Mark McGwire made history in a hurry. Tony Gwynn will have to wait at least another day.
The St. Louis Cardinals slugger became the fastest player to hit 500 home runs, then launched No. 501 off the left-field scoreboard Thursday night in a 10-3 loss to the San Diego Padres.
"I've exceeded everything I expected of myself," McGwire said.
The San Diego star got No. 2,999 a two-run double in the ninth inning in going 1-for-4 with a walk.
A sellout crowd of 45,106 had come to Busch Stadium hoping to see a double-dose of history.
"Unfortunately, it didn't work out," McGwire said.
Said Gwynn: "I gave it a good run."
McGwire just missing clearing the fence in his first at-bat. The next time up, the first baseman who hit a record 70 homers last season sent a hanging, 1-1 breaking ball from Andy Ashby an estimated 451 feet over the center-field wall.
"There was electricity in the stands," McGwire said. "The feeling driving to the ballpark was about the same as when I hit 62."
Gwynn took off his glove in right field and applauded as McGwire rounded the bases.
McGwire jumped on home plate with both feet before being greeted by teammates, who exchanged his signature fake gut punches along with high-fives.
McGwire, who hit 499th homer Wednesday night, took his second curtain call in as many nights as Ashby stood off the mound, looking out towards center field.
Then in the eighth, McGwire homered again off Ashby. This one traveled an estimate479 feet, the longest this season at Busch, and banged off the scoreboard near his No. 25 in a lineup list before dropping into the seats right above the Padres bullpen.
McGwire made it to 500 in 5,487 at-bats, obliterating Babe Ruth's record of 5,801 at-bats. The others in the top five are Jimmie Foxx (7,074), Mickey Mantle (7,300) and Mike Schmidt (7,331).
Big Mac leads the majors with 44 home runs, two more than Sammy Sosa, and tops the NL with 101 RBIs.
"I know there's been a lot of individual accomplishments," McGwire said. "But let's not forget this is a team sport."
McGwire's fifth multihomer game of the season and the 58th of his career came in the same ballpark where he broke Roger Maris' 37-year-old homer record last Sept. 8 when he hit No. 62. McGwire went on to finish ahead of Sosa's 66 in a race that captivated the nation.
McGwire has 17 home runs in 21 games and remains behind last year's pace. He's catching up in a hurry, however, and is on pace for 65.
His 500th homer easily cleared the wall and deflected off the base of an advertisement, then landed in an area of shrubbery beyond the wall as fans scrambled to come up with the prize that experts believe may be worth $1 million. Jim Shearer, a 28-year-old architect from St. Louis, wound up with the souvenir and was whisked away by authorities.
"We kind of joked about it before," said his wife, Jennifer. "He said if it comes this way, get out of here, and so I did. I said he should give it back. He said he's going to sell out."
The fan who caught McGwire's 70th homer ball, Phil Ozersky of St. Louis, sold it to Spawn comic book creator Todd McFarlane for $3.2 million.
McGwire, who hit his 400th home run last season, couldn't have had a much better foil for his 500th. He's 8-for-16 against Ashby with four homers and four doubles.
McGwire has reached his last four big milestones, starting with Nos. 61, 62 and 70 last year, in front of the home fans. He wanted to hit No. 500 in St. Louis, too, and did it just in time the Cardinals begin a road trip Friday with a doubleheader at Pittsburgh.
The last player to reach 500 homers was Eddie Murray on Sept. 6, 1996, at Baltimore against Detroit's Felipe Lira. Murray is 15th on the career list with 504.
McGwire has already passed five players on the list this season
Lou Gehrig (493), Stan Musial and Willie Stargell (475) and Dave Winfield (465).
Musial was at Busch Stadium for the big night and sat next to fellow Cardinals Hall of Famer Lou Brock, the last NL player to reach 3,000 hits.
|Tony Gwynn wilhave to wait another day for his 3,000th hit.|
Ashby (10-5) allowed three runs on five hits in 7 2-3 innings and Trevor Hoffman finished for his 27th save. Chris Gomez drove in two runs for the Padres, who won for only the second time in 14 games and avoided a four-game sweep.
Cardinals starter Larry Luebbers (1-2) lasted five innings and gave up four runs on five hits.
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