1998 Major League Baseball home run record chase
The 1998 Major League Baseball home run chase in Major League Baseball was the race between first baseman Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals and right fielder Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs that resulted in both players breaking Roger Maris's long-standing and highly coveted record of 61 home runs. McGwire broke Maris's record on September 8 against the Cubs and finished with 70 home runs. Sosa finished with 66.
Several players had come close to breaking Maris's record in the years before 1998. Before the 1994 season was cut short by a labor dispute, Matt Williams of the San Francisco Giants and Ken Griffey, Jr. of the Seattle Mariners were both on a pace which threatened Maris's record: they hit 43 and 40 home runs respectively in a season which was shortened by approximately 50 of the scheduled 162 games.
In 1995, Albert Belle became the first player since Cecil Fielder in 1990 to hit 50 home runs in a season. Belle was only the 4th player in the previous three decades to reach the 50 home run- milestone (George Foster hit 52 in 1977, following Willie Mays in 1965).
In 1996, Brady Anderson of the Baltimore Orioles hit 50 home runs, twice the number he hit during any other season. Of more note was Mark McGwire of the Oakland Athletics, who first drew attention by hitting a league-leading 52 home runs that season while only playing in 130 games. The 1997 home run chase featured McGwire against Ken Griffey, Jr. of the Seattle Mariners. It was during that season that full-fledged interest over the record kicked in as both players were on record pace well into the summer. McGwire finished with 58 home runs despite a slump following his mid-season trade to the St. Louis Cardinals, besting Griffey's total of 56.
Breaking the record
Speculation on the potential of McGwire or Griffey breaking the Roger Maris' home run record was a popular story heading into spring training, and was even promoted by MLB itself, in an effort to draw fans back to the game who felt disenfranchised by the 1994 strike and cancellation of the World Series. With the spotlight still on Griffey and McGwire (entering his first full season as a Cardinal), the latter opened the 1998 season by hitting home runs in each of his first four games. McGwire would ultimately find himself ahead of record pace for all but two games of the season; his pace hit a low of 58.9 on May 7 following a five-game drought. After hitting 16 home runs in May (only two short of Rudy York's ill-fated record of 18 home runs in August 1937), McGwire led the league with 27 home runs, ahead of Griffey's 19 and on pace for more than 80.
June, however, would be Sosa's month to catch up. His 13 home runs entering the month represented less than half of rival McGwire's total. Sosa had his first of four multi-home run games that month on June 1, and went on to break Rudy York's record with 20 home runs in the month of June, a record that still stands. By the end of his historic month, the outfielder's 33 home runs tied him with Griffey and left him only four behind McGwire's 37.
The three remained competitive entering August, a period which saw McGwire go on a season-high eight-game home run drought. After hitting a home run on August 8, McGwire's lead had dwindled to two, his 46 home runs just above Sosa's 44 and Griffey's 41. His relative lull in production continued, hitting only three home runs over the next ten days. His pace at the end of August 18, 61.9 would be his lowest for the rest of the season. On August 19, he returned to form, hitting two home runs and beginning the stretch that would see him hit 23 home runs in his final 39 games. Sosa, meanwhile, had followed up his 20 home runs in June with a combined total of only 22 for July and August. At the end of the month, however, the two sluggers were locked at 55 home runs, putting them on pace for about 65 in total and, for the first time in 37 years, leaving the single-season home run record in imminent jeopardy. They were also each one short of Hack Wilson's National league record. By this point, Griffey's total of 47 home runs left him well behind the pace of his two rivals, indicating that even in the event he could pass Maris's total, it would be unlikely that he would also be able to beat McGwire and Sosa.
McGwire began September with four home runs in his first two games against the Florida Marlins and took back the lead, 59–56. His September 5 home run set the stage for one of baseball's classic moments, as he sat on 60 home runs entering a two-game set against Sosa's Chicago Cubs. On September 7, McGwire hit a Mike Morgan pitch 430 feet to become the first player since 1961 to hit 61 home runs in a season. The next day, September 8, 1998, in a game against Sosa's Cubs and with members of the Maris family in attendance, he hit Steve Trachsel's pitch 341 feet - his shortest home run of the season - just over the left field wall, breaking the record for the most home runs ever hit in a single season. The ball did not even make it to the stands, and the crew member who found it later gave the ball to McGwire. In what was a show of both admiration as well as respect, Mark Grace, the Cubs first baseman shared a half-hug high five as McGwire rounded first, and after he touched home, Sosa charged in from right field and engaged McGwire in a celebratory embrace.
Afterwards, however, McGwire went six consecutive games without a home run, allowing Sosa to tie him again at 62 after hitting four home runs in three games against the Milwaukee Brewers. The two battled back and forth for the lead, and entering the final series of the season on September 25, were tied at 65 home runs. Sosa hit a 462-foot home run off Houston Astros pitcher José Lima for his 66th home run of the season. McGwire, however, while the Cardinals hosted the Montreal Expos, hit five home runs against five different pitchers, setting the record at 70 with a 370-foot home run off Carl Pavano.
Throughout the season, Sosa gave a "V" sign after every home run, dedicating it to the memory of Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray, who died that February.
The Cardinals, despite McGwire's efforts, finished the season 83–79, 3rd place in the Central and behind division rival Chicago. Chicago finished 90–73, earning them 2nd in the Central and a wild card berth. Sosa finished with a .308 batting average, 66 home runs, and 158 RBI, besting McGwire, who finished with a .299 batting average, 70 home runs, and 147 RBI for the NL MVP award. The Cubs, however, were swept in the first round of the 1998 playoffs by the Atlanta Braves.
In 2001, only three years after McGwire and Sosa finally toppled Maris's record, the mark fell again, this time to San Francisco Giants left fielder Barry Bonds. Bonds broke the record on October 5 against Chan Ho Park of the Los Angeles Dodgers and, two days later, hit his 73rd home run of the season off the Dodgers pitcher Dennis Springer.
The '97 and '98 home run record chases are widely credited by sports analysts as having restored Major League Baseball among its fan base in the preceding years, as many had lost interest and felt betrayed by the strike in 1994, although others contest this.
The embrace, along with the constant praising of one another between McGwire and Sosa was spoofed in the fall of 1998 on Saturday Night Live by Will Ferrell (as McGwire) and Tracy Morgan (as Sosa) whom try to one-up praising each other endlessly and then begin to slow-dance.
Bonds' record still stands, though the controversy over possible use of performance-enhancing drugs by McGwire and Sosa gained momentum when Bonds hit his 73 home runs despite having never hit as many as 50 in any other season. In the Congressional Hearing on Steroids, McGwire repeatedly stressed that any answer he gave regarding his alleged steroid use would not be believed by the public at-large anyway. Sosa seemed to not understand the questions. Bonds has also been linked to steroids. He admitted to taking them, but he claims that he did not know what he was taking was steroids. Bonds and Sosa have been linked to illegal use of steroids in the Mitchell Report and other sources. McGwire has never been named by any official investigation; however, on January 11, 2010, McGwire admitted to Bob Costas of the MLB Network that he did take steroids throughout his career, including during the 1998 season where he broke the record.
Home run log
|March 31||McGwire||364||Martínez, RamónRamón Martínez||Los Angeles Dodgers||1||0|
|April 2||McGwire||368||Lankford, FrankFrank Lankford||Los Angeles Dodgers||2||0|
|April 3||McGwire||364||Langston, MarkMark Langston||San Diego Padres||3||0|
|April 4||McGwire||419||Wengert, DonDon Wengert||San Diego Padres||4||0|
|April 4||Sosa||371||Valdes, MarcMarc Valdes||Montreal Expos||4||1|
|April 11||Sosa||350||Telford, AnthonyAnthony Telford||Montreal Expos||4||2|
|April 14||McGwire||424||Suppan, JeffJeff Suppan||Arizona Diamondbacks||5||2|
|April 14||McGwire||347||Suppan, JeffJeff Suppan||Arizona Diamondbacks||6||2|
|April 14||McGwire||462||Manuel, BarryBarry Manuel||Arizona Diamondbacks||7||2|
|April 15||Sosa||430||Cook, DennisDennis Cook||New York Mets||7||3|
|April 17||McGwire||419||Whiteside, MattMatt Whiteside||Philadelphia Phillies||8||3|
|April 21||McGwire||437||Moore, TreyTrey Moore||Montreal Expos||9||3|
|April 23||Sosa||420||Miceli, DanDan Miceli||San Diego Padres||9||4|
|April 24||Sosa||430||Valdez, IsmaelIsmael Valdez||Los Angeles Dodgers||9||5|
|April 25||McGwire||419||Spradlin, JerryJerry Spradlin||Philadelphia Phillies||10||5|
|April 27||Sosa||434||Hamilton, JoeyJoey Hamilton||San Diego Padres||10||6|
|April 30||McGwire||371||Pisciotta, MarcMarc Pisciotta||Chicago Cubs||11||6|
|May 1||McGwire||362||Beck, RodRod Beck||Chicago Cubs||12||6|
|May 3||Sosa||370||Politte, CliffCliff Politte||St. Louis Cardinals||12||7|
|May 8||McGwire||358||Reed, RickRick Reed||New York Mets||13||7|
|May 12||McGwire||527||Wagner, PaulPaul Wagner||Milwaukee Brewers||14||7|
|May 14||McGwire||381||Millwood, KevinKevin Millwood||Atlanta Braves||15||7|
|May 16||McGwire||545||Hernández, LivánLiván Hernández||Florida Marlins||16||7|
|May 16||Sosa||441||Sullivan, ScottScott Sullivan||Cincinnati Reds||16||8|
|May 18||McGwire||478||Sanchez, JesusJesus Sanchez||Florida Marlins||17||8|
|May 19||McGwire||440||Green, TylerTyler Green||Philadelphia Phillies||18||8|
|May 19||McGwire||471||Green, TylerTyler Green||Philadelphia Phillies||19||8|
|May 19||McGwire||451||Gomes, WayneWayne Gomes||Philadelphia Phillies||20||8|
|May 22||McGwire||425||Gardner, MarkMark Gardner||San Francisco Giants||21||8|
|May 22||Sosa||440||Maddux, GregGreg Maddux||Atlanta Braves||21||9|
|May 23||McGwire||366||Rodriguez, RichRich Rodriguez||San Francisco Giants||22||9|
|May 23||McGwire||477||Johnstone, JohnJohn Johnstone||San Francisco Giants||23||9|
|May 24||McGwire||397||Nen, RobbRobb Nen||San Francisco Giants||24||9|
|May 25||McGwire||433||Thomson, JohnJohn Thomson||Colorado Rockies||25||9|
|May 25||Sosa||410||Millwood, KevinKevin Millwood||Atlanta Braves||25||10|
|May 25||Sosa||420||Cather, MikeMike Cather||Atlanta Braves||25||11|
|May 27||Sosa||460||Winston, DarrinDarrin Winston||Philadelphia Phillies||25||12|
|May 27||Sosa||400||Gomes, WayneWayne Gomes||Philadelphia Phillies||25||13|
|May 29||McGwire||388||Miceli, DanDan Miceli||San Diego Padres||26||13|
|May 30||McGwire||423||Ashby, AndyAndy Ashby||San Diego Padres||27||13|
|June 1||Sosa||430||Dempster, RyanRyan Dempster||Florida Marlins||27||14|
|June 1||Sosa||410||Henriquez, OscarOscar Henriquez||Florida Marlins||27||15|
|June 3||Sosa||370||Hernández, LivánLiván Hernández||Florida Marlins||27||16|
|June 5||McGwire||409||Hershiser, OrelOrel Hershiser||San Francisco Giants||28||16|
|June 5||Sosa||370||Parque, JimJim Parque||Chicago White Sox||28||17|
|June 6||Sosa||410||Castillo, CarlosCarlos Castillo||Chicago White Sox||28||18|
|June 7||Sosa||380||Baldwin, JamesJames Baldwin||Chicago White Sox||28||19|
|June 8||McGwire||356||Bere, JasonJason Bere||Chicago White Sox||29||19|
|June 8||Sosa||340||Hawkins, LaTroyLaTroy Hawkins||Minnesota Twins||29||20|
|June 10||McGwire||409||Parque, JimJim Parque||Chicago White Sox||30||20|
|June 12||McGwire||438||Benes, AndyAndy Benes||Arizona Diamondbacks||31||20|
|June 13||Sosa||410||Portugal, MarkMark Portugal||Philadelphia Phillies||31||21|
|June 15||Sosa||420||Eldred, CalCal Eldred||Milwaukee Brewers||31||22|
|June 15||Sosa||410||Eldred, CalCal Eldred||Milwaukee Brewers||31||23|
|June 15||Sosa||415||Eldred, CalCal Eldred||Milwaukee Brewers||31||24|
|June 17||McGwire||437||Lima, JoséJosé Lima||Houston Astros||32||24|
|June 17||Sosa||430||Patrick, BronswellBronswell Patrick||Milwaukee Brewers||32||25|
|June 18||McGwire||449||Reynolds, ShaneShane Reynolds||Houston Astros||33||25|
|June 19||Sosa||380||Loewer, CarltonCarlton Loewer||Philadelphia Phillies||33||26|
|June 19||Sosa||380||Loewer, CarltonCarlton Loewer||Philadelphia Phillies||33||27|
|June 20||Sosa||366||Beech, MattMatt Beech||Philadelphia Phillies||33||28|
|June 20||Sosa||500||Borland, TobyToby Borland||Philadelphia Phillies||33||29|
|June 21||Sosa||380||Green, TylerTyler Green||Philadelphia Phillies||33||30|
|June 24||McGwire||433||Wright, JaretJaret Wright||Cleveland Indians||34||30|
|June 24||Sosa||390||Greisinger, SethSeth Greisinger||Detroit Tigers||34||31|
|June 25||McGwire||461||Burba, DaveDave Burba||Cleveland Indians||35||31|
|June 25||Sosa||400||Moehler, BrianBrian Moehler||Detroit Tigers||35||32|
|June 27||McGwire||431||Trombley, MikeMike Trombley||Minnesota Twins||36||32|
|June 30||McGwire||472||Rusch, GlendonGlendon Rusch||Kansas City Royals||37||32|
|June 30||Sosa||364||Embree, AlanAlan Embree||Arizona Diamondbacks||37||33|
|July 9||Sosa||432||Juden, JeffJeff Juden||Milwaukee Brewers||37||34|
|July 10||Sosa||428||Karl, ScottScott Karl||Milwaukee Brewers||37||35|
|July 11||McGwire||485||Wagner, BillyBilly Wagner||Houston Astros||38||35|
|July 12||McGwire||405||Bergman, SeanSean Bergman||Houston Astros||39||35|
|July 12||McGwire||415||Elarton, ScottScott Elarton||Houston Astros||40||35|
|July 17||McGwire||511||Bohanon, BrianBrian Bohanon||Los Angeles Dodgers||41||35|
|July 17||McGwire||425||Osuna, AntonioAntonio Osuna||Los Angeles Dodgers||42||35|
|July 17||Sosa||440||Ojala, KirtKirt Ojala||Florida Marlins||42||36|
|July 20||McGwire||452||Boehringer, BrianBrian Boehringer||San Diego Padres||43||36|
|July 22||Sosa||365||Batista, MiguelMiguel Batista||Montreal Expos||43||37|
|July 26||McGwire||452||Thomson, JohnJohn Thomson||Colorado Rockies||44||37|
|July 26||Sosa||420||Reed, RickRick Reed||New York Mets||44||38|
|July 27||Sosa||347||Blair, WillieWillie Blair||Arizona Diamondbacks||44||39|
|July 27||Sosa||438||Embree, AlanAlan Embree||Arizona Diamondbacks||44||40|
|July 28||McGwire||408||Myers, MikeMike Myers||Milwaukee Brewers||45||40|
|July 28||Sosa||390||Wolcott, BobBob Wolcott||Arizona Diamondbacks||45||41|
|July 31||Sosa||375||Wright, JameyJamey Wright||Colorado Rockies||45||42|
|August 5||Sosa||374||Benes, AndyAndy Benes||Arizona Diamondbacks||45||43|
|August 8||McGwire||374||Clark, MarkMark Clark||Chicago Cubs||46||43|
|August 8||Sosa||400||Croushore, RichRich Croushore||St. Louis Cardinals||46||44|
|August 10||Sosa||361||Ortiz, RussRuss Ortiz||San Francisco Giants||46||45|
|August 10||Sosa||480||Brock, ChrisChris Brock||San Francisco Giants||46||46|
|August 11||McGwire||464||Jones, BobbyBobby Jones||New York Mets||47||46|
|August 16||Sosa||360||Bergman, SeanSean Bergman||Houston Astros||47||47|
|August 19||Sosa||368||Bottenfield, KentKent Bottenfield||St. Louis Cardinals||47||48|
|August 19||McGwire||398||Karchner, MattMatt Karchner||Chicago Cubs||48||48|
|August 19||McGwire||409||Mulholland, TerryTerry Mulholland||Chicago Cubs||49||48|
|August 20||McGwire||369||Blair, WillieWillie Blair||New York Mets||50||48|
|August 20||McGwire||393||Reed, RickRick Reed||New York Mets||51||48|
|August 21||Sosa||430||Hershiser, OrelOrel Hershiser||San Francisco Giants||51||49|
|August 22||McGwire||477||Córdova, FranciscoFrancisco Córdova||Pittsburgh Pirates||52||49|
|August 23||McGwire||393||Rincón, RicardoRicardo Rincón||Pittsburgh Pirates||53||49|
|August 23||Sosa||440||Lima, JoséJosé Lima||Houston Astros||53||50|
|August 23||Sosa||380||Lima, JoséJosé Lima||Houston Astros||53||51|
|August 26||McGwire||509||Speier, JustinJustin Speier||Florida Marlins||54||51|
|August 26||Sosa||438||Tomko, BrettBrett Tomko||Cincinnati Reds||54||52|
|August 28||Sosa||414||Thomson, JohnJohn Thomson||Colorado Rockies||54||53|
|August 30||McGwire||501||Martínez, DennisDennis Martínez||Atlanta Braves||55||53|
|August 30||Sosa||482||Kile, DarrylDarryl Kile||Colorado Rockies||55||54|
|August 31||Sosa||364||Tomko, BrettBrett Tomko||Cincinnati Reds||55||55|
|September 1||McGwire||450||Hernández, LivánLiván Hernández||Florida Marlins||56||55|
|September 1||McGwire||472||Pall, DonnDonn Pall||Florida Marlins||57||55|
|September 2||McGwire||497||Edmondson, BrianBrian Edmondson||Florida Marlins||58||55|
|September 2||McGwire||458||Stanifer, RobRob Stanifer||Florida Marlins||59||55|
|September 2||Sosa||363||Bere, JasonJason Bere||Cincinnati Reds||59||56|
|September 4||Sosa||374||Schmidt, JasonJason Schmidt||Pittsburgh Pirates||59||57|
|September 5||McGwire||381||Reyes, DennysDennys Reyes||Cincinnati Reds||60||57|
|September 5||Sosa||417||Lawrence, SeanSean Lawrence||Pittsburgh Pirates||60||58|
|September 7||McGwire||430||Morgan, MikeMike Morgan||Chicago Cubs||61||58|
|September 8||McGwire||341||Trachsel, SteveSteve Trachsel||Chicago Cubs||62||58|
|September 11||Sosa||464||Pulsipher, BillBill Pulsipher||Milwaukee Brewers||62||59|
|September 12||Sosa||430||de los Santos, ValerioValerio de los Santos||Milwaukee Brewers||62||60|
|September 13||Sosa||480||Patrick, BronswellBronswell Patrick||Milwaukee Brewers||62||61|
|September 13||Sosa||480||Plunk, EricEric Plunk||Milwaukee Brewers||62||62|
|September 15||McGwire||385||Christiansen, JasonJason Christiansen||Pittsburgh Pirates||63||62|
|September 16||Sosa||434||Boehringer, BrianBrian Boehringer||San Diego Padres||63||63|
|September 18||McGwire||423||Roque, RafaelRafael Roque||Milwaukee Brewers||64||63|
|September 20||McGwire||423||Karl, ScottScott Karl||Milwaukee Brewers||65||63|
|September 23||Sosa||344||Roque, RafaelRafael Roque||Milwaukee Brewers||65||64|
|September 23||Sosa||410||Henderson, RodRod Henderson||Milwaukee Brewers||65||65|
|September 25||Sosa||462||Lima, JoséJosé Lima||Houston Astros||65||66|
|September 25||McGwire||375||Bennett, ShayneShayne Bennett||Montreal Expos||66||66|
|September 26||McGwire||403||Hermanson, DustinDustin Hermanson||Montreal Expos||67||66|
|September 26||McGwire||435||Bullinger, KirkKirk Bullinger||Montreal Expos||68||66|
|September 27||McGwire||377||Thurman, MikeMike Thurman||Montreal Expos||69||66|
|September 27||McGwire||370||Pavano, CarlCarl Pavano||Montreal Expos||70||66|
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- Dedman, Bill (September 29, 1998). "Unlikely Season Of Dreams For Cubs". The New York Times. p. D3.
Since Caray died at the start of spring training, Sosa has honored him with a 'V' sign after every home run this season, along with his heart thumps and kisses for the Sosa family.
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- Leonhardt, David (March 30, 2005). "Myth of men who saved baseball". New York Times. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
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- Home run! : the year the records fell. Champaign, Illinois: Sports Publishing. Associated Press. 1998. ISBN 1-58261-026-6.