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Let the record fall
Poll shows fans want to see someone smash Maris' mark
Posted: Thursday August 20, 1998 07:33 PM
ATLANTA (CNN/SI) -- Baseball fans are not only sitting up and taking notice of the assault on the home run record, they're pulling hard to see Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa or Ken Griffey Jr. break the 37-year-old mark.
In a poll commissioned by CNN/SI, the 24-hour sports news network from CNN and Sports Illustrated, 64 percent of the respondents said they were rooting for McGwire -- the St. Louis Cardinals' slugging first baseman who leads the major leagues with 49 homers -- to break the record.
The record is held by Roger Maris, who hit 61 homers for the New York Yankees in 1961.
"This is history," said Keating Holland, the polling director for CNN. "I think baseball fans are really kind of getting into the spirit ... that records are meant to be broken."
More than 90 percent of the respondents who identified themselves as baseball fans said they were paying at least some attention to the home run race, with 66 percent saying they were paying a "fair" amount or "a great deal" of attention to the sluggers' exploits.
Sosa, the first baseman for the Chicago Cubs, has seen his popularity skyrocket in the past month, with some 49 percent of the respondents pulling for him to break Maris' record. That was up 10 percent from a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted in mid-June.
Baseball fans in the earlier poll actually had said they didn't want to see Sosa break the record. In the more recent polling, though, he turned that around, with only 41 percent of the respondents now saying they don't want to see him surpass Maris.
"I think fans didn't know who Sammy Sosa was, and they're finding out," Holland said. "I think they're liking what they're seeing now. He's not an arrogant SOB."
The percentage of people rooting for Griffey to break the record has dropped slightly, though. He's been in a homer slump lately, hitting only two in his last 24 games. Still, 58 percent (down from 63 percent) of fans said they'd like to see the Seattle Mariners center fielder break the record.
McGwire's numbers stayed at 64 percent in both polls.
The CNN/SI poll also shows that a majority of baseball fans -- 53 percent -- think that too much attention is paid to home runs, at the expense of some of baseball's finer points, such as pitching and defense. Fans also don't believe the balls are juiced (63 percent responded that they're the same balls used last year).
Few fans think any of the sluggers are taking steroids or other drugs designed to enhance their performance. McGwire, perhaps because his mammoth home runs and the fact he is 6-foot 5 and 250 pounds, often has been questioned on whether he uses steroids or illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
In a recent Associated Press story, a reporter spotted creatine (a substance commonly found in health food stores that supposedly increases energy and enhances muscles) and an over-the-counter drug, Androstenedione (which increases the body's ability to produce testosterone), in his locker.
McGwire repeatedly has denied taking illegal drugs. And an overwhelming 81 percent of the respondents to the CNN/SI poll said they didn't believe any of the three sluggers was taking performance-enhancing drugs.
Of the 6 percent who answered that they believed the players were taking illegal, performance-enhancing drugs, 6 percent thought McGwire was the one taking them, 5 percent thought it was Sosa and 3 percent pointed to Griffey.The poll, done by Yankelovich Partners Inc., from August 13-16, sampled more than 1,000 adult Americans, 35 percent of whom said they were at least "somewhat" of a fan of professional baseball. The margin for error is plus or minus 5 percent.
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