Mark McGwire, born October 1, 1963, in Pomona, California, is a former professional baseball player. He played for the Oakland Athletics (1986-1997) and the St. Louis Cardinals (1997-2001). Prior to his professional career, he played for the University of Southern California (1981-1984) and the 1984 United States Olympic team. After his stint in the Olympics, he was drafted in the first round, tenth overall, by Oakland, and then spent 1985 and most of 1986 in their minor league system before becoming a full-time major league player in 1987.
McGwire's reputation as a baseball player consists of many different aspects¹, but perhaps none as great as his ability to hit home runs (and later, accusations of steroid use; see below). Like Babe Ruth, McGwire started out as a pitcher (high school and his first year of college), and was then moved to third base (and later first base) after his power hitting ability was discovered. In his first full professional season, 1987, he set a rookie record by hitting 49 home runs; this earned him that year's American League Rookie of the Year award. He detested the notion that power hitters were too one-dimensional, and worked relentlessly to beef up his fielding skills at first base; he won a Gold Glove award for his efforts in 1990. After that year, however, he lost all confidence in himself and his ability to hit or field well. As a result, he had his worst year in 1991, hitting a meager .201 with 22 home runs and 75 runs batted in, all far below his previous output in any season. After spending the 1991-1992 offseason in regular therapy sessions, he was able to regain his confidence in himself by turning to weight training. Already quite muscular by baseball standards, this resulted in a not unnoticeable increase in bulk and power, and he rebounded to hit .268/42/104 in 1992. His increased size, however, led to decreased mobility, and it became noticeable on the field as he took fewer chances, though his fielding percentage and other on-field stats did not decrease, his 1990 Gold Glove was the only one he would win.
1996 was the year McGwire really came alive, hitting 52 home runs. This would start a streak of four consecutive seasons in which he'd lead the league in home runs; he followed up by hitting 58 in 1997, 70 in 1998 (9 more than the Roger Maris' record of 61 and 3 less than Barry Bonds' record set in 2001), and 65 in 1999. His race for the home run record with the Chicago Cubs' Sammy Sosa during the 1998 season brought baseball back to the forefront of the American press, and since then it has remained a defining moment of American culture. Sosa finished that season with 66 home runs, also breaking Maris' record. McGwire and Sosa were named Co-Sportsmen of the Year by Sports Illustrated magazine. Also, despite McGwire's 58 home runs in 1997, he didn't lead either the American League or National League in home runs that season due to Oakland trading him to St. Louis at the trade deadline for three no-names. He led the Major Leagues in home runs that season, but due to the statistical circumstances² of the American and National Leagues, he didn't lead one or the other of them in the home runs category.
Most pundits assumed that after the trade, McGwire would leave the Cardinals and sign with a team in Southern California, closer to his home. However, the baseball fans in St. Louis, who are generally considered more knowledgable about the game and more polite than in most other places, endeared themselves to him, and he decided to stay. He would play out the remainder of his career in St. Louis.
After hitting a ghastly .197 in 2001, Mark decided to retire, and nullified a contract he and the team's general manager had agreed upon prior to that season, which would've kept him in St. Louis through the 2003 season for $30 million. After his hokey 2001 campaign, in which he still hit 29 home runs during an injury-limited 97 games, he felt he wasn't up to snuff and wouldn't be worth it to the Cardinals' management to stay around. Since then, he's kept a low profile, but he rocketed back into the public eye in March 2005, when he testified along with Curt Schilling, Rafael Palmiero, Jose Canseco, Miguel Tejada and the aforementioned Sammy Sosa before a congressional hearing about steroid use in professional baseball. Looking surprisingly old beneath a pair of tiny reading glasses, he seemed to act as though he were being accused right from the start; his opening statement was concluded with the following statement: "Asking me or any other player to answer questions about who took steroids in front of television cameras will not solve the problem. If a player answers 'no,' he simply will not be believed; if he answers 'yes,' he risks public scorn and endless government investigations." This prompted a congressman to ask him if he was asserting his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself; he replied "I'm not here to talk about the past. I'm here to be positive about this subject."
He has been regarded with suspicion since then.
McGwire did admit, during his record-breaking 1998 season, that had taken a steroid known as androstenedione, which at that time was not prohibited by Major League Baseball and was therefore not against any particular rule (though it has since been made illegal). It has been rumoured that his injury-shortened 2000 and 2001 seasons were due to his use of androstenedione, although it has never been conclusively revealed if that was the case. Furthermore, former Oakland teammate and tactless loudmouth Jose Canseco stated in his 2005 book, "Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big," that McGwire had indeed indulged in steroids for a large portion of his career. This ought to be taken with a grain of salt, however, because Canseco went on to rat out dozens of other players in the same book, including himself and also some positively bizarre and unlikely players, many of whom he claimed to have injected himself. The jury remains out on how truthful "Juiced" was, but if it hasn't done anything else, it's managed to increase speculation about how widespread steroid use is in Major League Baseball.
On January 9, 2007, McGwire appeared for the first time on the Hall of Fame ballot; he received 128 votes for 23.5%, not enough to get him into the Hall. The 23.5% means that he can remain on the ballot and be voted on in future elections. Because of the revelations and rampant rumors that the 2005 congressional hearings and Canseco's book produced, many BBWAA (the Baseball Writers Association of America; they vote for potential HoF inductees during the fifteen years following the end of a player's career) voters have stated that they will not vote for him, which is understandable since he may have been cheating. One must keep in mind, though, that if McGwire did anything wrong, it wasn't against the rules at the time. He hit 583 home runs in his 15-season career, which is usually a lock for getting into the HoF, but the cloud of suspicion over his head may prevent him from ever getting voted in by the BBWAA, or the HoF Veteran's Committee (they vote for potential inductees who weren't voted in by the BBWAA). The fact that his lifetime batting average (.263) is way below most other HoF inductees and the fact that he never reached 2000 total hits is, in my opinion, a greater strike against his HoF chances. Also hurting his chances is that he never won an MVP award in either league (his only award other than the 1990 Gold Glove was the 1987 American League Rookie of the Year), which is a big factor in determine a player's HoF credibility.
The next chapter in this saga started in 2010. At approximately the same time, McGwire openly admitted to using steroids on and off during the 1990s, an announcement which surprised absolutely no one, with the possible exception of Tony La Russa; then he was hired by the Cardinals as their new hitting coach, reuniting him with La Russa, his manager as a player for both the A's and the Cardinals. The Cardinals' then-first baseman Albert Pujols, possibly the greatest player in the game for most of the 2000s, has publicly voiced his support for McGwire.
McGwire became hitting coach for the Cardinals in 2011. He left his job there after the 2012 season to take the same position with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Who knows what'll happen next?
Weight: 225 lbs.
Career statistics byline:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG SLG OBP
1874 6187 1167 1626 252 6 583 1414 1317 1596 .263 .588 .394
1. Yes, yes, alright, he had a big foofy permed mullet in the late 80s and early 90s. There, I said it.
2. If a player is traded from an American League team to a National League team (or vice-versa) at any point in the season, his stats reset to zero because they were
attained under different playing circumstances than the player's new league.