As the World Series winds down and baseball gets ready for its winter break, all eyes will soon turn to 2010. Mine will too, as I'll be watching to see how Mark McGwire will be welcomed back into baseball.
Let me state for the record right now, I am NOT a Cardinals fan, never have and never will. I just had my half-century birthday and as for long as I can remember I have, and will always be a Chicago Cubs fan.
When St. Louis announced that Tony La Russa will return for one more year as their manager, I wasn't surprised, not did I really care. But when they announced that they had fired McRae as their batting coach and hired Big Mac, I cheered.
The baseball strike hurt me as much as it did the MLB. All my life I was a serious baseball card collector. In fact I had one room in my house that was stacked to the ceiling with nothing but baseball, basketball, and football cards.
I had millions of them, and that's a conservative estimate. I also had collectibles like jerseys, bats, helmets, starting lineup figures, tons of autographed items, and much more.
I had planned to open the store after I retired to have something to do and to get me out of the house. But wife No. two wanted the extra room for a bedroom. So, instead of waiting in January 1996 I opened.
Since I had enough items to begin selling that all I have to add was a cash register, some lighted display cases and some new wax so my customers would come in and have something to buy. I had worked it into one our state's best. Then they striked.
Like many of the millions of baseball fans in the United Sates I figured that it wouldn't last long. Like the others I was wrong too.
After the season was washed along with the playoffs and World Series, I too was washed out. Many of my best customers were mad at MLB and wouldn't not support it in any way
Sadly it hit my little business hard. Add to that a new Wal-Mart opened in our town and they began selling the same wax and supplied I was , and they did at a cheaper price than I could.
Long story short, I watched as a bad auctioneer sold the items in my store at prices so low to this day it breaks my heart to even think about it.
Because of that I gave up baseball too. No more collecting, no buying. And no baseball games, I didn't watch and I didn't go.
But along came The Big Mark McGwire and Slamming Sammy Sosa. Their battle for the home run record not only brought me back to baseball, but it also brought new fans.
It was exciting to watch, so much that even the major news outlets were following the chase in their daily reports as well. It didn't matter who you were for, the Big Mac or Slamming Sammy, you were drawn back by their power displays.
It must have been like watching Babe Ruth bring baseball back after the great Black Sox scandal. I've wondered often if he and Ty Cobb would have made the Hall-of-Fame today with their off the field antics.
I've been a sportswriter and sports broadcaster for nearly twenty years now. This past August my first book, "Sometimes You Can't Hide," was just published.
What ticks me off the most is when a sportswriter announces that he is using his vote for the Hall-of-Fame as a political statement. We all knew when the records were being broken that something wasn' right.
In fact, they never even tried to hide it. Why should they, what they were taking wasn't illegal in the MLB. To go back and punish someone for something they did when they were younger just isn't right.
If it was then there are many from my generation that would be arrested for underage drinking and smoking something that was illegal back then. We just didn't get caught, right?
And as one of my firends comented, it wasn't like McGwire went from hitting 10 to 15 home runs, as a skinny rookie with Oakland he belted 40 home runs. The guy could hit, and with power.
So even though it hurts me I applaud the Cardinals from having the guts to bring McGwire back. I'm sure they knew that once they did, they and he, would be hounded day and night about what he did when he was a player.
Thanks to Big Mac and Slamming Sammy I am now a collector of baseball cards. I've been to many MLB games, both in St. Louis and in Chicago.
I've watched the career of Clint Barmes, who was a player at Indiana State when I did their play-by-play, and who sent me his first bat from his first MLB home run. I've also watched as my beloved Cubbies took us to the tip of the mountain, and then dropped us back off the cliff.
I can honestly say, if it hadn't been for the battle between McGwire and Sosa I would not have come back to baseball as I did. I've discussed this topic with many of my friends and listeners. Over 90 percent of them agree with me and say they too wouldn't have been back without their epic battle.
I'm sick and tired of the enitre incident and feel it's time to plut that behind us. We now have rules that we didn't have back then, you break them you get punished, plain, and simple. Just ask Manny.
They don't owe me anything. No apology nothing. What they gave to me was payment enough.
I'm more of a baseball fan now than ever. And I owe that to McGwire and Sosa, to them I say thank you.
To the writers who feel they have to beat this drum until it breaks, I say shame on you. It's time to recognize the players for what they did, they saved baseball.
To the owners, who milked the battles for all they could get, I say shame on you.
When you needed the players to bring your fallen game back you were all for them. But when they fell, and you had already made your money, you backed away as if they had some kind of disease.
So for the first time in my life I applaud the St. Louis Cardinals. I just hope my best friend Murry doesn't see this, he's a die-hard Cardinals fan and would never let me live it down.
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