Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Picture this: 1998, English class, third period. The final exam for my senior year was to write a 10 page paper on a professional figure that had a profound impact on my life. Mark McGwire was my choice hands down. While writing the paper, I made sure to have my 1984 Topps Olympic Rookie card by my side. It was my inspiration to make it to page 10. To this day, I still remember the first line I wrote. “It took Babe Ruth 6 years to accomplish what Mark did in his rookie season; hit 49 home runs” I took that with a grain of salt knowing that in the first six years of Babe Ruth’s career, he had pitched 1,188 innings and had 89 wins.
However, my point was made. Nobody in the history of baseball has hit more home runs as a rookie than Mark McGwire. In 1985, Mark hit 49 long flys to break the mark of 38 set by both Wally Berger and Frank Robinson during their rookie campaigns. It was exciting. Mark McGwire was voted Rookie of the Year and was off to an amazing career. 168 home runs followed until foot injuries limited him to just 74 games. Mark McGwire came back with a vengeance after fully healing from the foot injuries. Mark hit 149 home runs combined from 1994 through 1997, a sure sign he had healed from his injuries. I couldn’t help but brag about my rookie card that was accelerating in price. By the end of the 1997 season, Mark McGwire had accumulated 9 all star selections, including an all star appearance in each of his first 6 seasons, 2 Silver slugger awards and 1 Gold glove.
Then in 1998, the season that will live in infamy, Mark Mcgwire broke the long standing home run record by beating out Sammy Sosa to win the crown. 70 home runs was an extremely amazing feat. Most people were amazed that he could break such a long standing record. Others wanted to find a reason to keep the record safe and sound with Roger Maris. He gathered all of the praise and accolades but couldn’t avoid one major visual, his muscles. The difference between his rookie year and his stellar dream fulfilling year was astounding. When pushed to explain the bulk he added over the years, Mark admitted to using androstenedione. Everyone wanted him to give up the record and admit to further steroid use. They wanted him to just admit to more use even though “Andro” was not on the banned substance list. Mark held firm including pleading the fifth in front of the House Government reform committee. Mark strongly said that he was not there to talk about the past; he was there to be positive about the subject. Again, everyone took that as a sign of guilt. Would an innocent man answer in such a way? He was my idol and he was innocent!
Nearly 5 years goes by with no sign of McGwire. He barely received enough votes to stay active in the Hall of Fame Balloting. He received 23.7% of the writers vote, just enough to be on the ballot next year. I was excited to know that there still were people out there that knew he should be elected to the Hall of Fame. Then, January 11, 2010, the news broke, my soul was crushed, my Idol has fallen. Mark McGwire admitted to steroid use in 1989, 1993, and 1998. Finally the truth came out. So, now what? Wipe out all of his records? Forfeit every single home run he ever hit? What about the RBI’s that came along with them? Forfeit the 12 total all star selections? Forfeit his stats for the entire 1998 season? No. It is time to help the most amazing baseball player of my lifetime. It is time to give McGwire the praise and accolades he deserves. If Bud Selig didn’t care of the rampant steroid use, there is absolutely no reason why McGwire should be the black sheep of baseball. If Alex Rodriguez can continue his baseball career and will ultimately make the hall of fame, McGwire should be no different. In closing, may I say…Elect Mark McGwire to the introductory class of the 2011 Hall of Fame!