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McGwire says he roots for Bonds to break season home-run record

Cards’ slugger is impressed by Barry’s power

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ST. LOUIS — Mark McGwire hopes Barry Bonds breaks the home-run record he set three years ago.

"All I'm going to say is he's got an excellent chance," McGwire said Friday night before the St. Louis Cardinals played Pittsburgh. "I'm rooting for him. If he gets it, it'll be a phenomenal feat."

McGwire was hesitant to talk about the record chase, for fearing anything he said would be construed as sour grapes.

He and manager Tony La Russa said McGwire, who has 28 homers and a .187 average in an injury-plagued year, got some unfavorable publicity during the team's just-completed seven-game trip.

"I read some negative stuff and I read the stuff Mark says," La Russa said. "It's really a shame. I think he's said the right thing all along."

McGwire broke Roger Maris' 37-year-old record of 61 homers with his 70-homer season in 1998. Bonds hit his 68th home run Friday night and has eight games remaining.

"He's doing it routinely," McGwire said. "His pace is unbelievable. I've told guys in here, I'm calling 72, 73."

The most impressive aspect of Bonds' record chase, to McGwire's thinking, was that he had only 455 at-bats.

"It's unbelievable," McGwire said. "He's totally blown away what I did, even if the year ended today."

After the 1998 season, McGwire thought his record would last. He changed his thinking after he hit 65 more homers in 1999 and after Sammy Sosa topped 60 homers in both '98 and '99.

"When I came back the next year and hit 65, that was pretty much a reevaluation, saying 70's going to be broken," McGwire said. "I'm very realistic about things. I've said since day one that records are made to be broken."