Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa reprised their thrilling home run race from one year earlier in 1999, becoming the only two players in baseball history to surpass 60 home runs more than once. McGwire again edged out Sosa for league-leadership honors, concluding the campaign with 65 round-trippers, to Sosa’s 63. McGwire also topped the circuit with 147 runs batted in, scored 118 runs, and compiled a .697 slugging average. Sosa knocked in 141 runs and scored 114 others.
In spite of the efforts of McGwire and Sosa, St. Louis and Chicago both finished well out of contention in the N.L. Central. McGwire’s Cardinals finished fourth in the division, 21 ½ games behind the first-place Houston Astros. Meanwhile, Sosa’s Cubs came in last, a full 30 games off the pace.
The Cincinnati Reds mounted the only serious challenge to Houston for the division title, finishing just 1 ½ games behind the Astros with a record of 96-67. The Reds nearly advanced to the postseason as the league’s wild-card representative, but they failed to do so when they lost a one-game playoff to the New York Mets, who posted an identical 96-66 record over 162 games.
Greg Vaughn, who came over from San Diego during the off-season, greatly improved the Reds’ fortunes, leading the club with 45 home runs and 118 runs batted in, and also crossing the plate 104 times himself. He received a considerable amount of help from holdovers Sean Casey and Barry Larkin. Casey hit 25 homers, drove in 99 runs, scored 103 others, and batted .332. Larkin scored 108 runs, stole 30 bases, and batted .293.
Although the Astros’ lineup also featured several offensive threats, it was their superior pitching that enabled them to edge out the Reds for the division title. The Astros posted a team ERA of 3.83 that placed them third in the league rankings. Mike Hampton finished 22-4, to lead all N.L. hurlers in victories. He also placed among the leaders with a 2.90 ERA. Jose Lima gave the Astros another 20-game winner, posting a mark of 21-10 that ranked him second in the league in victories. Shane Reynolds finished third on the team with 16 wins, and he led the club with 197 strikeouts. Closer Billy Wagner had a sensational season, saving 39 games, compiling a 1.57 ERA, and striking out 124 batters in 75 innings of work, while surrendering only 35 hits to the opposition.
On offense, Carl Everett hit 25 homers, drove in 108 runs, and batted .325. Craig Biggio scored 123 runs, stole 28 bases, batted .294, and led the league with 56 doubles. Jeff Bagwell earned a second-place finish in the N.L. MVP voting by hitting 42 home runs, knocking in 126 runs, batting .304, stealing 30 bases, and topping the circuit with 143 runs scored.
While the Astros captured their third consecutive N.L. Central title, the Arizona Diamondbacks earned their maiden Western Division crown in just their second year of existence. Making remarkable progress after finishing last in the division one year earlier with only 65 wins, the Diamondbacks concluded the campaign with a record of 100-62 that left them 14 games ahead of the runner-up San Francisco Giants.
Rivaling Atlanta as the senior circuit’s most well-balanced team, the Diamondbacks led the league with 908 runs scored, and they finished second with 216 home runs and a 3.77 team ERA. Randy Johnson anchored Arizona’s starting rotation, earning N.L. Cy Young honors for the first of four straight times by going 17-9, with a league-leading 2.48 ERA, 364 strikeouts, 272 innings pitched, and 12 complete games. Meanwhile, Jay Bell, Tony Womack, Steve Finley, Luis Gonzalez, and Matt Williams paced the Diamondbacks on offense. Bell batted .289 and established career highs with 38 homers, 112 runs batted in, and 132 runs scored. Womack batted .277, scored 111 runs, and led the league with 72 stolen bases. Finley homered 34 times, drove in 103 runs, and scored 100 others. Gonzalez left the yard 26 times, knocked in 111 runs, scored 112 others, batted .336, and led the league with 206 hits. Williams hit 35 home runs, knocked in 142 runs, scored 98 others, and batted .303. He finished third in the N.L. MVP balloting.
Although the Colorado Rockies finished last in the division, 28 games behind Arizona, their lineup featured three of the league’s top sluggers. Larry Walker hit 37 home runs, drove in 115 runs, scored 108 others, and led the N.L. with a .379 batting average, a .458 on-base percentage, and a .710 slugging percentage. Dante Bichette homered 34 times, knocked in 133 runs, and scored another 104. Todd Helton hit 35 homers, drove in 113 runs, scored 114 others, and batted .320.
The New York Mets showed a significant amount of improvement over the course of the season, compiling a record of 97-66. Nevertheless, they finished 6 ½ games behind the Atlanta Braves, who captured their fifth straight N.L. East title by concluding the campaign with a major-league-best 103-59 record. However, by defeating Cincinnati 5-0 in a one-game playoff, the Mets advanced to the postseason tournament as the league’s wild-card entry.
The Mets relied heavily on their outstanding defense to make the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. The infield quartet of first baseman John Olerud, second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo, shortstop Rey Ordonez, and third baseman Robin Ventura committed a total of only 27 errors, enabling New York to shatter the existing major-league mark by making only 68 miscues in the field the entire year. Olerud, Alfonzo, and Ventura also made major contributions on offense. Olerud hit 19 homers, drove in 96 runs, scored 107 others, batted .298, and compiled a .427 on-base percentage. Alfonzo homered 27 times, knocked in 108 runs, and led the club with 123 runs scored and a .304 batting average. Ventura batted .301 and finished second on the team with 32 homers and 120 runs batted in. Catcher Mike Piazza served as New York’s primary power threat, leading the club with 40 home runs and 124 runs batted in, while also scoring 100 times and batting .303.
Still, Atlanta’s superior team pitching relegated New York to a second-place finish. Featuring the senior circuit’s deepest starting rotation, the Braves led the league with a team ERA of 3.63. Kevin Millwood placed second to Randy Johnson in the league rankings with a mark of 2.68, and he also compiled an outstanding 18-7 record. Greg Maddux led the staff with 19 victories, while Tom Glavine and John Smoltz chipped in with 14 and 11 wins, respectively. John Rocker helped solidify the bullpen by placing among the league leaders with 38 saves.
Atlanta’s offense missed the powerful bat of slugging first baseman Andres Galarraga, who sat out the year after being diagnosed with cancer. However, the newly-acquired Brian Jordan helped pick up much of the slack by hitting 23 home runs, knocking in 115 runs, scoring 100 others, and batting .283. Andruw Jones also helped soften the blow of Galarraga’s loss by hitting 26 homers, driving in 84 runs, and scoring 97 others. Meanwhile, Chipper Jones earned N.L. MVP honors by hitting 45 home runs, knocking in 110 runs, scoring 116 others, batting .319, stealing 25 bases, and drawing 126 bases on balls.
The Braves dropped the first game of their Division Series matchup with the Astros by a score of 6-1. However, they rebounded to take the next three contests, closing out the series in four games.
The Mets similarly defeated the Diamondbacks in four games in the other Division Series, winning Game Four on a home run in the bottom of the 10th inning by backup catcher Todd Pratt. New York’s victory set up a head-to-head meeting with Atlanta in the NLCS between the two bitter N.L. East rivals.
The Braves appeared to be well on their way to advancing to the World Series for the third time in five years when they grabbed a 3-0 lead against New York in the NLCS. However, the Mets refused to go quietly, closing the gap to 3-2 by winning Games Four and Five in New York. After the two teams returned to Atlanta for the remainder of the Series, it took the Braves 11 innings to finally dispose of their adversaries in Game Six. Atlanta’s 10-9 victory set up a much-awaited second World Series meeting with the Yankees, who defeated them in the Fall Classic three years earlier.
The Braves again came out on the short end of their World Series matchup with the Yankees, this time losing in four straight games. Game One saw New York mount an eighth-inning rally to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 4-1 victory. The second contest required no such comeback, as the Yankees led from start to finish in grabbing a 2-0 Series lead with a 7-2 win.
The Braves appeared to be on the verge of getting back into the Series when they took an early 5-1 lead in Game Three. However, New York’s bullpen threw 6 1/3 scoreless innings and the Yankee offense slowly chipped away at the lead, to tie the game after nine innings. A home run by Chad Curtis in the bottom of the 10th inning gave the Yankees a 6-5 win and a 3-0 lead in the Series. New York completed the sweep with a 4-1 victory the next evening, with Roger Clemens yielding just one run over 7 1/3 innings.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• April 20 - Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott agreed to sell her controlling interest in the Reds to a group headed by Carl H. Lindner, ending her 14–year tenure. The group paid a total of $67 million.
• June 25 - Cardinals rookie Jose Jimenez threw a no-hitter against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
• August 5 – Mark McGwire hit the 500th home run of his career against the San Diego Padres.
• August 6 - San Diego's Tony Gwynn singled off Montreal's Dan Smith for his 3,000th career hit.
• September 18 – Chicago’s Sammy Sosa hit his 60th home run of the year during a 7-4 loss to the Brewers. The blast made Sosa the first major leaguer to reach the 60-homer plateau twice.
• September 26 – Mark McGwire duplicated Sosa’s feat, hitting his 60th home run of the season during a 7-5 St. Louis loss to Cincinnati. McGwire subsequently ended the campaign with 147 runs batted in, on only 145 hits, making him the only player in major league history (with at least 100 hits in a season) to accumulate more RBIs than hits.
• September 30 - The Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the San Francisco Giants 9-4, in the final game ever played at Candlestick Park.
• October 3 – On the final day of the season, both Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa homered during a 9-5 St. Louis victory over Chicago. The blasts were McGwire’s 65th and Sosa’s 63rd. McGwire’s home run was also the 522nd of his career, moving him past Ted Williams and Willie McCovey into 10th place on the all-time list.
• October 10 - The Houston Astros played their last game at the historic Houston Astrodome as they prepared to move into Enron Field, located in downtown Houston, for the 2000 season.
• November 1 - The Cubs hired Atlanta Braves coach Don Baylor as their new manager.
• Reds reliever Scott Williamson (12-7, 19 saves, 2.41 ERA) earned N.L. Rookie of the Year honors.
• Astros manager Larry Dierker suffered a seizure in the dugout that forced him to be sidelined nearly a month.
• Montreal's Vladimir Guerrero hit 42 home runs, knocked in 131 runs, scored 102 others, batted .316, and hit in 31 consecutive games at one point during the season.
• In Milwaukee, three people were killed during construction of the Brewers' new stadium, Miller Park.
Seasons of the National League
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- 1999 NLCS, 1999 NLDS1, 1999 NLDS2, 1999 World Series, Andres Galarraga, Andruw Jones, Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Barry Bonds, Barry Larkin, Billy Wagner, Brian Jordan, Candlestick Park, Carl Everett, Chipper Jones, Craig Biggio, Dante Bichette, Don Baylor, Edgardo Alfonzo, Greg Maddux, Greg Vaughn, Houston Astros, Jay Bell, Jeff Bagwell, Jeff Kent, John Olerud, John Rocker, John Smoltz, Jose Jimenez, Jose Lima, Kevin Millwood, Larry Dierker, Larry Walker, Luis Gonzalez, Marge Schott, Mark McGwire, Matt Williams, Mike Hampton, Mike Piazza, New York Mets, Randy Johnson, Rey Ordonez, Robin Ventura, Sammy Sosa, Scott Williamson, Sean Casey, Shane Reynolds, Steve Finley, Todd Helton, Todd Pratt, Tom Glavine, Tony Gwynn, Tony Womack, Vladimir Guerrero