Baseball: McGwire matches record

MARK MCGWIRE hit his 61st home run of the season yesterday to equal Roger Maris' all-time record for a season, set in 1961.

The St Louis Cardinal turned on a 1-1 fastball from the Chicago Cubs starting pitcher, Mike Morgan, in the first inning and drilled it just inside the left-field foul pole. It was a solo shot that opened the scoring, drawing a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd.

The Cubs' Sammy Sosa, McGwire's rival for the record who has a team-record 58 homers, fouled out to McGwire in his first at-bat and struck out next time up. McGwire singled in his second at bat of the game.

McGwire's 60th homer had tied the 60 home runs of Babe Ruth, who held the record from 1927 until Maris broke the mark.

McGwire pumped his fist as soon as he hit the 61st homer, knowing it was gone. The Cubs first baseman, Mark Grace, gave him a high-five as he passed, and Sosa clapped in right field.

After crossing home plate, the burly McGwire lifted and hugged his son and bat boy, Matthew, who was the first to greet him. McGwire came out for a curtain call after celebrating with his team-mates and then went to hug the Cardinals' manager, Tony La Russa.