Sosa can move past McGwire and into sole possession of sixth place on the all-time home run list when the AL East-leading Orioles wrap up their interleague series with the visiting Colorado Rockies.
Sosa couldn’t beat McGwire to Roger Maris’ single-season homer mark in ’98 as the former Cardinals slugger got to 62 first. However, the two continued to battle for the crown during the season’s final month, with McGwire eventually winning with a record 70 blasts to Sosa’s 66.
He would go on to hit 63 homers in ’99, again finishing second behind McGwire (65). The Dominican outfielder hit 64 in 2001, only to have Barry Bonds eclipse McGwire’s record with 73 that year. He is still the only player in history to hit at least 60 in three seasons.
Now with McGwire retired, Sosa appears ready to have the last laugh. He belted his 583rd homer during Saturday’s 7-2 win over the Rockies to move into a tie for sixth place on the all-time list with Big Mac.
“In 1998, the year Mark and I went head to head, that was a privilege for me to be there with him,” Sosa said. “And now he’s retired, he’s sitting home relaxing. To have a chance to tie him today, it’s very nice.”
Sosa needs just 17 more homers to become only the fifth player in the history of the game to reach 600, joining Bonds, Willie Mays, Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. Sosa trails Frank Robinson (586) by three homers for fifth place.
Sosa’s main mission this season is to guide the Orioles to their first playoff appearance since 1997, so he didn’t dwell on his place in baseball history.
“Right now there’s no time to celebrate thinking about it, because we’re on a mission, you know,” he said. “Nobody expected us to be in first place, and we’re still here. We’re just going to continue fighting, fighting every day.
“I’m still playing. My career is not going to stop here.”
Sosa isn’t the only Oriole approaching a significant milestone. First baseman Rafael Palmeiro had two hits Saturday, moving within 21 of becoming just the fourth major leaguer to have 500 homers and 3,000 hits in his career, joining Mays, Aaron and Eddie Murray.
The Orioles have won four of their last five games after dropping four of their previous five.