Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa each gave it his best shot on the season's final day. And once again, Big Mac came out on top.
McGwire hit his 65th home run and Sosa hit his 63rd today as the St. Louis Cardinals closed out an otherwise dismal season with a 9-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs in a game called after 4 1/2 innings because of rain.
McGwire finished with six homers in the final seven games, and moved past Ted Williams and Willie McCovey into 10th place on the career list with 522.
Last year, he homered five times in the final three games to pull away from Sosa 70-66.
McGwire became the first NL player since Dale Murphy in 1984-85 to win successive titles. This was his fourth crown overall, having won two AL titles with Oakland.
"I'm pretty proud of myself as far as how I overcame a lot of things and to put up the numbers I put up this year," McGwire said. "It just goes to show you the mind is a lot stronger than people think."
Sosa emerged from a long silence to hit No. 63, a three-run shot in the third off Larry Luebbers. Sosa led the home run derby 59-54 on Sept. 9, but finished with only two in the last 11 games and his final homer was his first in 18 at-bats.
He did tie for the major league strikeout lead, however, at 171 with Cleveland's Jim Thome.
"I am a happy man, not disappointed," Sosa said. "I had a great year. For me, that's something to be happy about."
There were two rain delays, costing each player perhaps two more at-bats. The first delay, which came with Sosa at the plate and the bases loaded in the fifth, lasted only 16 minutes.
The second delay lasted 1 hour 24 minutes.
McGwire connected in the first inning on a 2-2 fastball from Steve Trachsel (8-18), who allowed McGwire's record-setting 62nd home run last year.
"I couldn't care less about Sosa and McGwire," Trachsel said.
The drive, estimated at 461 feet, was McGwire's fourth straight homer to straightaway center, and a youngster wearing a McGwire jersey wound up with the ball following a scramble.
McGwire also homered in the first inning Saturday and outhomered Sosa 2-1 in the final series although he also walked five times--twice today. He also led the league with 147 RBI, matching his career high he set last year, and became the first player in history to finish with more RBI than hits (145) in a season.
The closest before this year was Jay Buhner of Seattle, who had 121 RBI and 126 hits in 1995. McGwire had been second-closest with 147 RBI and 152 hits last year.