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Baseball’s Home Run Race Speeds Up

August 24, 1998

For Mark McGwire and other sluggers, the race to Roger Maris really sped up Sunday.

McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr. and Greg Vaughn _ all trying to break Maris’ record of 61 home runs _ each connected at least once. And they did it a dizzying rate.

Just minutes after Sosa hit his 50th home run at Wrigley Field, McGwire launched No. 53 for the St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh. McGwire was still talking about his shot when Sosa homered again for the Chicago Cubs.

``Really, that’s really cool,″ McGwire said of the chase.

Vaughn reached his career high with his 42nd homer for San Diego. Later, Griffey hit his AL-leading 43rd for Seattle.

Griffey has homered just twice in 89 at-bats in August.

``I’m on a cut-throat pace,″ Griffey joked.

Both McGwire and Sosa have 32 games left to make history.

``We are trying to make the playoffs and Mark’s trying to break the record. I got my money on Mark,″ Sosa said. ``He’s the type who can hit five or six in two days.″

McGwire became just the third NL player to hit as many as 53 homers in a season, joining Ralph Kiner (54 in 1949) and Hack Wilson, who hit a league-record 56 homers in 1930.

This marked the third straight year that two major leaguers reached the 50-homer mark, and the sixth season overall. The last time two NL players did it in the same season was 1947 when Kiner and Johnny Mize tied for the league lead with 51 each.

While the home-run chase has fans paying attention to more than one game at once, Barry Bonds became the first player in major league history to hit 400 home runs and steal 400 bases.

Bonds reached the milestone with a homer in San Francisco’s game at Florida. He has 400 home runs and 438 steals in a 13-year career.

Three other plays hit 300 homers and stole 300 bases _ Willie Mays (660 homers, 338 steals), Andre Dawson (436 and 314) and Bonds’ father, Bobby (332 and 461).

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