They still wanted to come out anyway, so I had all this added pressure of trying to do something in front of family and friends. If you were able to take an X-ray of my insides over the past two weeks, I'd hate to have seen it. My insides were churning. Yes, I was feeling nervous and feeling the pressure and trying to understand that the whole nation was watching. I thought, They're changing the times of these games for national television—just to see me.
But the funny thing is, I was only nervous up until the first pitch. When the game started, I was in the flow of it. All of a sudden everything was O.K. I felt fine. It didn't matter how many people were watching. It came down to what I've always done: Get a pitch to hit, and try to put a good swing on it. That's what happened.
On the morning of Sept. 8—having had a good night's sleep after hitting my 61st home run on my father's 61st birthday—my stomach was turning the moment I woke up. I didn't like that feeling. It was out of character for me to feel that way right at the start of my day. I chased away that feeling, though, by relying on my routine. I'm very superstitious. So I went to lunch with my family and friends at a restaurant I regularly visit, Cardwell's in Frontenac, Mo. One problem, though: They said they would seat us at table 13.
The restaurant staff said, "It's O.K., it's the Starlight table." We thought they were putting us at a different table. So we sat down, and I said, "Is this table 13?" They said, "Well, yes, but it's the Starlight table." So I decided, We're already sitting down. I'm not moving now. We'll just stay here.
Over the last month I've eaten lunch a lot with Pat Kelly, one of my teammates. Cheese pizza has been really lucky for us. So I said, "Pat, we've got to have cheese pizza." He said, "You're right." So we ate cheese pizza and a chicken stir fry.
All I was thinking about while driving to the ballpark that day was, This is my last day here on this home stand. What a way to give something back to the fans of St. Louis for the way they've treated me since coming over here—to get number 62 at home.
The night turned out to be just perfect. Well, almost perfect. If I could change anything about that night, it would be hitting a home run that didn't shock me so much when it went out. I had been so used to hitting balls well out of the park that after I hit the pitch from the Cubs' Steve Trachsel, I thought, That's off the wall. I've got to get going.
The next thing I knew, the ball disappeared, and I was in shock, I was numb. I did it! I had all these things running through my mind, and I was just floating in outer space. I can't even remember everything I did. I do remember I saw Matthew and I saw my teammates, and all of a sudden I was just standing there acknowledging the crowd when I glanced over and saw the Maris family. I just took off to their box and hugged them and told them that their father was in my heart. I hadn't planned it. It just happened. I knew what they were going through and the feelings they were feeling.
I was so happy that my mother, father and son all were there. And it meant so much to me to have Kathy and her husband, Tom, there. She's seen me go through so many things—all the way back to college, the minor leagues and my first couple of years in the big leagues. She's watched me grow as a person and as a baseball player. She told me some things in private that night that really touched me. I got very choked up.
Back in 1984, when I was traveling with the U.S. Olympic team and we were playing in Cooperstown, I went to the Hall of Fame. I walked in the door, took a step or two, turned around and walked out. I was a young kid, and I just didn't appreciate history at the time. I was more interested in getting something to eat in the pizza joint down the street. Do I regret it? Yes, I regret it; it's the only time I've ever been there. But that's who I was at the time. And you know what? Now I have a good reason to go back.