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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hot Run Needed For Maris' Record

NEW YORK -- Ken Griffey Jr. need look no further back than this season and other recent ones to find inspiration for the task that faces him in the next two and a half weeks. He may find it impossible to do what the task requires, but he can draw on the recent experiences of St. Louis Cardinal Mark McGwire and Albert Belle, or he can simply summon his own memories.


The Seattle Mariner's Griffey has 50 home runs and needs 12 in his final 17 games to break Major League Baseball's home-run record.


Players don't often hit 12 home runs in a 17-game period, but Griffey had collected seven in his previous nine games.


"All the power hitters have hot streaks,'' Buddy Bell, the Tigers' manager, said Tuesday. "Griff's done it. McGwire. They all have.''


Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Roger Maris' record of 61 home runs is that it has withstood its challengers longer than Babe Ruth's legendary record of 60. It was 1927 when Ruth set what may always remain the best-known record in all sports history.


It was 34 seasons before Maris surpassed the record in 1961. This is the 36th season since Maris.


In recent seasons, players have swung their way closer to the record. For the first time in history, baseball has had players hit 50 or more home runs in three successive seasons.


Two years ago Belle slugged 50 for Cleveland. Now Griffey has 50, and McGwire, with 49, will probably join him soon.


But 50 isn't 60 or 61 or 62, and right now fans and baseball personnel are asking themselves the same question: Can Griffey do it? Can McGwire do it?


"It would create interest in the game,'' Bob Watson, the Yankees' general manager, said as one who would like to see one or both do it.


But 12 home runs in 18 games? Or, in McGwire's case, 13 home runs in 18 games?


Besides his seven in a recent eight-game stretch, Griffey hit 10 home runs in a 12-game span in July. In 1994 he hit 14 in a 20-game span in May.


Watson, echoing the thoughts others have expressed, said the chances of Griffey and McGwire will depend to a large extent on whether or not pitchers throw them pitches they can hit.


Maris, Watson noted, had Mickey Mantle hitting behind him, and Mantle hit 54 home runs that season. "You couldn't stop pitching to him,'' Watson said of Maris, "because the other guy would knock the tar out of you. That's not to say the guys hitting behind Griffey and McGwire aren't good hitters, but they're not a threat to hit 54 home runs.''