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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Last baseball season, Miami Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton and New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge each hit 50 home runs … Stanton had 59; Judge had 52. (These two are now teammates with Stanton’s trade to the Yankees in the off-season.) It was the first time since the 2007 season that two players hit 50 in a season; that year Alex Rodriguez had 54 and Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder had 50.
Stanton and Judge became the 44th and 45th players to hit 50 in a season. Of the 45 times it has happened in MLB history, there have been 29 different players who have reached the 50-HR milestone. Here are the nine players who have hit 50 or more home runs in multiple seasons:
4: Mark McGwire, Babe Ruth, Sammy Sosa
3: Alex Rodriguez
2: Jimmie Foxx, Ken Griffey, Jr., Ralph Kiner, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays.
Stanton and Judge will look to become only the sixth and seventh players to hit 50 HRs in consecutive seasons. The five players who have consecutive seasons with 50 homers: Rodriguez (2001 and 2002), Ruth (1920 and 1921, also 1927 and 1928), Griffey (1997 and 1998), McGwire (1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999) and Sosa (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001).
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Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published with a focus on stats that go beyond the numbers.
With 36 games left in the Orioles 2013 schedule, Baltimore first baseman Chris Davis looks like a shoo-in to hit 50 or more home runs this season. He would become the first Orioles player with 50-plus homers since Brady Anderson hit 50 in 1996.
There is an outside chance that Miguel Cabrera will reach the 50-HR mark. Cabrera has 40 round-trippers with 36 games left. If he could reach the 50-mark, he would become the first Tigers players to reach 50 home runs since Cecil Fielder hit 51 in 1990.
Looking at each of the current 30 MLB franchises, 11 of them have never had a player hit 50 or more HRs in a season. Here are those 11 teams; also listed is the player who holds the club record for home runs in a season.
Team (Franchise HR record)
Chicago White Sox (Albert Belle, 49 in 1998)
Colorado (Todd Helton, 49 in 2001; Larry Walker, 49 in 1997)
Houston (Jeff Bagwell, 47 in 2000)
Kansas City (Steve Balboni, 36 in 1985)
Los Angeles Angels (Troy Glaus, 47 in 2000)
Los Angeles Dodgers (Shawn Green, 49 in 2001)
Miami (Gary Sheffield, 42 in 1996)
Minnesota (Harmon Killebrew, 49 in 1969)
New York Mets (Carlos Beltran, 41 in 2006; Todd Hundley, 41 in 1996)
Tampa Bay (Carlos Pena, 46 in 2007)
Washington (Alfonso Soriano, 46 in 2006)
Of the remaining 19 teams, the Pittsburgh Pirates have had the longest wait for a 50-HR player. The Pirates last player to hit 50 or more homers in a season was in 1949 when Ralph Kiner slugged 54.
Here’s a look at the last time the other 19 teams had a player hit 50 or more HRs in a season.
Team (Player, HRs, season)
Pittsburgh (Ralph Kiner, 54 in 1949)
Cincinnati (George Foster, 52 in 1977)
Detroit (Cecil Fielder, 51 in 1990)
Baltimore (Brady Anderson, 50 in 1996)
Oakland (Mark McGwire, 52 in 1996)
Seattle (Ken Griffey, Jr., 56 in 1998)
San Diego (Greg Vaughn, 50 in 1998), 65 in 1999)
St. Louis (Mark McGwire
Arizona (Luis Gonzalez, 57 in 2001)
Chicago Cubs (Sammy Sosa, 64 in 2001)
San Francisco (Barry Bonds 73 in 2001)
Cleveland (Jim Thome, 52 in 2002)
Texas (Alex Rodriguez, 57 in 2002)
Atlanta (Andruw Jones, 51 in 2005)
Boston (David Ortiz, 54 in 2006)
Philadelphia (Ryan Howard, 58 in 2006)
New York Yankees (Alex Rodriguez, 54 in 2007)
Milwaukee (Prince Fielder, 50 in 2007)
Toronto (Jose Bautista, 54 in 2010)
Did you know? As you might expect, the Yankees have the most season with a player hitting 50 or more home runs with 8. The Cubs are next with five; the Giants have had four.
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Jim Thome became the eighth member of the majors’ 600-HR Club with a pair of homers tonight (August 15). He also becomes the first member of that club who won only one HR crown in his career. Thome led the National League in home runs when he hit 47 for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2003. That was the only year he won an HR crown in his career. All other members of the 600-HR Club led their league in HRs in two or more seasons.
In looking at the 25 members of the 500-HR Club, we discover that three players hit 500 or more home runs in their career yet never led the league in home runs. The three: Rafael Palmeiro, Gary Sheffield and Frank Thomas.
Here’s a look at the 25 members of the 500-HR Club and the number of times they led the league in home runs in a season in their career.
League HR crowns, Player (career HRs)
0: Rafael Palmeiro (569), Gary Sheffield (509), Frank Thomas (521)
1: Eddie Murray (504), Manny Ramirez (555), Frank Robinson (586), Jim Thome (600)
2: Ernie Banks (512), Barry Bonds (762), Eddie Mathews (512), Sammy Sosa (609)
3: Willie McCovey (521)
5: Alex Rodriquez (626)
6: Harmon Killebrew (573), Mel Ott (511)
8: Mike Schmidt (548), Babe Ruth (714)
(WE INTERRUPT THIS BLOG FOR A TRIVIA QUESTION: Can you name the five members of the 500-HR club who hit all of their home runs with only one team? Answer below.)
Did you know? Hank Aaron wore uniform number 44 and hit 44 home runs in a season four times!
TRIVIA ANSWER: Mel Ott (NY Giants), Ernie Banks (Chicago Cubs), Ted Williams (Boston), Mickey Mantle (NY Yankees) and Mike Schmidt (Philadelphia)
Did you know? Gary Sheffield hit 509 career HRs yet did not hit more than 130 for one team. He hit 129 for the LA Dodgers, most with one team in his career.
Did you know? Alex Rodriquez is the only player to hit 150 or more HRs for three different teams. Rodriquez hit 156 for Texas, 189 for Seattle and has hit 281 for the Yankees.