SIX STATS you may not know: Looking back at the 1998 Home Run Chase between McGwire and Sosa
I recently watched “Long Gone Summer,” an ESPN “30-for-30” that looked at the 1998 MLB 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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How will the new Brewers players’ debuts match up with other Brew Crew debuts?
When (or if) the 2020 Major League Baseball season begins, the Brewers will have several new players who have never suited up in a Brewers uniform who will likely play important roles for the club. Players like outfielder Avisail Garcia, catcher Omar Narvaez, infielders Justin Smoak and Luis Urias, and pitchers Brett Anderson, Eric Lauer and Josh Lindblom will be making their debut with the Brewers in 2020 (hopefully).
The question: When they do make their debuts, will they start with a bang or a whimper? When compared to other Brewers, will any of these new players have a Brew Crew debut like Carlos Gomez? After coming to the Brewers in a trade with the Twins, Gomez made his Brewers debut on April 5, 2010 with four hits in five at-bats, a solo HR and a stolen base.
Or will any of the pitchers have a debut like Yovani Gallardo? Making his MLB and Brewers debut on June 18, 2007, Gallardo was the starting pitcher and winner in the Brewers 5-4 win over the San Francisco Giants. Gallardo went 6.1 innings and allowed only four hits and struck out four in the victory.
Let’s take a look at some of the Brewers debuts for some of the club’s top players over the years. Baseball-Reference.com on the Brewers’ team page lists the team’s Top 24 players in franchise history based on each players’ WAR rating (WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement). The stat gives a number to each players’ overall contribution to the team. Robin Yount tops the Brewers franchise with a 77.3 WAR, followed by Paul Molitor (60.0) and Ryan Braun is third (46.8).
Here is a snapshot of the top 24 Brewers player’s debut with the team.
Robin Yount, April 5, 1974: 0-for-1, walk
Paul Molitor, April 7, 1978: 1-for-5, one RBI
Ryan Braun, May 25, 2007: 1-for-4, two RBIs
Cecil Cooper, April 7, 1977: 1-for-4
Teddy Higuera, April 23, 1985: 5.1 IP, seven hits, 4 ER, five strikeouts (no decision-starting pitcher)
Don Money, April 6, 1973: 0-for-3
Jeff Cirillo, May 11, 1994: 0-for-0, came in as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning, no at-bat
Ben Sheets, April 5, 2001: 6.0 IP, six hits, 5 ER, five strikeouts (starting pitcher, losing pitcher)
George Scott, April 15, 1972: 0-for-4, one RBI
Jim Gantner, September 3, 1976: 2-for-4, one run scored, one walk
Geoff Jenkins, April 24, 1998: 2-for-4, solo HR, two runs scored
Ben Oglivie, April 8, 1978: 2-for-5, two runs scored, one walk
Carlos Gomez, April 5, 2010: 4-for-5, double, solo HR, two runs scored, stolen base
Sixto Lezcano, September 10, 1974: 3-for-5, one RBI
Chris Bosio, August 3, 1986: 3.0 IP, three hits, one earned run, one strikeout (came in as a reliever, no decision)
Gorman Thomas, April 6, 1973: 1-for-3, triple
Yovani Gallardo, June 18, 2007: 6.1 IP, four hits, 3 ER, 4 strikeouts (Starting pitcher, got the win)
Bill Wegman, September 14, 1985: 7.0 IP, five hits, two earned runs, four strikeouts (starting pitcher, no decision)
Mike Caldwell, June 19, 1977: 2 IP, no hits, one walk, one strikeout (came in as a reliever, no decision)
Jonathan Lucroy, May 21, 2010: 1-for-2
Prince Fielder, June 13, 2005: 0-for-4
Jeromy Burnitz, September 3, 1996: 0-for-4
Moose Haas, September 8, 1976: 3 IP, three hits, one earned run, two strikeouts (came in as a reliever, no decision)
Corey Hart, May 25, 2004: 0-for-1, strikeout
In addition to the above 24 players, the Brewers have five more players who played with the team who are members of baseball’s Hall of Fame (in addition to Yount and Molitor): Rollie Fingers, Hank Aaron, Ted Simmons, Trevor Hoffman and Don Sutton. Their Brewers debuts went as follows:
Rollie Fingers, April 11, 1981: 1.2 IP, two hits, no earned runs, one strikeout, one walk (came in as a reliever, got the save)
Hank Aaron, April 8, 1975: 0-for-3, walk
Ted Simmons, April 11, 1981: 0-for-4, one run scored, one strikeout
Trevor Hoffman, April 27, 2009: one inning pitched, no hits, no earned runs (came in as a reliever, no decision)
Don Sutton, 9 IP, complete game, eight hits allowed, four earned runs, two walks, three strikeouts (starting pitcher, got the loss)
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With the NBA looking to conclude their interrupted 2019-20 season with 22 of the 30 teams finishing the season in games only in Orlando, teams that depend on home court advantage will be without benefit of a home crowd as the season plays out. And one team that may not like this fact is the Milwaukee Bucks.
Based on home court records starting with the 2018-19 season and ending with the delay instituted earlier this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bucks had a league-leading .847 winning percentage in home games over that period… 61 wins and 11 losses on their home court. Eleven NBA teams since the start of the 2018-19 season have won 2/3 or more of their home games.
With no crowds and no home court advantage, will this be a negative for some teams? We’ll have to see how this plays out since we don’t have any history of such a large sample of neutral court games in league history. But this we know for sure: None of the 22 teams finishing out this season will benefit from a home crowd. Will this make for a more level playing field (court) as the season winds down and eventually crowns a champion in 2020? Stay tuned.
Here is the winning percentage of each of the 30 NBA teams in home games since the beginning of the 2018-19 season through contests played in 2019-20.
Milwaukee, .847… Philadelphia, .833
Denver, .797… Toronto, .753… Houston, .726
Boston, .699… L.A. Clippers,.699… Utah, .694… Indiana, .685… Portland, .685… San Antonio, .676… Oklahoma City, .635… Miami, .630… L.A. Lakers, .625
Dallas, .573… Orlando, .569… Brooklyn, .562… Sacramento, .528… Memphis, .527… Washington, .521… Golden State, .507… Detroit, .500
Charlotte, .486… Minnesota, .452… New Orleans, .438… Atlanta, .413
Phoenix, .329… Cleveland, .312… Chicago, .307
New York, .270
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