"[Mark McGwire's steroids admission] changes nothing for the rest of us. McGwire is no better or worse a Hall of Fame candidate to me, though I believe his potential enshrinement is far less important to him than serving as a hitting coach. His playing record already had been tainted by the allegations and suspicions; this only makes the marks more indelible. If, by now, you still believed in the magic of 1998, you believe the lady actually gets sawed in half by the magician."
January 12, 2010
I've always wanted to believe in the magic of 1998. Because the magic of 1998 rekindled my love of baseball. Disenchanted by the strike of 1994, a part of me soured on the beautiful game. I was 11. Stupid, and spoiled. The Toronto Blue Jays, back-to-back World Series champions? Good times. I figured they'd win a few more. I figured they'd always have the league's highest payroll. I was young. Innocent. And, by that point, a full fledged member of The Church of Doug Gilmour.
It was the home runs that brought me back. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. The magic of 1998. Chasing Maris. It even had a name!1 If it weren't for the grace and beauty of the long ball, I might have lost baseball forever.
I was enthralled by the quest for 62. I was kissing my fingers and pointing them skyward -- like an idiot -- after a big hit, like Sosa. I still don't quite believe this, but I taught my father, who couldn't care less about baseball, the McGwire double fist bump, mock punch to the gut. To this day, he still greets a few of my mates with that move; that's how real Mark McGwire's legacy is. I even own his jersey. I got it on sale. I think.
Going back, I was 15 and a half. Not quite yet fully cynical. The Toronto Maple Leafs were awful, I was settled in at my new church, The Church of Mats Sundin, and the chase was ... fun. Science had evolved to the point where we had figured out why chicks dig the long ball. Because everyone does. And what's more dramatic than to watch sports history being made? McGwire and Sosa were entertainers. And they certainly entertained.
Steroids. Of course. By now, yeah, I'm fully cynical -- I don't care. I don't take professional sports as seriously as I used to. They are what they are: a great escape. The child in me will always want to believe the lady actually gets sawed in half by the magician.
Also: we knew. Even my dad knew. The magic of 1998 was manufactured, but it was magic nonetheless. What's one more asterisk? But forget about the steroids -- all the kids were doing it. Imagine having lived Mark McGwire's life these past few years. A life in which everyone -- everyone -- knew, without a shred of doubt, his secret. (Can it even be called a "secret" when everyone knows it? Semantics.) That had to have been awkward. Especially after the debacle before Congress; Mark McGwire had never looked so small. SI's Tom Verducci, quoted and linked to up top, is right: McGwire's back and shoulders must feel fantastic today.