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Historic day wraps up memorable season

Four players top 50 home-run mark for first time

Pitch by pitch, batter by batter, baseball history was changing Sunday.

Mark McGwire hit No. 69, then homered again to set a number that might stand for another generation -- 70.

The Cubs lost at the Astrodome, then got a second chance a minute later when the Giants lost at Colorado. It'll be Chicago vs. San Francisco at Wrigley Field on Monday in a one-game playoff for the NL wild-card spot.

Bernie Williams won the AL batting title over Mo Vaughn, barely. A rookie came within one out of a no-hitter. The New York Yankees finished with an AL record 114 victories.

San Diego's Greg Vaughn became the record fourth member of the 50-homer club this year. Teammate Trevor Hoffman tied the NL record with his 53rd save.

What a day!

And there was even more on the final day of the regular season.

Paul Molitor got his 3,319th -- and perhaps last -- hit in the big leagues. The Cincinnati Reds assembled the majors' first all-brother infield -- a pair of Larkins, a pair of Boones. Ruben Amaro Jr. got the winning hit in his final major league game, then left to become Philadelphia's assistant general manager.

Rookie Roy Halladay started the rush, nearly pitching a no-hitter in just his second major league game. The 21-year-old Toronto righty lost his bid when Detroit pinch-hitter Bobby Higginson homered with two outs in the ninth inning at SkyDome.

Dave Stieb, the only Toronto pitcher to throw a no-hitter, caught Higginson's ball after it bounced off a wall in the Blue Jays bullpen.

Stieb told me congratulations, Halladay said. To have him acknowledge something like that it made me feel good, and hopefully somewhere down the road I'll get a chance to do it again.

Then it was McGwire's turn to make more history. The slugger who hit a grand slam on opening day ended his season with a smash -- two of them, that is.

McGwire connected twice in the St. Louis Cardinals' game against Montreal, a startling finish to a race in which he and Sammy Sosa spent the year chasing Roger Maris' 37-year-old record of 61.

Chicago and San Francisco will meet in the NL's first one-game playoff since Houston beat Los Angeles in 1980.

Chicago was beaten 4-3 in 11 innings at Houston. But as some of the Cubs were walking off the field, they heard the result from Colorado -- Rockies 9, Giants 8, on a home run by Neifi Perez.

I'm halfway up the stairs coming to the clubhouse, and people were in here celebrating, Cubs closer Rod Beck said. I knew it wasn't because we did good. People were jumping up and down shouting, `There's a tomorrow! There's a tomorrow!'

Also: Williams, who began the day leading the AL batting race by less than a point, went — 2-for-2 with a sacrifice fly to finish at .339. Vaughn went 2-for-4 and hit .337. — — The Yankees won their seventh straight game for their 114th victory. Only the 1906 Cubs — (116) won more. — — — The Florida Marlins finished at 54-108, the worst record in the majors in 19 years and — the worst ever for a defending World Series champion. — — — Molitor singled in the eighth inning in Minnesota's 6-2 win over Cleveland at the — Metrodome. The 42-year-old Twins star is leaning toward retirement. — —

It was tough to try to stay composed, Molitor said. I was a little emotional, and I was trying to dig deep for some self-control.