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Closing in on history
McGwire's 60th homer leaves him one shy of Maris' record
Posted: Saturday September 05, 1998 11:13 PM
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- It's 60 down, two to go for Mark McGwire.
In front of another sellout crowd and with millions watching on national television, McGwire moved one homer away from Roger Maris' record, hitting No. 60 in the first inning Saturday as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Cincinnati Reds 7-0.
McGwire, who has five homers in his last four games and 13 in 18 days, joined Babe Ruth and Maris as the only players to hit 60 homers in a single season. Ruth hit 60 in 1927, a record that stood until Maris hit 61 in 1961.
"It's unbelievable," McGwire said. "What can you say? Obviously he must have felt unbelievable, just like I do."
How much longer will Maris' record stand?
"He's capable of doing it any time," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "He can do it in his first few at-bats, or it could take him a couple days."
Certainly, there's magic in the 34 1/2-inch, 33-ounce bat McGwire is using. After breaking the bat that produced No. 55, the replacement has been responsible for the last five.
"It's got a few [more]," McGwire said. "I don't retire them until they break."
McGwire has 21 games remaining to set the record. While Maris also played in a 162-game season, Ruth accomplished his feat over a 154-game schedule.
McGwire is tired of such asterisk talk.
"It's not my fault I was born in a different age," he said. "What can I say? I'm sorry I was born in 1963."
McGwire, who got only his 12th homer off left-handers this season, struck out in his final three at-bats. The sellout crowd of 47,994 stood throughout each McGwire plate appearance and a few hundred waited through his 45-minute postgame news conference.
Cincinnati was the last NL team this season to give up a homer to McGwire. He entered the day 2-for-16 with no RBIs and 12 walks against Reds' pitching.
After consecutive two-homer games against Florida, McGwire was 0-for-3 with a walk in Friday night's series opener, the start of a five-game homestand. He appeared determined to come through Saturday, taking big cuts in every at-bat.
John Mabry singled with one out, Reyes threw two balls inside and McGwire hit a towering drive that plopped into the left-field stands. The homer was estimated at 381 feet -- one of his shorter efforts. Only 18 of his homers have been estimated at less than 400 feet.
"I think for me it's another home run," Reyes said. "I'm not going to be the last one."
On his way to the dugout, McGwire saluted the Cardinals' owners. He then emerged for a curtain call and saluted again.
Deni Allen, 22, who works in the St. Louis Rams' marketing department, sneaked two sections from his seat to be in position to catch the ball. Allen, who didn't use a glove, snagged the ball after it deflected off another fan's hands.
"I've watched on the replays and the first guy never catches it," Allen said. "I knew that, so I waited for the rebound."
All those big cuts have had their downside for McGwire, who has 136 strikeouts, second in the league behind Sosa's 142. He stranded a man on first in the second, fanned on three high fastballs against Mike Remlinger in the fifth, and struck out again on a high fastball from John Hudek in the seventh with runners on second and third.
"They've been going at me," McGwire said. "My last three at-bats, I was pitched very well. Hudek was flat-out nasty."
Reds manager Jack McKeon bowed to public pressure when he pitched to McGwire in the seventh.
"We thought about walking him, but then I also thought about all those people that have been calling my voice mail wanting me to heal the country," McKeon said. "Since we're going through this healing process, I figured, well, I'm going to do something good for the country. I'll pitch to him. "
McGwire laughed at that notion.
"Well, wouldn't that be great, if that's all it came down to?" he said.
Meanwhile, Donovan Osborne (4-3) pitched a three-hitter and the Cardinals won for the fifth time in six games, stopping a 10-game losing streak to the Reds. Osborne didn't appear to mind that only a few of the 600-plus reporters talked to him,
"I was telling the guys we're never going to be forgotten," Osborne said. "We played with Mark McGwire the year he set the record."
Notes: McGwire said his 10-year-old son, Matthew, probably will come to St. Louis when he gets to 61 homers. Matthew, who lives with McGwire's ex-wife in southern California, serves as bat boy whenever he visits his father. ... St. Louis has 13 games left this year at Busch Stadium, where McGwire has 30 homers, nearly twice the previous season record of 17. McGwire has 84 homers, 169 RBIs and 189 walks in 184 career games with the Cardinals, who acquired him from Oakland on July 31, 1997. ... Sunday's game will start at 4:10 p.m. EDT instead of 2:10 p.m. and will be televised by Fox to 80 percent of U.S. television markets. ... Cardinals center fielder Ray Lankford was a late scratch due to cold and sinus problems. His replacement in the order, Mabry, singled ahead of McGwire's 60th homer.
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