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‘I don’t feel cheated one bit’: Pitchers who gave up home runs to both McGwire and Sosa in ’98 tell their tales

Rick Reed, a righty for the New York Mets, allowed McGwire’s 13th and 51st homers in 1998. “He was just big. I was like, ‘My god, can we just get this at-bat over with?'” Reed said. “Every time he came up, my thinking was, ‘Please, God, just don’t let him hit the ball back up the middle. Let him hit it anywhere he wants to but not back up the middle.’ When I was in the minor leagues, Randy Velarde hit a ball back up the middle, and I kid you not, that hit the button on the top of my hat. If McGwire had hit one back up the middle, I could only imagine what it would’ve looked like — or sounded like. Because I wouldn’t have seen it.”

Jim Parque was a rookie for the Chicago White Sox in 1998, and the first two home runs he allowed in his big league career were to Sosa on June 5, and McGwire on June 10. He laughed with empathy when he heard how Reed had feared a ball being hit up the middle by McGwire. “Oh, yeah. You’ve got a gorilla up there in McGwire. Those two guys, they were just epic — muscle tone, power guys. The way their bats cut the plane, and how it got through the plane, it almost looked like every pitch was going to come back through the middle. … With Sosa and McGwire, it was basically like they had a tee there and the barrel was there the whole time. As a pitcher, you’re thinking, ‘How the hell do I pitch around this?’ That’s what we do as pitchers — pitch around the barrel.”cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Jason Bere allowed McGwire’s 29th home run that season while with the White Sox and Sosa’s 56th after being released and signed by the Cincinnati Reds. “It was almost like the whole game was about their at-bats,” he said.8

“I didn’t appreciate back then what those guys were able to do. Those guys had it all,” he said. “They might not have defined it in [modern] terminology, but they knew back then exactly what they were trying to accomplish. Plate coverage — get the barrel in the zone as quickly as you can and keep it there as long as you can. They had really big flat spots in their swings, rather than coming down and trying to create backspin. They worked on meeting the ball squarely — maybe not matching pitch plane, but the flatter the barrel is through the zone, the more opportunity you will meet the pitch plane. They were masters at it, and that’s why they did so well.”

Andy Benes, who played for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1998 and surrendered McGwire’s 31st and Sosa’s 43rd, said of McGwire: “I don’t think people realize that he was a really good hitter. … He didn’t swing at a lot of bad pitches, and when you made a mistake, he had a pretty good opportunity to put the barrel on it. So he wasn’t just purely a power hitter. I remember him as being a better low-ball guy — he’d drop the barrel on the ball, and that’s not as common for right-handed hitters.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“He would never take practice swings when he was in the on-deck circle. He would visualize, and he knew what every pitcher could do. He took good, quality at-bats. He was a patient hitter, but when he got a pitch to swing at, he cut it loose.”

Reed on McGwire: “He was just so strong. You could make him look like a fool with an off-speed pitch, so that he was out on his front foot, and he’d still hit the ball 450 feet. You just hoped he didn’t come up to the plate with the bases loaded, or a couple of guys on.”

Benes on Sosa: “He could really cover the plate. He could hit a lot of balls the opposite way. Tremendous power, bat speed. He was more of an up hitter. In those years, in the mid-to-late ’90s, he was a really hard out. … When he was dialed in, he was one of the best hitters in the game because he could take the ball the other way. … Mike Piazza was like that. … You had to work on keeping the ball down and make [Sosa] aware you might come inside.”

Reed: “Those guys just had a magical year that we will never see again. We may see one guy — Pete Alonso, he may hit like 2,000 home runs — but I don’t think we’ll see multiple guys hitting 60, 70 home runs. No way. I don’t think so.”