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No stoppin' Sammy

Sosa catches McGwire again with Nos. 61, 62

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Posted: Sunday September 13, 1998 11:53 PM

  Sammy Sosa blasted his 62nd home run of the season off Brewers reliever Eric Plunk to tie McGwire and move ahead of Maris in the record books AP

CHICAGO (AP) -- Goodbye Babe, so long Roger. Slammin' Sammy ain't done yet.

Sammy Sosa hit home runs Nos. 61 and 62 on Sunday to tie Mark McGwire, rekindling a race for one of the most glamorous records in sports during one of baseball's most unforgettable seasons.

Sosa connected twice against the Milwaukee Brewers to lead the Chicago Cubs to an 11-10 victory in 10 innings on a wild afternoon at Wrigley Field. He and McGwire now have two weeks left in the greatest home run derby of all time.

"It's unbelievable. It was something that even I can't believe I was doing," Sosa said. "It can happen to two people, Mark and I."

For his part, McGwire went 0-for-2 against the Astros in Houston on Sunday night before leaving the game in the fourth inning with minor back spasms. He is just 1-for-14 since breaking Roger Maris' record with home run No. 62 last Tuesday against the Cubs in St. Louis.

Sosa, who trailed McGwire 24-9 in late May, homered off Bronswell Patrick in the fifth inning, sending an 0-1 pitch 480 feet into the street behind the left-field fence. He hit another 480-foot homer in the ninth, a solo shot off Eric Plunk.

That one dropped Babe Ruth into fourth place on the single-season list with 60, which he hit in 1927. Maris passed that mark with 61 homers in 1961. Now, amazingly, a record that had stood for 37 years has been passed twice in less than a week.

With tears and sweat running down his face as he sat in the dugout after his second triumphant tour around the bases, Sosa came out for three emotional curtain calls. Fans littered the field with paper cups and other debris while chanting "Sam-mee! Sam-mee!" causing a delay that lasted six minutes.

"I don't usually cry, but I cry inside. I was blowing kisses to my mother, I was crying a little bit," Sosa said.

"I have to say what I did is for the people of Chicago, for America, for my mother, for my wife, my kids and the people I have around me. My team. It was an emotional moment."

Randy Maris, one of Roger's sons, phoned to congratulate Sosa.

"He wished me good luck and said he was going to watch me," Sosa said.

Commissioner Bud Selig, who was in St. Louis last week for McGwire but was not at the Cubs game, also phoned. The Rev. Jesse Jackson and comedian Bill Murray were at the game to offer congratulations.

In Sosa's hometown of San Pedro de Macoris, where his mother watched the game, residents flooded into the streets to celebrate. It was there that Sosa once shined shoes and sold oranges to help support his family.

Sosa, who has four homers in his last three games, was carried off the field after the victory, which kept the Cubs one game ahead of the New York Mets in the NL wild-card race. He was on deck when Mark Grace hit the game-winning homer.

"I'm sorry I hit that home run and Sammy couldn't come to the plate. I know everyone was disappointed," Grace said, tongue-in-cheek.

But seeing Sosa do what McGwire also accomplished is something the first baseman will never forget.

"It was chilling when McGwire did it. I was dumbfounded," Grace said. "I thought pretty much the home run race was going to be McGwire's. But when my buddy gets hot, he can hit them in a hurry. And he proved that.

"I just hope Sammy gets the attention he deserves. Not only has he hit 62 homers, but he has carried us. He is without a doubt the MVP of the National League."

Sosa's home runs also gave him a share of the NL record of 10 multihomer games in a season. Pittsburgh Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner had 10 in 1947.

Sosa said that when he saw the response McGwire got from hometown fans for homer No. 62, he wanted to make sure he was in Chicago when he matched it.

"I didn't want to lose that moment to all the people in Chicago," he said.

Then Sosa had a message for McGwire:

"Mark, you know I love you. It's been unbelievable. I wish you could be here with me today. I know you are watching me and I know you have the same feeling for me as I have for you in my heart," he said.

Sosa then thumped on his heart. "That's for you, Mark," he added.

Both of Sosa's homers cleared the back fence at Wrigley Field, sending fans scrambling for balls worth tens of thousands of dollars to memorabilia collectors.

"I'm not much of a sports fan," Plunk said. "That's cool that Maris' record was broken, but it's just one more than 61. That's all."

After the first homer, a parade of fans raced after the ball as it went down the street. Sosa, meanwhile, rounded the bases pumping his fists as the sellout crowd began stamping its feet.

By the time Sosa struck out in the seventh, the street was filled with fans. When he hit in the ninth with the Cubs trailing 10-8, they were chanting "62! 62!" -- and Sosa didn't disappoint them.

Home run ball No. 62 was caught by a man whose identity was not immediately known. Police officers surrounded him and took him to the closest station for his own protection.

"We got him out of there because we thought he was going to get his behind kicked," Sgt. Mary O'Toole said.

The man's plans for the ball were not immediately known. The fan and groundskeeper in St. Louis who got McGwire's home run balls Nos. 61 and 62 gave them to the slugger, who gave them to the Hall of Fame.

The ball Sosa hit for No. 61 was retrieved by John Witt of Dixon, Illinois, who stuffed it in his pocket and promised to negotiate with him.

Witt was sitting in a van off Kenmore Avenue outside the stadium, watching the game on a small TV when he saw Sosa swing. He got out of his van and the ball bounced a couple of times and landed at his feet.

"I didn't think I had a chance," he said. "It's an unbelievable feeling. ... How do you know how much it's worth?"


Related information
Target 61 -- The Home Run Chase
McGwire's Mighty 62
Ozzie Smith's Mailbag: McGwire and Sosa are good, but Alou gets my MVP vote
Sammy Sosa 1998 Home Run Log
Mark McGwire 1998 Home Run Log
Brewers-Cubs Box Score
Brewers-Cubs Scoring Summary
frame Sammy Sosa tied McGwire and moved past Maris with No. 62 to set up an extra-inning victory for the Cubs
  • Start(1.13 M .MOV)
See Sammy Sosa smack No. 61 out of Wrigley Field (933 K)
Sosa says he dedicated the 62nd homer to his close friend Mark McGwire (855 K)
Click here for the latest audio and video
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