By JERRY TAPP
I recently watched “Long Gone Summer,” an ESPN “30-for-30” that looked at the 1998 home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and their quest to pass Roger Maris’ long-standing single-season home run record of 61 homers. McGwire ended that year hitting 70 while Sosa finished with 66.
Here are six stats you may not know about that home run race.
- As stated above, McGwire led the league with 70 HRs and Sosa was second with 66. But do you know who came in third in the National League that year in home runs? If you guessed San Diego’s Greg Vaughn, you are correct. Vaughn ended the campaign with 50 HRs that year. In addition to McGwire, Sosa and Vaughn, there were also two more N.L. players who had 40 homers that season: Colorado’s Vinny Castilla (46) and Atlanta’s Andre Galarraga (44). There were, however, eight players who hit 40 or more home runs in the American League that season: Ken Griffey, Seattle, 56; Albert Belle, White Sox, 49; Jose Canseco, Toronto, 46; Manny Ramirez, Cleveland, 45; Juan Gonzalez, Texas, 45; Rafael Palmeiro, Texas, 43; Alex Rodriguez, Seattle, 42; and Mo Vaughn, Boston, 40.
- The most HRs McGwire had hit in a season before his 70 in 1998 was 58 the previous season. He then hit 65 in 1999. The most Sosa had hit in a season before the 66 he slugged in ’98 was 40 in 1996. The most he hit after that ’98 season was 64 in 2001.
- McGwire not only led the National League in HRs in 1998 but he also led the league in walks with 162. Sosa led the league in strikeouts that season with 171.
- In the 1998 season, the longest McGwire went without hitting an HR was eight games. The longest Sosa went without a homer was 11 games. The longest stretch of games with a home run for McGwire was four (he did it twice). Sosa had a season-long streak of five games with a home run.
- When their careers came to an end, Sosa won the battle between the two with 609 career home runs. McGwire ended his career with 583.
- It’s interesting to note that both McGwire and Sosa each hit HR #64 that season off the same pitcher, Milwaukee’s Rafael Roque. On September 18 in Milwaukee, Roque surrendered HR #64 to McGwire. Five days later, also in Milwaukee, Sosa hit #64 off of Roque. (At that time I was a Scoreboard Statistician for the Milwaukee Brewers working at County Stadium. Part of my job was keeping a scorecard for games. I worked both the games on September 18 and September 23 and kept both scorecards from those two games, with a note on the card that both McGwire and Sosa had hit HR #64 in those games. I gave those cards to my daughter, Amy, who put the scorecards in a frame. A nice piece of memorabilia!)
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