Home run #: 37
Date: June 30
Opponent: Kansas City Royals
Location: Busch Stadium
Pitcher: Glendon Rusch
Runners on: 0
Distance: 472 feet
End of day Sammy Sosa total: 33
End of day Ken Griffey Jr. total: 32
While Sammy Sosa‘s mark of 20 home runs captivated the nation and pushed him right into the home run race, Mark McGwire didn’t have a bad third month either. Going into the last game of June, McGwire had put up a .291/.446/.658 line while hitting nine homers and, remarkably, walking 19 times while striking out just 17. Granted, seven of those were intentional passes, a number that would grow as the season wore on, but it’s a good reminder that for all the focus on McGwire’s prodigious power, he had a little more of an all-around game than some would acknowledge.
Interleague play was still going on as the calendar prepared to turn but the Cardinals had come home to host their rivals from the other side of Missouri. The Royals were having one of those many sub-.500 seasons that they had before 2015 came along, but even at that they were only a handful of games worse than St. Louis, who also found itself with more losses than wins.
We often talk about Manny Aybar and how rough his outings usually are, but he got through the first without incident. Glendon Rusch did the same, save a double by McGwire, which meant the game was tied when the top of the second rolled around. Former Arkansas Razorback Jeff King singled to start the inning, only to see Dean Palmer strike out looking. Jeff Conine picked up his teammate, doubling in the first run of the game. Sal Fasano fouled out, but Mendy Lopez walked. That put two on for the pitcher, Mr. Rusch. Now, you’d expect an American League pitcher not to hit all that much, so everything seemed hunky-dory. Instead, Lopez stole second and, on the throw, Conine stole home.
The Cardinals and Royals traded opportunities, but nobody broke through again until the top of the sixth. Aybar, who was still in the game, walked King on four pitches to open the frame. Tony La Russa decided not to press his luck and went to his bullpen, bringing in Curtis King. That didn’t work out well, as King walked Palmer and Conine to load the bases. Fasano then singled to right, putting the third run on the board and keeping the bases loaded. Lopez followed with a double play but Palmer came in, making the score 4-0.
It stayed that way until the top of the seventh. The big redhead led things off, with a double and a single already, swung through the first pitch from Rusch. He took the second one for a ride to Big Mac Land.
Unfortunately, no one else was able to do anything that inning and the Royals got that run back in the eighth when King led off with a double, moved to third on a ground out, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Conine. The Cardinals got two runners on in the bottom of the eighth, but Gary Gaetti ended the frame with a strikeout. The Royals made it 6-1 when Hal Morris scored on a wild pitch in the ninth. McGwire grounded out to start the ninth and only a Brian Jordan single kept the ninth from being 1-2-3.
Ten homers in a month is a pretty amazing month. It was a below-average pace for McGwire in ’98. These numbers are just crazy when you think of them like that.