OAKLAND — Mark McGwire, who will turn 59 years old in three weeks, with 12-year-old triplets at home and two arthritic thumbs that keeps him from even playing golf, is just like every other middle-aged baseball fan.
Only he has quite a different resume.
McGwire, the four-time home run champion who broke one of the game’s most hallowed records, retiring in 2001 with 583 homers, can’t keep his eyes off New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge and St. Louis Cardinals icon Albert Pujols.
He’s convinced that Judge will shatter the American League record for home runs set by Yankees great Roger Maris in 1961, and run away with the American League MVP award.
And he believes that Pujols, his former teammate, will hit four more homers and join the exclusive 700-homer club on the road to Cooperstown.
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McGwire, who originally broke Maris’ single-season record with 70 homers during the great home-run race in 1998 that mesmerized the entire country, insists that Judge will accomplish even greater feats before his career ends.
“He’s definitely going to break Maris’ Yankee record,” McGwire tells USA TODAY Sports, “but I truly believe he’ll break Barry’s record, too.”
That’s Barry, as in Bonds, who set the all-time single-season record of 73 home runs in 2001, eclipsing McGwire’s record set three years earlier.
“I think he’ll finish with at least 65 home runs this year,’’ McGwire says, “and then position himself to hit get to 73 to 74 in the next five to eight years. I really believe he’ll have that opportunity. He’s going to get close to it, and say, ‘Where can I bunch in nine more homers?’ God willing that he stays healthy, he’s going to do that, too.’’
If Judge breaks Bonds’ record one day, it will squash any debate whether he should be considered the single-season home-run champion once he hits 62. The three National League players who eclipsed Maris were all linked to performance-enhancing drugs: Bonds, McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Only McGwire admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs.
“Barry has got the all-time home run record,’’ McGwire flatly says. “Seventy-three is the record. Judge will have the record once he passes Barry.’’
Judge, who grew up a Giants’ fan two hours away in Linden, Calif., heartily agrees that steroid allegations or not, the record belongs to Bonds.