Monday, September 8, 2014

Mark McGwire Hits Home Run Number 62 September 8, 1998

On this day in Baseball History September 8, 1998: Slugger Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals broke Roger Maris' record for home runs in a single season, hitting number 62 off Chicago Cubs pitcher Steve Trachsel at Busch Stadium, St. Louis. McGwire would finish the 1998 season with 70 single season record setting home runs. Where the achievement was celebrated by many at the time, McGwire's admission of steroid use on January 11, 2010 has placed a cloud over his 70 home run season of 1998.

Maris' single season record stood since 1961 and was in itself a point of controversy. Maris' record was looked upon by some as not being legitimate on the point that it took Maris' eight more games than it took the original single season home run king Babe Ruth to hit 60 in 1927.

Regardless of how some people feel today, that was an emotional moment in the history of the game. I can't speak for anyone but myself but I remember sitting on the edge of my seat with every at-bat that both McGwire and Sammy Sosa took waiting to see how would hit the ball out of the park. McGwire would finish with 70 homers while Sosa finished with 66.

I know many fans have been embittered with the whole "Steroid Era". For myself I can say that I am not. I am not going to sit here and thump my proverbial bible as some baseball writers, executives and TV people do today. Why? Everyone benefitted from the Steroid Era. Newspapers profited, TV/Cable networks profited, MLB profited, owners profited, players profited, vendors profited, sponsors profited. Everyone profited, even us fans. And I don't see anyone of those groups that profited giving back any of those profits back. So it is easy for many of them to place themselves on a higher moral plane without realizing that many of them just turned a blind eye to what was going on because it was convenient to "not rock the boat". Think back to 16-years ago (looking past your bitterness) and tell me that watching those clips, like the one up above don't give you goosebumps. I know they did to me.

The game we love isn't a perfect game, played by human beings, that for as much as we place them on the high pedestals aren't perfect. Many are flawed. Many do things to get an edge be it for fame, records or millions. That isn't a product of the Steroid Era. Many players throughout the history of Baseball have done that in different ways, shapes and forms. For better or worse Baseball is, and probably always be a game where cheating thrives. I would suggest that you read Roger I Abrams book "The Dark Side of the Diamond: Gambling, Violence, Drugs and Alcoholism in the National Pastime". Abrams does an amazing job researching different eras and you'd be surprised at the lengths some players (even some of them Hall of Famers) have gone to gain an edge.  

Will that change? No. I think players will continue to look for ways to find an edge be it via physical means or by equipment and hardware. Many will celebrate those who we believe to have done it "cleanly" or the "right way". If you as a player, with the rules in place against PED's decide to do so and get caught then so be it. You get your just desserts.

I'm so over the Steroid talk. When do we start complaining about Nano-tech, muscular implants and ocular implants in Baseball ;)

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Click here to access Mark McGwire's career statistics from Baseball
- Click here to read my article The Return of Mark McGwire from my former blog from January 9, 2010
- Click here to access McGwire Surpasses Maris With 62nd Home Run by Richard Justice from the Washington Post dated September 8, 1998
- Click here to access the article Mark McGwire Falls: Roger Maris & Babe Ruth Regain Title, "Home Run Kings" by Patrick Read from Bleacher Report dated January 11, 2010