McGwire Hits 539th Home Run

Friday, May 19th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Mark McGwire made a few changes that paid off in record-breaking fashion.

McGwire broke ties with Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, homering three times and setting a career high with seven RBIs Thursday night in the St. Louis Cardinals' 7-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.

``I made a couple adjustments in the cage, but it's nothing new,'' he said. ``I make adjustments all the time.''

McGwire is eighth on the career list with 539 homers, three ahead of Mantle. McGwire's 64th multihomer game broke a tie with Mays for the second-most ever. Babe Ruth had 72.

``It's absolutely unbelievable, phenomenal to hear my name mentioned with those guys,'' McGwire said. ``It means a lot to me, but I have to worry about playing a game tomorrow. It's not like my career is over. I think about those guys a lot, but until I retire, it's not going to hit me.''

McGwire, who took over the major league home run lead with 17, broke a tie with Mantle in the first inning when he hit No. 537, a three-run drive off Curt Schilling (1-2).

McGwire hit a two-run homer in the second inning — only the 54th player to reach the left-field upper deck at Veterans Stadium — to make it 5-0. He added a two-run shot in the eighth off Wayne Gomes for No. 539.

``When you see greatness, whether it's athletics or entertainment, it never gets old,'' St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said.

McGwire struck out three times Wednesday night, forcing him to work on his swing.

``He's made big improvements since his first few years,'' said La Russa, who coached McGwire when he came up in Oakland. ``He adjusts, He knows his swing. He'll figure out what he did wrong and learn from it.''

Just 17,137 — the smallest crowd to watch McGwire this season — paid to see the game at Veterans Stadium, and the actual attendance looked even smaller.

With the fifth three-homer game of his career, McGwire became the only NL player with a pair of three-homer games in Philadelphia; he also did it on May 19, 1998.

McGwire is 4-for-18 in his career against Schilling, with all four hits being homers, including one on April 30. He was 0-for-6 with four strikeouts in the three-game series against the Phillies.

``When you face a guy like Schilling, who has owned me my whole career, I see the best of the best,'' McGwire said. ``If he throws 93-94 to someone else, he throws 97-98 to me, with movement. I was lucky.

``I don't look at things as locked in, hitting the ball real well. I look at it like constant adjustments. Last night I couldn't hit a ball with a wet newspaper. Tonight, I centered some balls.''

Next up for McGwire on the career home run list is former Phillies star Mike Schmidt at 548. McGwire received a standing ovation after his second homer and fans booed loudly when he was intentionally walked in the fourth.

St. Louis has homered in 36 of 40 games and are on pace to hit 344, shattering the record of 264 set by the 1997 Seattle Mariners.

Schilling, making his fourth start since offseason shoulder surgery, allowed five runs and nine hits in six innings, walked five and struck out five. With his second subpar outing in less than a week. His ERA rose from 3.15 to 4.15.

``I pitched poorly; no excuses,'' Schilling said. ``I threw balls in spots I didn't want and he did what he does with those pitches. He's done it over 500 times.''

Garrett Stephenson (6-0) allowed two runs and nine hits in 5 2-3 innings. The Cardinals are averaging 9.3 runs in his seven starts.

Notes: Philadelphia made it 5-1 on a two-out double by Mickey Morandini in the second, and Desi Relaford singled in a run the sixth. ... The loudest cheers of the night came when the Philadelphia Flyers scored in their 4-2 playoff win over the New Jersey Devils. Twice after the fans erupted following a Flyers goal, St. Louis catcher Mike Matheny called time and walked to the mound. ... Stephenson is 3-0 against the Phillies, his former team. ... McGwire is averaging one homer per 5.5 at-bats this season.