult considering the age and injury factor.
If Sosa or McGwire do change uniforms, the impact on current collectibles with their respective teams would be impacted, probably to the benefit of collectors. McGwire's rookie card in an Oakland A's uniform is one of the most sought after items and Sosa items during his short tenure with his previous team, the White Sox, are rare.
Heavy Hitters' Team Changes, A Boon for Collectors
It wouldn't be unprecedented for these home run sluggers to change teams again. Aaron played for two teams: the Braves, and his team when he retired, the Milwaukee Brewers. Babe Ruth had the lion's share of his home runs with the Yankees but did wind up with the Boston Braves, even hitting three home runs in a single game during his final season.
Willie Mays, No. 3 on the career list, played the lion's share of his career with the Giants but wound up concluding his career with the New York Mets. Only Ted Williams , Ernie Banks and Mickey Mantle are among the top career home run hitters who played their entire careers with one club, (Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees respectively).
Ken Griffey, Jr., who most experts believe has the better chance of getting past Aaron on the all-time home run list, has played his entire career with the Seattle Mariners. But Griffey's contract is up after the year 2,000 and Seattle has indicated they aren't likely to keep both Griffey and fellow all-star Alex Rodriguez because of cost factors. Griffey's father, Ken Sr., is being wooed by the Cincinnati Reds to become their next manager, a move many believe would be a forerunner to bringing his son back to Jr.'s hometown -- Cincinnati. That would have an interesting affect on memorabilia involving Griffey, who was listed as the number one draw at the recent summer national collectors' convention this past August in Atlanta.
Randy Minkoff is a former reporter, writer, editor and author, with more than three decades of journalism experience and a unique combination of both print and broadcasting. For nine years, Minkoff anchored sports reports for WGN Radio, Chicago. He hosted weekend Sports Central shows and Cubs and Bears programs. He served as play-by-play announcer with the legendary Ray Meyer on DePaul basketball broadcasts. He has also served as program host on all-news WBBM Radio. Prior to his role at WGN, he spent nearly 20 years with United Press International, including a decade as the Midwest Sports Editor in Chicago. He has covered the Olympics, numerous Super Bowls, the Final Four, the World Series, and other major events. He has also served as state news editor of the UPI bureaus Iowa and Kentucky. He has interviewed thousands of personalities and newsmakers and has won several regional awards for outstanding reporting. As a writer, Minkoff is a regular contributor to the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine, and Crain's Chicago Business. He has been syndicated nationally as a radio/tv critic and has also written a weekly column for the Daily Herald. He is the author of "Ron Santo; For Love of Ivy", the biography of the former Cub third baseman and his battle against diabetes. A native of St. Louis, Mo., he is a graduate of Drake University School of Journalism.