Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Winners, Losers and Mark McGwire
Did Roger Maris roll over in his grave yesterday afternoon when Mark McGwire, the man who broke his single season home run record by hitting 70 home runs during the 1998 season, announced that he indeed used steroids during the time he rewrote the record books? Probably not, and here's why...
Roger Maris was belittled and abused by fans, reporters and the general public in 1961. You see, 1961 is the year Roger bested Babe Ruth's Major League Baseball single season home run record. Maris tackled this feat as a New York Yankee and teammate of future hall of famer, Mickey Mantle... the same team for which the Babe played.
Maris was never a superstar. He wasn't flashy. He didn't put up huge numbers but a few times during his career. He was good, but he wasn't Mickey Mantle good. Mickey Mantle was New York's darling, however. Yankee fans loved Mickey despite his numerous personal shortcomings. Mickey performed year in and year out on the diamond. At year end, Mickey was always at the top of his sport's statistical categories. EVERYBODY wanted Mickey to break the Babe's record, not Roger. Many didn't feel that the farm boy from Fargo, North Dakota deserved to own the most prestegious record in baseball. He simply wasn't Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle.
Nevertheless Roger and Mickey battled back and forth for the single season home run record in 1961. Mickey had off the field issues and injuries late in the season and finished with 54 home runs. That was six less than the Babe's old record of 60 set in 1927 and seven less than Roger Maris that season. Roger hit 61 in 61. He hit number 61 in the final game of the season... a game in which only half of Yankee Stadium was full. Nobody cared to witness Roger's shot at history.
Roger never really got the chance to celebrate his achievement. The abuse from fans and the media took its toll on Roger. Roger slowly became less of a player due to injury and old age. He eventually retired and purchased a Budweiser brewery in Gainesville, Florida. He died there at the age of 51 in 1983 due to hodgkins lymphoma. Roger Maris is not in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
That brings me to my point. When Mark McGwire hit his sixty-second home run in 1998, the one that broke Roger's old record of 61, he celebrated with Roger's family. As illustrated above, he pointed to the sky in reference to Roger as if to thank him. The Maris family surrounded Mark and congratulated him on his accomplishment. That's a pretty special moment, a moment that is now compromised.
I don't really think Roger would have given a damn, but I'm pretty sure his family cared greatly that Mark cheated to obtain their father's record. They're the losers in this situation. It's not me (I actually saw McGwire hit number 54 in person and considered it one of the coolest sports moments I'd even been a part of), it's not baseball fans (they lost a long time ago, however they don't seem to care) and it's not even Mark McGwire or his family(they're still rich and Mark isn't in jail).
Even though Roger Maris might not think so, it's almost a proven fact that he is the only winner in what is to be the Major League Baseball single season home run record fiasco. It's only "almost a proven fact" because Barry Bonds, the man who hit 73 home runs in 2001 and the current single season home run king, is yet to admit his steroid use.
When Barry finally admits it, perhaps Roger Maris will finally make his way into the Hall of Fame and all will be right within the baseball world.