Mark McGwire Draws Large Crowds

By R.B. FALLSTROM AP Sports Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Mark McGwire victory tour keeps right on going.

The home run king isn't putting up otherworldly numbers this season and is way off his record pace. He has 17 home runs and even trails four of his contemporaries.

Yet no one rivals him as a gate attraction.

The St. Louis Cardinals are the first team in the majors to draw 1 million fans on the road, topping seven figures on Sunday after an interleague series in Detroit.

That mirrored turnouts during McGwire's amazing stretch drive to 70 last year. After eclipsing Roger Maris' 37-year-old record at home on Sept. 8, McGwire gave instant jolts of attendance in Cincinnati, Houston and Milwaukee, doubling or even tripling the house wherever he went.

It's happening again, and not just because the Cardinals have played more road games than any other team. Fans hungering for a glimpse of McGwire have gobbled up tickets.

The three-game weekend series against the Tigers drew 125,371, and not because it was the Cardinals' first visit to Detroit since the 1968 World Series.

Similarly, it is McGwire, not the third renewal in three years of the 1985 I-70 Series, that is packing the house for a three-game series in Kansas City against the Royals.

``This will be an incredible experience for our young players,'' Royals manager Tony Muser said Monday. ``This will be the largest crowd they've ever played in front of.''

A turnout crowd of 37,248, second only to opening day, had to settle for some tape-measure batting practice homers in the opener from McGwire. He sat out the 7-5 victory in the opener with a stiff back.

``I told them to stay for batting practice or go home, because Mark ain't playing,'' said Shawon Dunston, who replaced McGwire at first and hit a two-run homer.

The Cardinals were averaging 32,655 fans on the road, nearly 2,000 fans per game better than the runner-up Chicago White Sox (30,659). Sammy Sosa's Chicago Cubs were third (30,262).

The attention certainly has not hurt the Cardinals' play away from Busch Stadium. The team has 20 wins on the road - tops in the majors.

The only puzzlement to McGwire is the superstar treatment he's getting in American League cities. These are the same fans who saw a lot of him when he played in Oakland and never appeared overly impressed.

``It just amazes me what's happened over one year,'' McGwire said. ``I played in Detroit and Kansas City for 12 years and I hit close to 400 home runs in the American League, then they start coming out because of what I did one year.

``I'm awfully flattered and it's a great thing that they're doing. But what can I say?''

That said, McGwire suspects most of his road following stems from the novelty of interleague play. He pointed out that a week ago, the team drew only about 20,000 a game for a series in Florida.

On the other hand, that was a significant increase for the Marlins, and the Cardinals had another sellout series late last month at Los Angeles.

``It's nice to see,'' general manager Walt Jocketty said. ``I just wish we were getting a percentage of it like we used to.''

Under the current agreement, visiting clubs don't have to share gate receipts anymore. That shouldn't hurt much since the Cardinals are doing even better at home, averaging 40,570 in a major league low 22 dates.

``When we get home, I would think we'd top 1 million at home pretty soon,'' Jocketty said. ``So we might be the first million-million team.''

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