"Tied with Mark is pretty special, because he's a close friend of mine," said Pujols, who was beaming as he read a congratulatory text from McGwire on his way out of the Angels' clubhouse after the game. "We stay in touch, a guy who always helped me out whenever I went through a slump."
Pujols went deep to left field off Dellin Betances to lead off the ninth, making the Yankees' closer the 375th pitcher Pujols has homered off. The ball traveled a projected 423 feet and had an exit velocity of 108 mph, according to Statcast™.
"Every time Albert does something, there's always a little footnote of who he's passing, and you hear the names that we've heard for the last couple years of guys that are the immortals of this game," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "It's just fun to see every time he does something, whether it's a double or an RBI or a home run, I think it just puts in perspective the incredible career he's had and really how strong he's still going."
Pujols, 36, can now set his sights on Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, who is ninth all-time with 586 homers. The rest of the Top 10 includes: Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Alex Rodriguez (696), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey Jr. (630), Jim Thome (612) and Sammy Sosa (609).
"Now, any homer he hits, it's just going to keep being history and history," said Angels utility man Gregorio Petit. "He's always hungry for more, he always wants more. He's always working hard to keep making history, to keep putting up numbers."
Pujols learned at a very young age what it takes to be a great hitter.
In 2001, he made the Cardinals' Opening Day roster at age 21, crediting McGwire with prodding manager Tony La Russa to find a spot for him. From there, Pujols studied McGwire's work ethic, preparation and ability to shoulder immense pressure.
"A guy that mentored me in St. Louis my first year, just to see how he was approaching the game, how all the pressure was on him because he was the guy," said Pujols, who has 23 homers and 96 RBIs in 120 games this season. "He and Sammy Sosa pretty much turned baseball around. And just the way that he approached the game and his focus and his work ethic. It was pretty amazing as a young 21-year-old, I was just following him around, just seeing his preparation, and obviously he helped me along my way."
Angels pitcher Ricky Nolasco believes Pujols will head to the Hall of Fame when all is said and done.
"He's always a pain, always a really good hitter, and obviously he's going to be in the record books in a lot of categories," said Nolasco, who has allowed three homers to Pujols over the years. "I'm sure he's a no-doubt Hall of Famer."
Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.