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BASEBALL EXTRA | AROUND THE LEAGUE

McGwire Hits 58th in Season Finale

September 29, 1997|Associated Press

The Roger Maris chase is over, and Mark McGwire couldn't be happier.

McGwire hit his 58th home run, tying him for the most by a right-handed batter, in the St. Louis Cardinals' season-ending 2-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday at St. Louis. As pleased as he was by his feat, McGwire is ready for a time when his every move is not scrutinized.

"I've said it time and time again, it's just unbelievable," McGwire said. "There's no other word that can replace it.

"Thank God I'm leaving so I don't have to describe anything. It's over with. Done."

Asked whether he enjoyed himself at all the last few weeks, McGwire smiled.

"Hell yeah, it was fun," he said. "I just don't like talking about it."

McGwire, who hit two home runs Saturday, tied the right-handed mark set in 1932 by Jimmie Foxx and equaled in 1938 by Hank Greenberg. Only Maris, who had 61 in 1961, and Babe Ruth, who had 60 in 1927 and 59 in 1921, have hit more.

McGwire said he didn't dream of such lofty goals as a boy and didn't know who Foxx or Greenberg were until a few days ago. Now that they're linked, he said that will change.

"I think it will do me good to read up on them," he said.

Manager Tony La Russa certainly was impressed.

"You consider yourself very fortunate because you saw history, right?" La Russa said.

The feat is all the more impressive considering McGwire changed leagues in mid-season. Since joining the Cardinals in a trading deadline deal with Oakland on July 31, he had 24 home runs in 51 games.

McGwire, who has homered at least once in 12 consecutive series, entered the day one homer ahead of Seattle's Ken Griffey Jr.

McGwire's first two at-bats were quiet, with only one swing in each. He walked on five pitches with two outs and nobody on in the first as a sellout crowd of 46,065 booed its displeasure, and took a called third strike in the third.

After the Cubs took the lead on a squeeze bunt by Dave Hansen in the sixth, McGwire tied it when he homered to straightaway center on an 0-2 curveball, a drive estimated at 414 feet.

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San Diego outfielder Tony Gwynn tied Honus Wagner's record by winning his eighth NL batting title.

Gwynn, who didn't play in San Diego's final game, finished the season at .372, becoming the first player to win four consecutive NL batting titles since Rogers Hornsby won six in a row from 1920-25. Ty Cobb holds the major league record with 12 AL batting titles.

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Colorado outfielder Larry Walker did not play against the Dodgers, the third game he sat out in the last four games because of elbow, knee and back ailments. He finished with a .366 average, six points behind Gwynn.

Walker had an NL-high 49 homers, 130 RBIs, 33 stolen bases and major-league highs in slugging percentage (.720) and total bases (409). His total bases were the highest in the majors since Stan Musial had 429 in 1948.

Had Walker reached 50 home runs, it would have given the majors three 50-homer hitters (along with McGwire and Ken Griffey Jr.) for the first time in history.

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Florida Marlin catcher Charles Johnson became the first NL catcher to play more than 100 games in a season and not commit an error.

Johnson went errorless in 124 games this season, continuing a streak of errorless games that started last season. His last error came on June 23, 1996, against Pittsburgh, a string of 171 games.

The only other catcher in major league history to go through a season of at least 100 games and not make an error was Buddy Rosar, who went errorless in 117 games for the 1946 Philadelphia Athletics.

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