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McGwire drills No. 64

Big Mac pulls ahead of Sosa in home run chase

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Posted: Monday September 21, 1998 09:20 AM

  Moving on up: McGwire has 451 homers for his career -- He needs one more to tie Carl Yastrzemski for 20th on the career list AP

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Hank Aaron says that when they tear down County Stadium to make way for Miller Park, "They will take a piece of my heart with it."

Mark McGwire knows the feeling.

In the stadium where Hammerin' Hank hit his final home run for the career record, Mighty Mac added to the single-season mark Friday night.

McGwire hit his 64th home run, pulling out of a tie with Sammy Sosa as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers 5-2.

"We can't worry about each other," McGwire said. "I mean, right now it's a big deal who finishes on top. If you ask Sammy and I, I don't think it really matters."

McGwire, who sent three pitches out of County Stadium during batting practice, hit a 3-1 pitch from rookie Rafael Roque 417 feet into the left-center field bleachers for a two-run homer in the fourth inning.

Sosa, 0-for-4 with a strikeout and a run scored in the Cubs' loss to Cincinnati earlier Friday, gets his shot at adding to County Stadium's homer lore next week.

"What we've done in the game of baseball, nobody's ever done. Nobody's ever done it," McGwire said. "And it's like, what we're doing right now, people want more. How much more do you want? We're doing our best. We're both rooting for each other, and wherever the numbers finish, where we land, that's the way it is."

Before Tuesday, McGwire was homerless in 18 at-bats after surpassing Roger Maris' record on September 8. Now he has homered twice in four games to regain the lead in a race he's trailed only once all season.

"I'm human," McGwire said. "There was such a buildup to do what I did and you do it, I mean I basically didn't know where I was for a couple days. I think that's explainable. Then, we go to Houston and I was pitched very well. So, then we come back home and I started feeling better. Everything goes in cycles."

County Stadium was the site of Hank Aaron's 755th and last home run, off Dick Drago on July 20, 1976. Informed of the tidbit before the game, McGwire said he'd love to meet Aaron.

"Yeah, he's the King of Swat, right? He's the home run guy," McGwire said.

McGwire's homer followed Ray Lankford's leadoff double and tied the game at 2-2.

"I tried to go fastball away and the ball stayed in the middle of the plate," Roque said.

Big Mac's kind of town: McGwire has 88 homers, 178 RBIs and 198 walks in 197 career games with the Cardinals AP 

Not for long.

"I knew right away from the sound that it was gone," said Roque (4-2).

McGwire nearly hit two more homers, too, but they hooked foul.

"He put three great swings on them," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "Then, No. 64 was unique, because one of his talents is he hits so many balls with that underspin -- that's how he gets that height and distance. And that one had topspin. He hasn't hit many like that this year. But, the other two, he whistled them."

In the sixth, McGwire hit a long fly ball that hooked foul into the upper deck down the left-field line, then flied out to the warning track in right-center. He hit a towering foul down the left-field line in the eighth before popping out behind the plate.

"He's so strong. If I would have hit one that high, it would have come down in the infield," Lankford said.

McGwire has always liked Milwaukee, dating back to his days in Oakland.

"It's always been a good place to come and hit. It's a very fair park. It's going to be awesome to play in that field out there," McGwire said of Miller Park, rising beyond the center-field bleachers and due to open in 2000.

Home run No. 64 was caught by Jason King, a 23-year-old waiter living in Madison, who bought his ticket in early May. King said he didn't know what he was going to do with the ball.

It was only McGwire's third homer against Milwaukee pitching, which has surrendered 10 homers to Sosa. It was also his 14th homer against left-handers, who had held him to a .246 average entering the game. His last two homers have come against lefties.

McGwire has 175 homers in three seasons and 451 overall. He needs one more to tie Carl Yastrzemski for 20th on the career list.

The Cardinals have eight games remaining, all but two of them at home, where he has homered 33 times. They conclude their road schedule with games Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee, and King has tickets for those games, too.

Three-time NFL Most Valuable Player Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers had tickets Friday night. He met with McGwire before the game and took some batting practice himself. Favre's daughter, Brittany, got McGwire to autograph her mitt before she threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

"Hopefully, someday I get to watch him play football," McGwire said.

Notes: The winning pitcher was Darren Oliver (4-3) and Juan Acevedo got his 11th save. ... Lankford's 30th homer, off Eric Plunk, made it 5-2 in the eighth. ... Brewers manager Phil Garner said the crowd of 48,194 "came to see us win the game and to see McGwire hit a home run. They got part of the equation." ... Bob Voight, Brewers vice president of ticket sales, said the advance for the weekend assures the three-game series will draw 154,000-plus, breaking the team record of 153,974 for a three-game set against Boston from August 4-6, 1978.

 

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Target 61: The Home Run Chase
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McGwire says he always has liked hitting in Milwaukee (405 K)
McGwire talks about homer No. 64 (347 K)
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