St Louis Cardinals

A Letter to Mark McGwire: Thanks for '98—It Was a Fraud

26 Feb 2001: Mark McGwire #25 of the St. Louis Cardinals poses for a studio portrait during Spring Training at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida. According to reports January 11, 2010, McGwire has admitted to steroid use during while playing Major League baseball and when he broke the home run record.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Derek CoffeltSenior Analyst IJanuary 27, 2010

After a lengthy absence from Bleacher Report, I've returned to the sportswriting arena.

Unfortunately, it's to write an article that plays it close to the vest.

It's about none other than Big Mac, Mark McGwire.

This is a letter to the man that brought me into the baseball limelight way back in 1998.

Now, this isn't an article condoning or absolving him of his latest admissions. It is an article of reflection.

To tell this article correctly, I have to tell the whole story, so I have to take you back to where it all started for this Redbirds fan.

It was the summer of 1998. It was hot. I was finishing up junior high.

I wasn't the most popular of kids, so I naturally gravitated to being a spectator of sports. Up until this point I was a huge NBA fan because of how fast-paced the game was and how readily accessible a basketball goal was to procure.

Naturally, I took towards basketball.

However, during many of the lunch times I had at school, I kept hearing about this home run chase in baseball. I didn't think much of it at the time, but I decided to turn on a Fox Saturday baseball game one day in the late spring of 1998.

I witnessed a monstrous man in a bright red and white uniform tearing the cover off the ball. The St. Louis Cardinals just happened to be playing that day, and I got the whole story about how historic this home run chase was between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.

I followed the rest of the season that year. I watched as the Maris family sat in the stands to watch McGwire's 62nd home run rocket out beyond the left field wall near the foul pole.

I didn't quite understand it at the time, but I just witnessed history. It didn't fully sink in, but the feeling I had watching those games during that summer with my father was incredible. Even my brothers couldn't stop talking about it.

I honestly felt like I was a part of something spectacular. It brought me closer to my friends and family, and I was hooked on baseball, and coincidentally the Cardinals, after that.

As McGwire slowly faded into retirement in 2001, his replacement Albert Pujols quickly filled his role and is currently one of my role models.

Fast-forward to 2010.

McGwire admits to using steroids including his record-setting 1998 season.

I'm not as naive as to think he never could have been using, because I suspected just like many other fans and sportswriters did. However, because of what the 1998 season did for me, it still hurt to hear the words and admission of guilt.

One of the biggest reasons I started watching baseball just told me that the season that hooked me forever was a fraud. It wasn't real.

McGwire may suffer now with not ever being elected to the Hall of Fame, but I just wanted to voice my own opinion on the situation. It wanted to show how his actions affect much more than himself. 

In a way I should be thanking McGwire. He, after all, brought me closer to my family and gave me some "social currency" to become more outgoing with friends.

Then I turn to how he used the long ball to captivate everyone just long enough to get his next injection.

So thank you, Mark McGwire—thank you for making the year of 1998 a fraud for this fan.

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