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A one-two punch

Sosa-McGwire runner-up still in rarified HR air

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Posted: Wednesday September 22, 1999 04:37 PM

  Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa are proof that smashing a record number of homers does not lead to team success. Jed Jacobsohn/.Allsport

By Desmond M. Wallace, CNN/SI

As Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire replay their historic home run race from a year ago, the outcome actually may be somewhat disappointing in the end for one of the two.

For perhaps the second consecutive year, a 60-homer season may not even be good enough to win a league home-run title.

And, as incredible as it may seem, despite their Herculean efforts again in 1999, both Sosa and McGwire could belt 60 homers and neither could win the National League MVP award.

While McGwire absorbed most of the accolades in 1998, his Cardinals finished barely above .500, 19 games out of first place in the NL Central. And for all of the fanfare surrounding the achievement of smashing baseball's most sacred record, McGwire did not even win the NL MVP.

And even though Sosa hit 66 homers, hit feat practically was viewed by some as an afterthought since he didn't break Roger Maris' record first. Sosa, though, went on to win the MVP.

Second Effort
Most HRs in a season without winning title
Player Year HRs HR champ
Sammy Sosa
Mickey Mantle
Greg Vaughn
Brady Anderson
Jimmie Foxx
1998
1961
1998
1996
1938
66
54
50
50
50
McGwire, 70
Maris, 61
McGwire, 70
McGwire, 52
Greenberg, 58
*McGwire had a major league-leading 58
homers for Oakland and St. Louis in 1997,
but led neither the AL or NL.
 

But achievement coupled with being one-upped is nothing new in sports, let alone in baseball.

Before 1961, only five players had ever belted at least 50 home runs. So imagine the feeling of emptiness that the Yankees' Mickey Mantle must have felt when he hit 54 that year only to have teammate Roger Maris steal his thunder.

If one were to ask most slugging superstars, most would gladly trade personal accomplishment for championship rings any day. One look at the achievements of Hall of Famer Yogi Berra says it all: zero home run titles but a Major League record 10 World Series rings.

 
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