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MCGWIRE HAPPY HIS CHASE IS OVER

ST. LOUIS -- The Roger Maris chase is over, and Mark McGwire couldn't be happier.

McGwire hit his 58th home run, tying him for the most ever by a right-handed batter, in the St. Louis Cardinals' season-ending 2-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday. As pleased as he was by his feat, McGwire is ready for a time when his every move is not scrutinized.

"I've said it time and time again, it's just unbelievable," McGwire said. "There's no other word that can replace it.

"Thank God I'm leaving so I don't have to describe anything. It's over with. Done."

Asked whether he enjoyed himself at all the last few weeks, McGwire smiled.

"Hell yeah, it was fun," he said. "I just don't like talking about it."

McGwire, who hit two home runs on Saturday, tied the right-handed mark set in 1932 by Jimmie Foxx and equaled in 1938 by Hank Greenberg. Only Maris, who had 61 in 1961, and Babe Ruth, who had 60 in 1927 and 59 in 1921, have hit more.

McGwire said he didn't dream of such lofty goals as a boy and didn't know who Foxx or Greenberg were until a few days ago. Now that they're linked, he said that will change.

"I think it will do me good to read up on them," he said.

Manager Tony La Russa certainly was impressed.

"You consider yourself very fortunate because you saw history, right?" La Russa said.

The feat is all the more impressive considering McGwire changed leagues in mid-season. Since joining the Cardinals in a trading deadline deal with Oakland on July 31, he had 24 home runs in 51 games.

McGwire, who has homered at least once in 12 consecutive series, entered the day one homer ahead of Seattle's Ken Griffey Jr.

McGwire's first two at-bats were quiet, with only one swing in each. He walked on five pitches with two outs and nobody on in the first as a sellout crowd of 46,065 booed its displeasure, and took a called third strike in the third.

After the Cubs took the lead on a squeeze bunt by Dave Hansen in the sixth, McGwire tied it when he homered to straightaway center on an 0-2 curveball, a drive estimated at 414 feet.

"I hit it good enough, I didn't know if it was going to carry," McGwire said. "I thought he'd try to throw a fastball by me like he did the previous at-bat.

"I was looking fastball and just reacting to his breaking ball and I stayed back real well."

Trachsel didn't know how McGwire did it, saying the pitch was six inches outside and shin high.

"It was a perfect pitch as far as I'm concerned," Trachsel said.

Trachsel knew he was in an unenviable spot every time McGwire came to the plate.

"They booed either way," he said. "If he swung and missed, they booed him and if I threw him a ball they booed me."

The game also was the finale for Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg, who was 0 for 2 with a warning track fly to center in the third in his final at-bat. Sandberg, who received a plaque in pregame ceremonies, finished with a .285 career average and a record 277 home runs as a second baseman.

"I don't think it's sunk in yet," Sandberg said. "I've accomplished a lot of what I wanted to accomplish."

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