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BASEBALL EXTRA

McGwire Is a Long-Term Cardinal

Baseball: Angels get no shot at slugger, who signs three-year, $28-million deal with St. Louis.

September 17, 1997|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Visions of Mark McGwire blasting home runs in a renovated Anaheim Stadium next season were dashed Tuesday when the slugger signed a three-year, $28- million contract extension with the St. Louis Cardinals.

McGwire had expressed a desire in July to play for the Angels so he could be close to his 9-year-old son, Matthew, who lives with his mother in Orange County, and the Angels and Oakland Athletics had serious trade talks involving McGwire before the A's dealt him to St. Louis on July 31.

Angel officials said then that they would pursue McGwire as a free agent over the winter. But McGwire apparently is so taken with St. Louis that he signed with the Cardinals for less than he probably could have made on the open market.

"It would have been unbelievable to have him in our lineup," Angel pitcher Allen Watson said. "The guy hits 50 home runs a year, and he would have protected guys like Tim Salmon, Jim Edmonds and Garret Anderson. I really thought we were going to get him in the off-season."

McGwire's deal includes a $1-million signing bonus and a fourth season at McGwire's option that brings the total package to nearly $40 million. One of McGwire's agents, Bob Cohen, said McGwire agreed to defer about 25% of the money until he retires.

"It's unfortunate because he wanted to come here," Salmon said. "Now we'll have to look at the next potential candidate . . . but I don't think there are going to be any like him out there."

McGwire, who joined Babe Ruth last week as the only players with consecutive 50-homer seasons, thinks the Cardinals, injury-ridden and 69-80 heading into the final weeks, should be back in the playoffs next year.

The fans who show up at St. Louis' Busch Stadium two hours early to watch his tape-measure shots in batting practice also played a part in his staying.

"I tell you what, it makes me float every time I come to the ballpark, to play in this stadium and play in front of these fans," McGwire said. "I'm overwhelmed. I'm going to say that probably for the rest of my career."

McGwire has 52 home runs, 18 with St. Louis, tying his career best and tied with Seattle's Ken Griffey Jr. for the major league lead.

Angel Manager Terry Collins wasn't sure the Angels would have had a chance to sign McGwire as a free agent.

"But it would have been nice to see us try," he said.

"He's a good guy, and I'm glad he got what he wanted. If he's not here, I'm glad he's in the other league. . . . Of course, that may not be the other league next year."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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