For his career, McGwire averaged a home run once every 10.61 at bats, the lowest at bats per home run ratio in baseball history (Babe Ruth is second at 11.76). In 1987, he broke the single-season home run record for rookies, with 49. In 1998, McGwire broke the single-season home run record by hitting 70. His achievement has since been thought to be a result of illegal steroid use. His mark was surpassed by Barry Bonds who hit 73 in 2001.
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 early years, even winning a Gold Glove in 1990. In later years his mobility was reduced, and his defense declined as a result.
McGwire's total of 363 home runs with the Athletics is that franchise's record. He was selected or voted to nine American League All-Star Teams while playing for the A's, including six consecutive appearances from 1987 through 1992.
McGwire's batting average, .289 as a rookie, plummeted over the next three seasons to .260, .231, and .235, respectively. 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. Despite the declining batting averages during this time of his career, his high bases on balls totals allowed him to maintain acceptable on-base percentages. In fact, when he hit .201, his adjusted OPS (OPS+) was 103, or just over league average.
McGwire stated in an interview with Sports Illustrated that 1991 was the "worst year" of his life, with his on-field performance and marriage difficulties, and that he "didn't lift a weight" that entire season. With all that behind him, McGwire re-dedicated himself to working out harder than ever and received visual therapy from a sports vision specialist.
Foot injuries limited McGwire to a total of 74 games in 1993 and 1994, and just 9 home runs in each of the two seasons. He played just 104 games in 1995, but his proportional totals were much improved: 39 home runs in 317 at-bats. In 1996, McGwire belted a major league leading 52 homers in 423 at-bats. He also hit a career high .312 average, and led the league in both slugging percentage and on base percentage.
As the 1998 season progressed, it became clear that McGwire, Griffey, and Chicago Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa were all on track to break Roger Maris' single-season home run record. The race to break the record first became a media spectacle as the lead swung back and forth. On August 19, Sosa hit his 48th home run to move ahead of McGwire. However, later that day McGwire hit his 48th and 49th home runs to regain the lead. Griffey had injury problems and dropped out of the competition, leaving Sosa and McGwire to battle it out to #62.
On September 8, 1998 at 8:18 p.m. et, McGwire hit a pitch by the Chicago Cubs' Steve Trachsel over the left field wall for his record-breaking 62nd home run, setting off huge celebrations at Busch Stadium. The fact that the game was against the Cubs meant that Sosa was able to congratulate McGwire personally on his achievement. Members of Roger Maris' family were also present at the game. Memorably, the ball was freely given to him in a ceremony on the field by the stadium worker who found it.
McGwire finished the 1998 season with 70 home runs, four ahead of Sosa's 66, a record that was broken three seasons later by Barry Bonds. Since Babe Ruth had hit 60 home runs in 154 games during 1927, and Roger Maris hit 61 in 161 games in 1961 (not breaking the record until after the 154 game mark), some had quibbled whether the single-season record was actually broken. With McGwire breaking the record in his team's 145th game, he laid to rest the issue of the extended season.
Although McGwire had the prestige of the home run record, Sammy Sosa (who had fewer HR but more RBI and stolen bases) would win the 1998 NL MVP award, as his contributions helped propel the Cubs to the playoffs (the Cardinals in 1998 finished third in the NL Central). Many credited the Sosa-McGwire home run chase in 1998 with "saving baseball," by both bringing in new, younger fans and bringing back old fans soured by the 1994 Major League Baseball strike.
In 2000 and 2001, McGwire had reduced numbers as he played in a reduced amount of games (32-HR in 89 games, and 29-HR in 97 games, respectively).
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. McGwire had the fewest career triples-- 6-- of any player with 5,000 or more at-bats.
However, in the 2007 and 2008 balloting for the Baseball Hall of Fame, McGwire failed to attain election, receiving 128 of the 545 cast, 23.5% of the vote. He received the same exact amount of votes both years. It is widely conceded that this was related to the steroid scandal and McGwire's less than forthcoming testimony (see below).
A portion of interstate 70 in St. Louis and near Busch Stadium was named "Mark McGwire Highway" to honor his 70 home run achievement, along with his various good works for the city.
In 1998, after an article written by Associated Press writer Steve Wilstein, McGwire admitted to taking steroid-precursor androstenedione, an over-the-counter muscle enhancement product. Rumors surfaced later that McGwire admitted to the use of androstenedione to throw off the scent of the steroids he was allegedly using. While legal at the time under U.S. law and for use in MLB, it had already been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, the NFL and the IOC.
In 2005, McGwire and Canseco were subpoenaed to testify at a congressional hearing on steroids, along with five other baseball players and four baseball executives. Canseco had released Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big, a book in which he spoke positively about steroids, and made various claims—among them, that McGwire had been using performance enhancing drugs since the 1980s. During his testimony on March 17, 2005, McGwire declined to answer questions under oath when he appeared before the House Government Reform Committee.
In a tearful opening statement McGwire said,
Asking me or any other player to answer questions about who took steroids in front of television cameras will not solve the problem. If a player answers 'No,' he simply will not be believed; if he answers 'Yes,' he risks public scorn and endless government investigations.... My lawyers have advised me that I cannot answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family, and myself. I will say, however, that it remains a fact in this country that a man, any man, should be regarded as innocent unless proven guilty."When asked if he was asserting his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself, McGwire once again responded:
I'm not here to talk about the past. I'm here to be positive about this subject.
While no legal action has been taken against McGwire, in baseball or out of it, his testimony cost him public affection and support. In 1999, McGwire was voted to the All-Century Team, and upon his retirement in 2001, he was uniformly characterized as "a future Hall of Famer." However, when his Cooperstown eligibility began in 2006–07, McGwire received less than a quarter of the vote. Several of these sportswriters indicated that they were casting a protest non-vote in McGwire's first year of eligibility, or that they wanted more time to consider the developing steroid story in baseball; some noted that McGwire's relatively low career batting average (.263) and the fact that he did not attain 2,000 hits during his career as deciding factors to abstain. Many others are vocal in stating that he does not deserve induction because he simply was not good enough and that as a first baseman, he is nothing but "Dave Kingman on steroids" . It is unclear where McGwire's true level of ballot support will end up leveling off.
They reside in a gated community in Shady Canyon Irvine, California and together created the Mark McGwire Foundation for Children to support agencies that work with children who have been sexually and physically abused to help come to terms with a difficult childhood.
McGwire attended Damien High School in La Verne, California where he started playing baseball, golf, and basketball. He played college baseball at the University of Southern California under legendary coach Rod Dedeaux.
His brother Dan McGwire was a quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks and Miami Dolphins of the NFL in the early 1990s, and was a first round draft choice out of San Diego State University where he was teammates with Marshall Faulk.
McGwire currently avoids the media. He spends much of his free time playing golf.
|Home Run||Game||Date||Inning||Location||Opposing Pitcher||Team|
|11||35||05-16-1987||1st||Oakland||Jimmy Key||Blue Jays|
|17||44||05-27-1987||4th||Toronto||Joe Johnson||Blue Jays|
|18||48||05-31-1987||2nd||New York||Tommy John||Yankees|
|19||48||05-31-1987||7th||New York||Tommy John||Yankees|
|20||59||06-13-1987||4th||Arlington Stadium||Ed Correa||Rangers|
|21||61||06-15-1987||4th||Kansas City||Charlie Liebrandt||Royals|
|24||72||06-27-1987||5th||Cleveland||Ed Vande Berg||Indians|
|28||75||06-30-1987||1st||Chicago||Scott Nielsen||White Sox|
|29||79||07-04-1987||5th||Boston||Bruce Hurst||Red Sox|
|30||80||07-05-1987||4th||Boston||Oil Can Boyd||Red Sox|
|34||89||07-17-1987||10th||Boston||Calvin Schiraldi||Red Sox|
|40||129||08-29-1987||10th||Toronto||Mark Eichhorn||Blue Jays|
|44||145||09-15-1987||4th||Arlington Stadium||Greg Harris||Rangers|
|45||145||09-15-1987||6th||Arlington Stadium||Greg Harris||Rangers|
|46||148||09-19-1987||1st||Kansas City||Melido Perez||Royals|
|47||153||09-24-1987||9th||Oakland||Scott Bannister||White Sox|
|48||154||09-25-1987||9th||Oakland||Bobby Thigpen||White Sox|