Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Fall of Big Mac

Mark McGwire's testimony to the House subcommitee was as bone-jarring as any his mammoth blasts.

In 1987, I sat in the bleachers (they were really bleachers back then) with Bobby when McGwire hit is 39th homer of that season. The homer that landed near us set a Major League record for a rookie. I've been there since the beginning. The year before, I sat in the upper deck with my Uncle Richard and watched this tall, gangly redhead try to play thirdbase. Woa, we better find this guy another position! The A's left spring training in 1987 with a hot-shot firstbasemen that was touted as a possible Rookie of the Year. Do you remember his name? (Read below for the answer)

In 1988, Bobby and I again revelled in one of McGwire's homers. During the World Series, McGwire's game-winning homer in the 10th inning set us into a frenzy. In the celebration, we even pointed towards announcer Joe Garagiola, who was doing play-by-play for NBC Sports and he pointed back!

I've been there for all it. I knew he couldn't hit Randy Johnson at all. I knew that a trip to Tiger Stadium in Detroit meant about five homers in a three-game series. I was even there when they traded him. I was even there when he seemed to forget that we loved him. I was there when he discarded us for his new family, the Cardinals fans. I remember exactly where I was when he hit that generation-shattering 62nd homerun. And now I there when the whole world saw the real face of Mark McGwire.

The man who was once larger than life in fame and physical stature was made a snivelling, whiny, little man by smarty pant, nerdly Congressman in suits. The Revenge of the Nerds, I guess?

McGwire's statements or lack thereof, would not have seemed so glaring if wasn't the only one saying them. Unforturnately, for McGwire, he was the only ballplayers not to deny using steroids. Palmeiro forcefully denied using them even going so far to punctuate his words with a rigid pointed finger. Sosa denied it. Thomas denied it. McGwire though was different. For Godssakes, he was choking up just reading his prepared statements!

Instead, McGwire glaringly answered a litany of pertinent questions by invoking the Fifth Amendment. Other time he attempted to shield himself by using his retirement from the game as some sort of excuse or by using the ubiquitous, "Let's move on" or "Let's be positive".

Quite ironically, Mark McGwire has been involved in baseball's greatest and worst single moments in the last 30 years. Judging by today's testimony, the worst is still to come.

(Trivia question: Rob Nelson. This lefthanded firstbaseman was an opening night starter. Along with Kevin Seitzer of Kansas City, Matt Nokes of Detroit and Mike Greenwell of Boston, Nelson was viewed as a hot prospect. He hit .167 in April and the A's sent him to AAA-Tacoma. He hit .178 in five years with the A's and San Diego Padres.)

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