St. Louis' Mark McGwire received the highest honor from his peers Friday when he was named Player of the Year at the 1998 Players Choice Awards at Walt Disney World.
McGwire's epic home run chase with Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs helped define the 1998 season. The slugging first baseman finished with 70 homers, easily surpassing the single-season record of 61 set by Roger Maris, while hitting .299 and driving in 147 runs.
"Being recognized by my fellow players means so much to me, because these guys know the game best," said McGwire of the voting conducted by current major leaguers. "So many guys had great performances this year. This has been an amazing season for all of us."
The more recognizable Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year honors are chosen in balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Sosa also was honored, earning the distinction of National League Outstanding Player. Sosa hit 66 homers while batting .308 and driving in a major league-leading 158 runs. He also led the Cubs to their first playoff appearance since 1989.
The Outstanding Player in the American League was Alex Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners, who hit .310 with 124 RBIs and became just the third player to reach 40 homers and 40 stolen bases in a single season. Rodriguez hit 42 homers with 46 thefts.
Roger Clemens of the Toronto Blue Jays and Pedro Martinez of the Boston Red Sox shared the AL Outstanding Pitcher Award. Clemens became the first AL pitcher to win pitching's Triple Crown -- first in wins (20), ERA (265) and strikeouts (271) -- in consecutive years since Lefty Grove in 1930-31. Clemens closed the year by winning his last 15 decisions.
Martinez was 19-7 with a 2.89 ERA in his first season in Boston.
Greg Maddux of the Atlanta Braves led the NL with a 2.22 ERA and won 18 games, earning that league's Outstanding Pitcher of the Year Award.
The Outstanding Rookie honors went to Ben Grieve of the Oakland Athletics in the AL and Kerry Wood of the Cubs in the NL.
Grieve hit .288 with 18 homers and 89 RBIs for Oakland. Wood burst onto the national scene by striking out an NL record 20 batters in his fifth major league start. Despite late-season arm trouble, Wood was 13-6 with a 3.40 ERA and struck out 233 batters in 166 2/3 innings.
Eric Davis of the Baltimore Orioles completed a remarkable recovery from colon cancer and hit .327 with 28 homers and 89 RBIs, earning AL Comeback Player of the Year honors. The distinction in thNL belongs to Greg Vaughn, who hit 50 homers for the San Diego Padres following an injury-plagued 1997.
Paul Molitor of the Minnesota Twins was selected Man of the Year, given to the major leaguer "whose leadership and committment on and off the field most inspired others to reach higher levels of achievement." Molitor, a 20-year-veteran and seven-time All-Star, has said previously that the 1998 season was likely his last.
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