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Mac at 500 plus 1

Cards' Mark McGwire hits two home runs in a 10-3 loss as the Padres' Tony Gwynn gets a ninth-inning double for his 2,999th hit.

Mark McGwire made history in a hurry. Tony Gwynn will have to wait at least another day.

The Cardinals star reached 500 home runs faster than any player in history. He celebrated by immediately working toward No. 600, launching No. 501 off the leftfield scoreboard Thursday night in a 10-3 loss to the San Diego Padres.

"I've exceeded everything I expected of myself," McGwire said after the game. "Growing up as a kid, you don't think about things like that. At least I didn't. You just think about playing ball in your yard."

McGwire became the 16th member of the 500-homer club in the third inning. Gwynn, meanwhile, fell just short of becoming the 22nd player to reach 3,000 hits.

Gwynn got No. 2,999 _ a two-run double in the ninth _ in going 1-for-4 with a walk.

"In a perfect world, you would have seen history," McGwire said. "There was electricity in the ballpark."

Said Gwynn, "I felt like I swung the bat pretty good tonight, but I fell one hit short.

"I'll move on to the next stop, which is Montreal, and hopefully I can get it there (today)."

A sellout crowd of 45,106 had come to Busch Stadium hoping to see a double dose of history, and it watched McGwire make it. He was presented a bronze sculpture in a post-game ceremony.

After just missing in his first at-bat, the slugger who hit a record 70 homers last season sent a hanging 1-and-1 breaking ball from Andy Ashby an estimated 451 feet over the centerfield wall.

Gwynn took off his glove in rightfield and applauded as McGwire rounded the bases.

"I'm wondering, "Should I clap like everybody else or be a professional?' " Gwynn said. "Really, this is his stage, his ballpark. Once again, he delivered."

McGwire jumped on home plate with both feet before being greeted by teammates, who exchanged his signature fake gut punches along with high-fives.

McGwire, who hit his 499th homer Wednesday night, took his second curtain call in as many nights as Ashby stood off the mound, looking out toward centerfield.

In the eighth, McGwire homered again off Ashby. This one traveled an estimated 479 feet, the longest this season at Busch, and banged off the scoreboard near his No. 25 in a lineup list before dropping into the seats right above the Padres bullpen.

McGwire made it to 500 in 5,487 at-bats, breaking Babe Ruth's record of 5,801. The others in the top five are Jimmie Foxx (7,074), Mickey Mantle (7,300) and Mike Schmidt (7,331).

McGwire leads the majors with 44 home runs, two more than Sammy Sosa, and tops the NL with 101 RBI.

McGwire's fifth multihomer game of the season and the 58th of his career came in the ballpark where he broke Roger Maris' 37-year-old homer record Sept. 8 when he hit No. 62. Sosa finished with 66 homers in a race that captivated the nation.

McGwire has 17 home runs in 21 games but remains behind last year's pace. He's catching up in a hurry, however, and is on pace for 65.

His 500th homer easily cleared the wall and deflected off the base of an advertisement, then landed in an area of shrubbery beyond the wall as fans scrambled to come up with the prize that experts believe may be worth $1-million. Jim Shearer, a 28-year-old architect from St. Louis, wound up with the souvenir and was whisked away by authorities.

Shearer said he'd think about what he might do with the ball for a few days.

"I've been hearing that it's worth a lot of money," Shearer said. "But I have to remember it's a piece of baseball history for Mark McGwire and St. Louis."

The fan who caught McGwire's 70th homer ball, Phil Ozersky of St. Louis, sold it to Spawn comic book creator Todd McFarlane for $3.2-million.

McGwire, who hit his 400th home run last season, couldn't have had a much better foil for his 500th. He's 8-for-16 with four homers and four doubles against Ashby, who congratulated him after the game.

"Well, I gave up 500, so I may as well give up 501, too," Ashby said. "It's one of them things. Just thank God it wasn't enough to beat us."

McGwire has reached his past four big milestones, starting with Nos. 61, 62 and 70 last year, in front of the home fans. He wanted to hit No. 500 in St. Louis, too, and did it just in time as the Cardinals begin a road trip today with a doubleheader at Pittsburgh.

The last player to reach 500 homers was Eddie Murray on Sept. 6, 1996, at Baltimore against Detroit's Felipe Lira. Murray is 15th on the career list with 504.

McGwire already has passed five players on the list this season: Lou Gehrig (493), Stan Musial and Willie Stargell (475) and Dave Winfield (465).

Musial was at Busch Stadium for the big night and sat next to fellow Cardinals Hall of Famer Lou Brock, the last NL player to reach 3,000 hits.

"I'd have loved to have seen him get it here," said Brock, who said he will not travel to Montreal to see Gwynn continue his pursuit.