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 following his mid-season trade to the St. Louis Cardinals, besting Griffey's total of 56.
Speculation on the potential of McGwire or Griffey breaking 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.
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) who 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 stated 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.
|March 31||McGwire||364||Ramón Martínez||Los Angeles Dodgers||1||0|
|April 2||McGwire||368||Frank Lankford||Los Angeles Dodgers||2||0|
|April 3||McGwire||364||Mark Langston||San Diego Padres||3||0|
|April 4||McGwire||419||Don Wengert||San Diego Padres||4||0|
|April 4||Sosa||371||Marc Valdes||Montreal Expos||4||1|
|April 11||Sosa||350||Anthony Telford||Montreal Expos||4||2|
|April 14||McGwire||424||Jeff Suppan||Arizona Diamondbacks||5||2|
|April 14||McGwire||347||Jeff Suppan||Arizona Diamondbacks||6||2|
|April 14||McGwire||462||Barry Manuel||Arizona Diamondbacks||7||2|
|April 15||Sosa||430||Dennis Cook||New York Mets||7||3|
|April 17||McGwire||419||Matt Whiteside||Philadelphia Phillies||8||3|
|April 21||McGwire||437||Trey Moore||Montreal Expos||9||3|
|April 23||Sosa||420||Dan Miceli||San Diego Padres||9||4|
|April 24||Sosa||430||Ismael Valdez||Los Angeles Dodgers||9||5|
|April 25||McGwire||419||Jerry Spradlin||Philadelphia Phillies||10||5|
|April 27||Sosa||434||Joey Hamilton||San Diego Padres||10||6|
|April 30||McGwire||371||Marc Pisciotta||Chicago Cubs||11||6|
|May 1||McGwire||362||Rod Beck||Chicago Cubs||12||6|
|May 3||Sosa||370||Cliff Politte||St. Louis Cardinals||12||7|
|May 8||McGwire||358||Rick Reed||New York Mets||13||7|
|May 12||McGwire||527||Paul Wagner||Milwaukee Brewers||14||7|
|May 14||McGwire||381||Kevin Millwood||Atlanta Braves||15||7|
|May 16||McGwire||545||Liván Hernández||Florida Marlins||16||7|
|May 16||Sosa||441||Scott Sullivan||Cincinnati Reds||16||8|
|May 18||McGwire||478||Jesus Sanchez||Florida Marlins||17||8|
|May 19||McGwire||440||Tyler Green||Philadelphia Phillies||18||8|
|May 19||McGwire||471||Tyler Green||Philadelphia Phillies||19||8|
|May 19||McGwire||451||Wayne Gomes||Philadelphia Phillies||20||8|
|May 22||McGwire||425||Mark Gardner||San Francisco Giants||21||8|
|May 22||Sosa||440||Greg Maddux||Atlanta Braves||21||9|
|May 23||McGwire||366||Rich Rodriguez||San Francisco Giants||22||9|
|May 23||McGwire||477||John Johnstone||San Francisco Giants||23||9|
|May 24||McGwire||397||Robb Nen||San Francisco Giants||24||9|
|May 25||McGwire||433||John Thomson||Colorado Rockies||25||9|
|May 25||Sosa||410||Kevin Millwood||Atlanta Braves||25||10|
|May 25||Sosa||420||Mike Cather||Atlanta Braves||25||11|
|May 27||Sosa||460||Darrin Winston||Philadelphia Phillies||25||12|
|May 27||Sosa||400||Wayne Gomes||Philadelphia Phillies||25||13|
|May 29||McGwire||388||Dan Miceli||San Diego Padres||26||13|
|May 30||McGwire||423||Andy Ashby||San Diego Padres||27||13|
|June 1||Sosa||430||Ryan Dempster||Florida Marlins||27||14|
|June 1||Sosa||410||Oscar Henriquez||Florida Marlins||27||15|
|June 3||Sosa||370||Liván Hernández||Florida Marlins||27||16|
|June 5||McGwire||409||Orel Hershiser||San Francisco Giants||28||16|
|June 5||Sosa||370||Jim Parque||Chicago White Sox||28||17|
|June 6||Sosa||410||Carlos Castillo||Chicago White Sox||28||18|
|June 7||Sosa||380||James Baldwin||Chicago White Sox||28||19|
|June 8||McGwire||356||Jason Bere||Chicago White Sox||29||19|
|June 8||Sosa||340||LaTroy Hawkins||Minnesota Twins||29||20|
|June 10||McGwire||409||Jim Parque||Chicago White Sox||30||20|
|June 12||McGwire||438||Andy Benes||Arizona Diamondbacks||31||20|
|June 13||Sosa||410||Mark Portugal||Philadelphia Phillies||31||21|
|June 15||Sosa||420||Cal Eldred||Milwaukee Brewers||31||22|
|June 15||Sosa||410||Cal Eldred||Milwaukee Brewers||31||23|
|June 15||Sosa||415||Cal Eldred||Milwaukee Brewers||31||24|
|June 17||McGwire||437||José Lima||Houston Astros||32||24|
|June 17||Sosa||430||Bronswell Patrick||Milwaukee Brewers||32||25|
|June 18||McGwire||449||Shane Reynolds||Houston Astros||33||25|
|June 19||Sosa||380||Carlton Loewer||Philadelphia Phillies||33||26|
|June 19||Sosa||380||Carlton Loewer||Philadelphia Phillies||33||27|
|June 20||Sosa||366||Matt Beech||Philadelphia Phillies||33||28|
|June 20||Sosa||500||Toby Borland||Philadelphia Phillies||33||29|
|June 21||Sosa||380||Tyler Green||Philadelphia Phillies||33||30|
|June 24||McGwire||433||Jaret Wright||Cleveland Indians||34||30|
|June 24||Sosa||390||Seth Greisinger||Detroit Tigers||34||31|
|June 25||McGwire||461||Dave Burba||Cleveland Indians||35||31|
|June 25||Sosa||400||Brian Moehler||Detroit Tigers||35||32|
|June 27||McGwire||431||Mike Trombley||Minnesota Twins||36||32|
|June 30||McGwire||472||Glendon Rusch||Kansas City Royals||37||32|
|June 30||Sosa||364||Alan Embree||Arizona Diamondbacks||37||33|
|July 9||Sosa||432||Jeff Juden||Milwaukee Brewers||37||34|
|July 10||Sosa||428||Scott Karl||Milwaukee Brewers||37||35|
|July 11||McGwire||485||Billy Wagner||Houston Astros||38||35|
|July 12||McGwire||405||Sean Bergman||Houston Astros||39||35|
|July 12||McGwire||415||Scott Elarton||Houston Astros||40||35|
|July 17||McGwire||511||Brian Bohanon||Los Angeles Dodgers||41||35|
|July 17||McGwire||425||Antonio Osuna||Los Angeles Dodgers||42||35|
|July 17||Sosa||440||Kirt Ojala||Florida Marlins||42||36|
|July 20||McGwire||452||Brian Boehringer||San Diego Padres||43||36|
|July 22||Sosa||365||Miguel Batista||Montreal Expos||43||37|
|July 26||McGwire||452||John Thomson||Colorado Rockies||44||37|
|July 26||Sosa||420||Rick Reed||New York Mets||44||38|
|July 27||Sosa||347||Willie Blair||Arizona Diamondbacks||44||39|
|July 27||Sosa||438||Alan Embree||Arizona Diamondbacks||44||40|
|July 28||McGwire||408||Mike Myers||Milwaukee Brewers||45||40|
|July 28||Sosa||390||Bob Wolcott||Arizona Diamondbacks||45||41|
|July 31||Sosa||375||Jamey Wright||Colorado Rockies||45||42|
|August 5||Sosa||374||Andy Benes||Arizona Diamondbacks||45||43|
|August 8||McGwire||374||Mark Clark||Chicago Cubs||46||43|
|August 8||Sosa||400||Rich Croushore||St. Louis Cardinals||46||44|
|August 10||Sosa||361||Russ Ortiz||San Francisco Giants||46||45|
|August 10||Sosa||480||Chris Brock||San Francisco Giants||46||46|
|August 11||McGwire||464||Bobby Jones||New York Mets||47||46|
|August 16||Sosa||360||Sean Bergman||Houston Astros||47||47|
|August 19||Sosa||368||Kent Bottenfield||St. Louis Cardinals||47||48|
|August 19||McGwire||398||Matt Karchner||Chicago Cubs||48||48|
|August 19||McGwire||409||Terry Mulholland||Chicago Cubs||49||48|
|August 20||McGwire||369||Willie Blair||New York Mets||50||48|
|August 20||McGwire||393||Rick Reed||New York Mets||51||48|
|August 21||Sosa||430||Orel Hershiser||San Francisco Giants||51||49|
|August 22||McGwire||477||Francisco Córdova||Pittsburgh Pirates||52||49|
|August 23||McGwire||393||Ricardo Rincón||Pittsburgh Pirates||53||49|
|August 23||Sosa||440||José Lima||Houston Astros||53||50|
|August 23||Sosa||380||José Lima||Houston Astros||53||51|
|August 26||McGwire||509||Justin Speier||Florida Marlins||54||51|
|August 26||Sosa||438||Brett Tomko||Cincinnati Reds||54||52|
|August 28||Sosa||414||John Thomson||Colorado Rockies||54||53|
|August 30||McGwire||501||Dennis Martínez||Atlanta Braves||55||53|
|August 30||Sosa||482||Darryl Kile||Colorado Rockies||55||54|
|August 31||Sosa||364||Brett Tomko||Cincinnati Reds||55||55|
|September 1||McGwire||450||Liván Hernández||Florida Marlins||56||55|
|September 1||McGwire||472||Donn Pall||Florida Marlins||57||55|
|September 2||McGwire||497||Brian Edmondson||Florida Marlins||58||55|
|September 2||McGwire||458||Rob Stanifer||Florida Marlins||59||55|
|September 2||Sosa||363||Jason Bere||Cincinnati Reds||59||56|
|September 4||Sosa||374||Jason Schmidt||Pittsburgh Pirates||59||57|
|September 5||McGwire||381||Dennys Reyes||Cincinnati Reds||60||57|
|September 5||Sosa||417||Sean Lawrence||Pittsburgh Pirates||60||58|
|September 7||McGwire||430||Mike Morgan||Chicago Cubs||61||58|
|September 8||McGwire||341||Steve Trachsel||Chicago Cubs||62||58|
|September 11||Sosa||464||Bill Pulsipher||Milwaukee Brewers||62||59|
|September 12||Sosa||430||Valerio de los Santos||Milwaukee Brewers||62||60|
|September 13||Sosa||480||Bronswell Patrick||Milwaukee Brewers||62||61|
|September 13||Sosa||480||Eric Plunk||Milwaukee Brewers||62||62|
|September 15||McGwire||385||Jason Christiansen||Pittsburgh Pirates||63||62|
|September 16||Sosa||434||Brian Boehringer||San Diego Padres||63||63|
|September 18||McGwire||423||Rafael Roque||Milwaukee Brewers||64||63|
|September 20||McGwire||423||Scott Karl||Milwaukee Brewers||65||63|
|September 23||Sosa||344||Rafael Roque||Milwaukee Brewers||65||64|
|September 23||Sosa||410||Rod Henderson||Milwaukee Brewers||65||65|
|September 25||Sosa||462||José Lima||Houston Astros||65||66|
|September 25||McGwire||375||Shayne Bennett||Montreal Expos||66||66|
|September 26||McGwire||403||Dustin Hermanson||Montreal Expos||67||66|
|September 26||McGwire||435||Kirk Bullinger||Montreal Expos||68||66|
|September 27||McGwire||377||Mike Thurman||Montreal Expos||69||66|
|September 27||McGwire||370||Carl Pavano||Montreal Expos||70||66|
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.
The Cardinals–Cubs rivalry, also called the Route 66 rivalry and The I-55 rivalry, refers to the rivalry between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs of the National League (NL), one of the most bitter rivalries in Major League Baseball and in all of North American professional sports. The Cardinals have won 19 NL pennants, while the Cubs have won 17. However, the Cardinals have a clear edge when it comes to World Series success, having won 11 championships to the Cubs' 3. Games between the two clubs see numerous visiting fans in either St. Louis's Busch Stadium or Chicago's Wrigley Field. When the NL split into two divisions in 1969, and later three divisions in 1994, the Cardinals and Cubs remained together.
The Cubs lead the regular season series 1,236–1,174–19. The teams' lone MLB playoff meeting occurred in the 2015 National League Division Series, which the Cubs won, 3–1.Juiced ball theory
The "juiced ball" theory suggests that the baseballs used in Major League Baseball (MLB) have been deliberately altered by the league in order to increase scoring. The theory first came to prominence in the 1990s to early 2000s, but the theory receded once it became clear that the more likely explanation for the increase in scoring during that time was an increase in steroid use, as documented in the Mitchell Report in 2006. The juiced ball theory made a resurgence in the late 2010s, as a noticeable uptick in offensive output and especially home runs was observed.Mark McGwire
Mark David McGwire (born October 1, 1963), nicknamed Big Mac, is an American former professional baseball first baseman. His Major League Baseball (MLB) playing career spanned from 1986 to 2001 while playing for the Oakland Athletics and the St. Louis Cardinals, winning one World Series championship each with Oakland as a player in 1989 and with St. Louis as a coach in 2011. One of the most prolific home run hitters in baseball history, McGwire holds the major league career record for at bats per home run ratio (10.6), and is the former record holder for both home runs in a single season (70 in 1998) and home runs hit by rookie (49 in 1987).
He ranks 11th all time in home runs with 583, and led the major leagues in home runs in five different seasons, while establishing the major league record for home runs hit in a four-season period from 1996−1999 with 245. Further, he demonstrated exemplary patience as a batter, producing a career .394 on-base percentage (OBP) and twice leading the major leagues in bases on balls. Injuries cut short the manifestation of even greater potential as he reached 140 games played in just eight of 16 total seasons. A right-handed batter and thrower, McGwire stood 6 feet 5 inches (1.96 m) tall and weighed 245 pounds (111 kg) during his playing career.
From Pomona, California, the Athletics chose McGwire with the 10th overall selection in the 1984 MLB draft, and he was a member of the silver medal-winning entry of the United States national team that same year at the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. As a rookie in 1987, he quickly grabbed media attention with 33 home runs before the All-Star break, and would lead the major leagues in home runs that year with 49, while setting the single-season rookie record. He appeared in six straight All-Star Games from 1987 to 1992 despite a brief career decline related to injuries. Another string of six consecutive All-Star appearances followed from 1995 to 2001. Each season from 1996 to 1999, he again led the major leagues in home runs.
A part of the 1998 Major League Baseball home run record chase of Roger Maris' 61 with the Cardinals, McGwire set the major league single-season home run record with 70, which Barry Bonds broke three years later with 73. McGwire also led the league in runs batted in, twice in bases on balls and on-base percentage, and four times in slugging percentage. Injuries significantly cut into his playing time in 2000 and 2001 before factoring into his retirement. He finished with 583 home runs, which was fifth all-time when he retired.For his career, McGwire averaged a home run once every 10.61 at bats, the best at bats per home run ratio in baseball history (Babe Ruth is second at 11.76). He was the fastest player to hit 500 home runs, in 5,487 at-bats.McGwire was a central figure in baseball's steroids scandal. In 2010, McGwire publicly admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during a large portion of his career. In his first ten years of eligibility, McGwire has not been elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.Sammy Sosa
Samuel Kelvin Peralta Sosa (born November 12, 1968) is a Dominican American former professional baseball right fielder. Starting his career with the Texas Rangers, Sosa became a member of the Chicago Cubs in 1992 and became one of the game's best hitters. Sosa hit his 400th home run in his 1,354th game and his 5,273rd at-bat, reaching this milestone quicker than any player in National League history. He is one of nine players in MLB history to hit 600 career home runs.In 1998, Sosa and Mark McGwire achieved national fame for their home run-hitting prowess in pursuit of Roger Maris' home run record. Sosa is best known for his time with the Cubs where he became a 7-time All-Star while holding numerous team records. He finished his career with stints with the Baltimore Orioles and the Texas Rangers. With the Rangers, Sosa hit his 600th career home run to become the fifth player in MLB history to reach the milestone.
Sosa is second all-time in home runs among foreign-born MLB players and is one of only three National League players since 1900 to reach 160 RBIs in a season (2001). Sosa is also the only player to have hit 60 or more home runs in a single season three times.
In a 2005 congressional hearing, Sosa—through his attorney—denied having used performance-enhancing drugs during his playing career.Sporting News
Sporting News is a digital sports media owned by Perform Group, a global sports content and media company.
Sporting News, originally The Sporting News, was established in 1886 as a weekly U.S. magazine. It became the dominant American publication covering baseball, acquiring the nickname "The Bible of Baseball." It is now a digital-only publication providing essential coverage of all major sports, and with editions in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Japan.