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Sosa joins Ruth, Maris, McGwire at 60-HR plateau
Posted: Sunday September 13, 1998 01:32 AM
CHICAGO (AP) - Sammy Sosa joined the 60-something club Saturday. What an exclusive one it is.
Before this month, only two players -- Babe Ruth and Roger Maris -- had reached 60 homers in a season this century. Now Sosa and Mark McGwire have done it in an eight-day span.
"I just have to say that I could never feel more happy than I do today," a smiling Sosa said after he hit his 60th homer and his team, the Chicago Cubs, rallied with five ninth-inning runs for a wild 15-12 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.
Nearly an hour after the game had ended on Orlando Merced's dramatic three-run, pinch-hit homer, hundreds of fans stayed in their seats at Wrigley Field, hoping for a another glimpse of Sosa, who with Michael Jordan pondering retirement, is the most popular man in the city.
And as he emerged from the dugout after an interview session, they began chanting his name again. He waved.
Sosa, now tied with the legendary Ruth, who hit 60 homers in 1927, is one shy of the 61 hit by Maris in 1961. And he trails contemporary and good friend McGwire by two after the St. Louis slugger failed to homer in Houston.
"Babe Ruth was one of the greatest guys to play baseball," Sosa said. "He never really died. He's still alive. Everybody remembers him like it was yesterday.
"It's great to be tied with the Babe and be behind Roger Maris and Mark."
Sosa drove a seventh-inning pitch from Milwaukee Brewers reliever Valerio De Los Santos over the back fence and out of Wrigley Field.
The 430-foot blast ended up on the front steps of a house across the street from the park. The three-run homer cut Milwaukee's lead to 12-7 after the Brewers had forged a 10-2 lead following an eight-run third inning.
"We had second and third and I didn't want to strike out," said Sosa, who fought off several pitches. "I came through. I hit 60, I jumped up and said ` Yes,' and that was about it. I didn't want to show the other team up."
Sosa, who went 2-for-3 with two walks, gave the crowd of 39,170 what they came to see. They were already on their feet when his line drive to left took off -- there was never a doubt where it was headed.
The crowd went bonkers, standing and cheering and chanting his name until the man who once sold fruit and shined shoes on the dusty streets of his native Dominican Republic came out for a thunderous curtain call.
"Sammy's homer just lifted us, it gave us hope," Cubs manager Jim Riggleman said. "This is probably the sweetest win I've ever been involved with, if the not the strangest."
Sosa wasn't finished. With the Cubs trailing 12-10, he started the rally in the ninth off Bob Wickman (6-9) with a single.
Then Merced, with his third team this season, drove one over the wall in right center, touching off a celebration in both the ball park and at the hundreds of eating and drinking establishments that surround it.
It was Merced's first Cubs homer since joining the team seven days ago as an extra bat for the playoff run.
"When I came here Sammy was the first one to come up to me and tell me he was glad I was here. Now I'm glad I'm here," Merced said.
When McGwire hit his his 61st and 62nd homers last week in St. Louis against Chicago, Sosa congratulated him heartily, reminding his friend to wait for him to catch up.
"You think he's waiting for me?" Sosa joked.
After a five-game homerless drought of his own, Sosa now has two in the last two days. He's got 13 games left to play.
"If it happens, I'll be there. If not, that's fine. If we go to the playoffs, I'd feel a lot better if I win the home run race," Sosa said.
The Cubs entered the game tied with the Mets for the NL wild card. Chicago's win also postponed Houston's clinching the NL Central title. The Astros beat St. Louis on Saturday to reduce their magic number to one.
With the wind blowing out at 8 mph on a spectacular 86-degree day, the Cubs also got homers from Jose Hernandez, Gaetti, Hill -- whose homer followed Sosa's in the seventh -- and Houston, whose blast also came as pinch-hitter.
And they were were able to overcome Milwaukee's eight-run third-inning, which featured a bases-loaded triple from Dave Nilsson and homers from Jeromy Burnitz, Geoff Jenkins and Bobby Hughes. It was the Brewers' biggest inning of the season.
All eight runs came off Mike Morgan, who had served up McGwire's 61st homer last Monday in St. Louis.
Milwaukee scored six runs in the third inning Friday in a 13-11 victory.
"It was just a tough, tough loss," Brewers manager Phil Garner said. "This one was wilder than yesterday."
Notes: Sosa's 60th was retrieved by Herb Neurauter of Chicago. He returned the ball to Sosa and his only request was to have some pictures taken with the star and four autographed balls, one signed with the number 60. ... Sosa now has 33 homers at Wrigley this season, tying Hack Wilson's mark set in 1930. He also has 96 over the last two seasons, one more than Wilson's previous club record set in 1929 and 1930. ... The pitching-desperate Cubs acquired left-hander Chris Haney for cash considerations from Kansas City, a move announced during the game. ... Mike Utley, the former Detroit Lions lineman paralyzed in a game several years ago, watched batting practice and met Sosa and Kerry Wood. ... Actress Joan Cusack, a native of Evanston, Illinois, led the singing of "Take Me Out To the Ballgame." ... Morandini's second-inning, two-run single gave him 50 RBIs, a career high.
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