Mark McGwire (Mark David McGwire) was born on October 1, 1963 in Pomona, California. He made his Major League debut on August 22, 1986 for the Oakland Athletics. In 1987, his rookie year, he hit .289 with 49 home runs and 118 RBI. McGwire played for the Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals over the course of his 16 year career.
Most people believe that Mark McGwire's best season was 1998, when he slugged 70 home runs, hit for a .299 average and knocked in 147 runs. That mark of 70 home runs was a Major League record until it was broken in 2001 by Barry Bonds.
McGwire was a prolific power hitter during the 1990s. For his career, McGwire averaged a home run once every 10.61 at bats, the highest home run ratio in baseball history (Babe Ruth is second at 11.76). In 1998, McGwire broke Roger Maris's single season home run record of 61 by hitting 70 (Barry Bonds has since hit 73). McGwire was known for the distance of his home runs, hitting several over 500 feet. McGwire's nicknames included "Big Mac," "Big Red" and "Colossus."
McGwire was raised with his four brothers in a middle-class 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 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 Huntsville Stars, in Huntsville, Alabama.
Oakland A's career
McGwire began his career with the Oakland A's and played there until 1997, prior to joining the St. Louis Cardinals. He won the World Series 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 Jay Howell in the bottom of the 9th inning was 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; he was named the American League Rookie of the Year. McGwire hit 32, 33 and 39 homers the next three seasons, but his average, .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.
With the help of a sports vision specialist 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, who many feel was due to his alleged steroid abuse, had reduced his speed making 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 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. After an article written by Associated Press writer Steve Wilstein, 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 supplement and was not a banned substance in baseball or the FDA at the time.
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.
- Selected by Montreal Expos in the 8th round of the free-agent draft - did not sign (June 8, 1981).
- Selected by Oakland Athletics in the 1st round (10th pick overall) of the free-agent draft (June 4, 1984 - signed July 20, 1984).
- Granted free agency (October 26, 1992).
- Signed by Oakland Athletics (December 24, 1992).
- Traded by Oakland Athletics to St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Eric Ludwick, T.J. Mathews and Blake Stein (July 31, 1997).