Roger Maris: A Breath of Fresh Air Compared to Mark McGwire

Harold FriendChief Writer IJune 11, 2012

NEW YORK - MAY 02:  The plaque of Roger Maris is seen in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium prior to the game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox on May 2, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the White Sox 12-3.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

I just read an article about Mark McGwire in Time Magazine, "Mark McGwire: A Mac For All Seasons," written in Dec. 1998. Next, I looked up McGwire's statements in which he admitted using steroids.

What a great feat Roger Maris accomplished when he broke Babe Ruth's single-season home run record.

When a reporter discovered androstenedione, a legal steroid, in McGwire's locker, the ersatz home-run champion—whose "record" would soon be eclipsed by an even more disingenuous individual—explained what "andro" couldn't do.

It cannot help a hitter's timing. It cannot improve hand-to-eye coordination. It cannot help a hitter distinguish between a slider and a splitter.

McGwire used androstenedione to help protect him from muscle tears.

The girth of McGwire's forearm was greater than Mickey Mantle's neck. His biceps might have been inflated with a bicycle pump—shade of Popeye the Sailor.

In Jan. 2010, McGwire admitted that he had used steroids when he broke Maris' record. He added that he didn't need performance-enhancing drugs to hit the long ball. Right. He only needed PEDs to hit enough home runs to set a new record.

McGwire didn't agree that the drugs gave him more power to hit home runs. He told Bob Costas, "I was given a gift to hit home runs."

What a breath of fresh air when I think of 1961 and Roger Maris.

Maris' "rival" in the home run chase was Mickey Mantle. McGwire's rival was Sammy Sosa. What a comparison.

It was a different society, and it was a different game in 1961. Maris and Mantle were self-effacing individuals. Maris tried to shun the spotlight, but his home runs put an end to that forever.

Sixty-one home runs was a reasonable total for the new record because it was only one more than Ruth had hit.

How in the world did McGwire hit 70 home runs? A better question is how in the world did Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs?

The answer to each question is likely the same.