Tony Gwynn tied Honus Wagner’s record by winning his eighth National League batting title Sunday, and Mark McGwire and Ken Griffey Jr. fell short in their pursuit of Roger Maris’ home run record.
Roger Clemens became the first pitcher to lead the American League in wins, ERA and strikeouts since Detroit’s Hal Newhouser in 1945, and Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez became the first pair of pitchers in 25 years to reach 300 strikeouts in the same season.
Gwynn, who didn’t play in San Diego’s final game, finished the season at .372, becoming the first player to win four consecutive N.L. batting titles since Rogers Hornsby won six straight from 1920-25. Ty Cobb holds the major league record with 12 A.L. batting titles.
McGwire hit 58 homers, including one Sunday, for the most since Maris set the record of 61 in 1961 and matching the fourth-most ever. McGwire also became the first player with 50 or more in consecutive seasons since Babe Ruth in 1927-28 and tied the record for right-handed hitters, set by Jimmie Foxx in 1932 and matched by Hank Greenberg in 1938.
McGwire, who hit 52 in 1996, failed to win any league home run titles this year, belting 34 for Oakland before his July 31 trade and 24 for St. Louis.
Griffey won the A.L. title with 56 for Seattle after hitting 49 last year. He also teamed with Jay Buhner (40) to become the third-best home-run hitting duo on one team, trailing only the 115 by Maris and Mickey Mantle for the New York Yankees in 1961 and the 107 by Ruth and Lou Gehrig for the Yankees in 1927.
After hitting a record 4,962 homers last year, an average of 2.19 a game, major league hitters hit 4,640 this season, a 6.5 percent decrease to an average of 2.05.
Baltimore’s Brady Anderson had the most spectacular drop, from 50 to 18. Players with 40 or more dropped from 17 to 12, while the number with 30 or more dropped from 43 to 31 and the number of 20 or more fell from 83 to 80. Still, those totals were the second-most ever behind last year.
Seattle set a record with 264 homers, topping the 257 by Baltimore last year. And Colorado set an N.L. record with 239, surpassing the 221 by the 1947 New York Giants, 1956 Cincinnati Reds and ‘96 Rockies.
Colorado had three players with 40 or more for the second straight year, getting a league-leading 49 from Larry Walker, 41 from Andres Galarraga and 40 from Vinny Castilla. Their total of 130 was an N.L. record for three teammates, topping the 124 by Davey Johnson (43), Darrell Evans (41) and Hank Aaron (40) of the 1973 Atlanta Braves. Before last year, the ‘73 Braves with the only team with three players at 40 or more.
The Rockies also had four players with 30 or more for the fourth straight season, with Ellis Burks hitting 32. The only other team with four 30-homer players was the 1977 Dodgers.
Walker’s 409 total bases were the highest in the majors since Stan Musial had 429 in 1948. And with a .720 slugging percentage, Walker became only the second N.L. player to top .700 since Musial’s .702 in ‘48. The other was Houston’s Jeff Bagwell at .750 in the strike-shortened 1994 season.
Frank Thomas hit .347 and became the first Chicago White Sox player to win the A.L. batting title since Luke Appling in 1943, and Boston’s Nomar Garciaparra became the first rookie to lead the A.L. in hits (209) since Kevin Seitzer in 1987. Gwynn led the N.L. in hits with 220.
Griffey led the A.L. in RBIs with 147, while Galarraga led the NL with 140. There were 35 players with 100 or more, down from 50 last year.
Clemens went 21-7 with a 2.04 ERA and a career-high 292 strike-outs for Toronto, fanning eight Sunday to finish one ahead of Seattle’s Randy Johnson. Clemens won his fourth strikeout title, his second straight, and his fifth ERA title.
Schilling led the majors with 319 strikeouts for Philadelphia and Martinez was second with 305 for Montreal. The last pair to top 300 in the same year were Nolan Ryan (329) and Steve Carlton (310) in 1972.
Martinez led the majors with a 1.90 ERA, becoming the first ERA leader with 300 strikeouts since Carlton had a 1.98 ERA in 1972. Denny Neagle led the N.L. in wins with 20 for Atlanta.
Brian Hunter had 74 steals, becoming the first Detroit player to lead the A.L. since Cobb in 1917. With 60, Tony Womack became the first Pittsburgh player to top the N.L. since Omar Moreno in 1979.
Jeff Shaw of the Reds led the N.L. with 42 saves, while Randy Myers led the A.L., converting 45 in 46 chances for Baltimore.
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