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Archive for January, 2010

This confession that Mark McGwire used steroids during his playing days is neither shocking nor revealing.  Anyone who followed the game and saw someone who was so stricken with injuries that he consistently missed lengthy periods of playing time and then suddenly broke Roger Maris’ single-season home-run record knew that something was up.  However, I still take it very personally.

I was a freshman in college in the summer/fall of 1998 and the home-run chase between McGwire and Sammy Sosa was one of the most fun times I ever had following baseball. 

Keep in mind that 1998 was a time when the Internet and texting were still in their infancy as far as accessibility was concerned.  So every day I would come home from class to my dorm because a group of guys in the building directly outside my room kept a tally on their window of the latest home runs hit by either Sosa or McGwire.  And even though it may have been a primitive way of staying informed, most of the Cubs game were (and still are) during the daytime and this was how I kept up on the race.

As McGwire and Sosa battled it out throughout the summer and into September, I would do my homework in front of the TV in our dorm basement and try to get an update on ESPN because I wanted to know if either player got closer to the record.

On Sept 8, 1998, my entire dorm floor was invited to watch a rare interview between Larry King and President Gordon B. Hinckley at the home of one of the guys on my floor who is the son of a very prominent author—Stephen R. Covey. 

But I chose to stay behind because Fox had decided to air the Cardinals/Cubs game which was being played at Busch Stadium at the same time.  This was very unusual for Fox to show a game that wasn’t on the weekend or wasn’t a playoff game.  But I wanted to see history be broken—and I wasn’t disappointed.

As a baseball fan, watching McGwire break Maris’ record that night and then be embraced by not only his rival/pursuer Sammy Sosa (who was playing for the Cubs) but also by the Maris family members (Roger had died long ago), I never had more chills and been more excited than I was that night. 

And remember, I’m a huge Yankee fan and this was a record that had been held by a Yankee since 1961.  Furthermore, the Yanks had recently won the World Series in 1996 and were on pace to eventually set a single-season record for most wins by any team in major league history in 1998.  And, still, I pinpoint this moment as one of my top five baseball moments of all time.

When the next Sports Illustrated magazine came out with McGwire on the cover, displaying his home run prowess and glorifying him for his accomplishment, I bought it immediately and still have that issue to this day.  In fact, I think it’s the only non-Yankee related Sports Illustrated magazine I own.

I credit the McGwire/Sosa race of ’98 with helping me and other baseball fans recover from the 1994 strike more so than I credit Cal Ripken’s consecutive-games streak because I think more people can recognize and characterize the home run as an incredible feat than playing in 2,131 straight games.

Now today, with McGwire as the latest superstar to admit to his use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), I might still have fond memories of that late summer/early fall, but unfortunately it wasn’t real and has now lost much of its appeal.

So now what should Major League Baseball do?  I have heard this suggestion before, but I agree with it the more I hear it.  I think that because it would be impossible to, first, find out who was taking PEDs and who wasn’t and, second, determine if the PEDs helped certain players to succeed, I think that while the records should stand, as much as I hate to acknowledge Barry Bonds as the all-time HR leader and single-season-HR-record holder because it’s only a matter of time before he either confesses or the truth comes out, any personal achievements or accolades of admitted steroid users should be stripped from or refused to those players.  This means that McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, etc would never be inducted into the Hall of Fame; A-Rod would lose his three MVPs; McGwire would lose his Rookie-of-the-Year award; etc.

Despite all this, I’m still not sure what to think of the “steroid era,” but hopefully baseball is better for it.

McGwire Admits to Steroid Use (mlb.com)

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One thing Andre Dawson has never been accused of being misleading with his feelings.  His intensity was pervasive throughout his playing career and that same intensity was seen in his interviews today as he discussed his induction into the Hall of Fame.  And after being on the ballot for so many years without being accpeted, it was obvious how much it means to him to now be introduced as Andre Dawson—Hall of Famer.

As a kid, I loved following Dawson and he was in the handful of guys that I liked to watch, mainly because his games were more easily accessible when he played for the Cubs and they were always on WGN.  Anyway, I’m happy for him.

I was surprised to not see Roberto Alomar, Jr. get inducted in his first year of eligibility, but I suppose the dual spitting incidents and how he seemingly gave up on the Mets left such a sour taste in the mouths of many of the voters that he missed the requisite 75% by only a few votes.  But both he and Bert Blyleven should make it next year.

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