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Old 08-19-2006, 10:47 PM   #418
Killericon
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Carlos Delgado finds himself on the Bench. Steroids or no steroids, Killericon selects Mark Mcguire.



McGwire was raised with his nine brothers in a middle-class masion neighborhood in Claremont, California. His first sports interest was golf. When he was five, he began caddying for his father John, who taught him how to grip the club. Not until three years later did McGwire take up baseball as well.

McGwire won a silver medal with the America's amateur baseball team in the 1984 Summer Olympics; that team was coached by Rod Dedeaux, who had also been his college coach at the University of Southern California. Mark began his pro-baseball career with the AA team of the Oakland A's, the Huntsville Stars, in Huntsville, Alabama.

McGwire began his career with the Oakland A's and played there until 1997, when he concluded his career with a few years with the St. Louis Cardinals. He won the World Series once, with the Oakland A's in 1989. Perhaps Mark McGwire's most famous home run with the A's was in Game 3 of the 1988 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. McGwire's game winning solo homer off of Jay Howell in the bottom of the 9th inning ultimately became the only game that the A's won in the 1988 World Series.

In his first full Major League Baseball season in 1987, he hit 49 home runs, a record for most home runs by a rookie, and was named the American League Rookie of the Year. McGwire hit 32, 33 and 39 homers the next three seasons, but his average, which hit .289 as a rookie, plummeted to .260, .231 and .235. Then in 1991, he bottomed out with a .201 average and 22 homers. Manager Tony LaRussa sat him out the last game of the season so his average could not dip below .200. McGwire had lost all confidence in his ability.

But with the help of a therapist, he regained his mental edge and with the aid of a weightlifting program, he became even stronger. He rebounded to hit 42 homers and bat .268 in 1992.

Injuries limited him to a total of 74 games in 1993 and 1994, and to 104 games in 1995 (but he still slugged 39 homers in 317 at-bats). The next season he belted a Major-League leading 52 homers in 423 at-bats.

McGwire worked hard on his defense at first base, and resisted being seen as a one-dimensional player. He was regarded as a good fielder in his Oakland days, but his increasing bulk and reduced speed made playing the position more difficult in St. Louis.

St. Louis Cardinals and HR record chase

In 1997, he hit a major league-leading 58 homers for the season, but did not lead either league in homers, as he was traded from the Oakland Athletics to the St. Louis Cardinals in midseason. It was widely believed that McGwire, in the last year of his contract, would play for the Cardinals only for the remainder of the season, then seek a long-term deal, possibly in Southern California where he lives. However, McGwire instantly fell in love with the Cardinal fans, and signed a long-term deal to stay in St. Louis instead. (It is also believed that McGwire encouraged Jim Edmonds, another Southern California resident who was traded to St. Louis, to sign his current contract with the Cardinals.)

In 1998, the year when McGwire and Sammy Sosa spent much of the season chasing the single-season home run record of Roger Maris, the two shared Sports Illustrated magazine's "Sportsmen of the Year" award. McGwire's assault on Maris's record did not come without controversy. After an article written by Associated Press writer Steve Wilstein[1], McGwire admitted to taking Androstenedione, a dietary supplement banned by the NFL and IOC. It should be noted that Androstenedione was an over-the-counter suppliment and was not a banned substance in baseball or the FDA at the time.

McGwire also had a sense of baseball history that is rare among modern players. He graciously involved the family of Roger Maris when he broke Maris' single season home run record on September 8, 1998. He finished the season with 70 homers, a record that has since been broken by Barry Bonds. (Appropriately, a section of Interstate 70 through St. Louis is named the Mark McGwire Highway.)

In 1999, McGwire drove in a league-leading 147 runs while only having 145 hits, the highest RBI-per-hit tally in baseball history.

McGwire ended his career with 583 home runs, which was then fifth-most in history. He led Major League Baseball in home runs five times. He hit 50 or more home runs four seasons in a row (1996-1999), leading Major League Baseball in homers all four seasons, and also shared the MLB lead in home runs in 1987, his rookie year, when he set the Major League record for home runs by a rookie with 49.

In 1999, the The Sporting News' released a list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players. The list had been compiled during the 1998 season, and included statistics through the 1997 season. McGwire was ranked at Number 91. That year, he was elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. In 2005, The Sporting News published an update of their list, and McGwire had been moved up to Number 84.

Many of McGwire's accomplishments, particularly his home run surge late in his career, have come into question with his connection to the steroid scandal plaguing Major League Baseball. In 2005, McGwire's former Oakland A's teammate Josť Canseco admitted to using anabolic steroids in a tell-all book, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big. Canseco stated that he personally injected McGwire along with many other former teammates.

At a Congressional hearing on the subject of steroids in sports, McGwire repeatedly and somewhat conspicuously refused to answer questions on his own suspected use. For this reason, McGwire's almost-certain induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame is now cloudy.

Since he retired, McGwire has kept a low profile. His admission that he used the steroid androstenedione has led to speculation but no proof that he also took other steroids. Tony La Russa, the A's manager when McGwire and Canseco were on the team in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said he did not believe McGwire used steroids.

"It's fabrication," La Russa told 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace. "The product of our good play and strength of our players — Mark was a great example — what we saw was a lot of hard work. And hard work will produce strength gains and size gains."

McGwire repeatedly denied using illegal performance-enhancing drugs in television interviews, but he declined to answer under oath when he appeared before the House Government Reform Committee on March 17, 2005. As McGwire said in a tearful opening 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." During the hearing, McGwire repeatedly responded to questions regarding his own steroid use with the line, "I'm not here to talk about the past." McGwire also stated, "My lawyers have advised me that I cannot answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family, and myself." When asked if he was asserting his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself, McGwire once again responded: "I'm not here to talk about the past. I'm here to be positive about this subject."

Defenders of McGwire and other accused players point to the fact that steroids were not banned by baseball prior to 2003 thus they argue were not in violation of baseball's rules. Critics of McGwire maintain that even if steroids weren't banned prior to 2003, it's still cheating, even if no rules were violated.

The New York Daily News reported on August 5, 2006 that McGwire would not cooperate with former Senator George Mitchell's investigation into performance-enchancers in baseball.

McGwire becomes eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame in the election of January 2007.

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