From baseball's perspective, the ultimate windfall from the home run chase and its redux has been intangible and immeasurable. It's goodwill. It's watercooler fodder. It's the shift in focus from Don Fehr and Richie Phillips to the game on the field. It's salve on the wounds wrought by the 1994 strike. A study recently commissioned by the players' association revealed that on the heels of last season's Mac and Sammy drama, 50% of American adults consider themselves fans of major league baseball, compared with 33% three years ago. "Mark and Sammy's race might be the best thing that's ever happened to baseball," says Howard Smith, baseball's vice president of licensing.
Others, however, claim that baseball's inability to transform McGwire and Sosa into a serious bottom line enhancement bodes ill for the future. "If a captivating home run chase doesn't significantly improve the economics of baseball," asks Williams, "what will?"