January 12, 2010

The Magic Of 1998

"[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."

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.


showcase29 said...

"...the McGwire double fist bump, mock punch to the gut..."

that was pretty cool though

there needs to be a short form for this action

William said...

Great post, eyeb. Well said. I am also working through my feelings on all this. Writers like Tim Brown and Buster Olney have totally lost my respect though. Their self-righteous rants are pathetic and self-serving. Even Peter Gammons said he would not vote for McGwire now for the Hall. What crap. I'm really glad McGwire came clean. I appreciated it and wish him the best in his coaching endeavers (and I really hope he'll pinch hit).

Colt McCoy said...

Steroids or no steroids, would baseball be as popular as it is right now if it wasn't for the chasing maris days back in '98

eyebleaf said...

@ showcase29: We'll call it "The Big Mac." I love McGwire, steroids and all.

@ William: Thanks, mate. I haven't read Brown, Olney or Gammons. I'd like to. Will try to tonight. If Verducci is right, and McGwire is being sincere about not giving a shit about the Hall, and only doing this so he can be a hitting coach with a clean slate, all the power to Mac. If anything has been proven, it's that the Cooperstown voting process is seriously flawed, and this before the majority of the guys from THE STEROID ERA are eligible. Going to be good times in the years ahead. But, today, I'm happy for Mac.

@ Colt McCoy: Absolutely not. Long live Mark McGwire. And the steroids.

Mike said...
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Mike said...

The list of writers and fans who now "wouldn't vote for Mark McGwire" due to his admission of steroid use seems pretty endless.

I guess that means that they won't be voting for Alex Rodriguez (admission) or Manny Ramirez (positive test) either. Now, their career numbers are better than McGwire's, but wouldn't the same labels apply to them as they do to McGwire?

eyebleaf said...

Mike, that's why the baseball Hall of Fame vote is going to get very interesting in the years to come. Guys like Clemens and co. are eligible in the coming years.

QJays said...

I'm not a huge fan of McGwire but I do think he belongs in the Hall. Have any of these writers managed to give a full explanation of how they plan to proceed with HoF voting for the "steroid" era (or even a definition of the years to which this era clearly applies) - is it just an "ask no questions" approach where the player is only damned if he was lucky enough to have the spotlight on him?

Jason said...

Great blog you have here. I like reading sports blogs. You get more from them than the regular news. I can't take regular news anymore.

I have a couple of sports blogs myself. I know you probably haven't come across it because theres definitely over a million of us out there. I'd like to exchange links with you to help spread some traffic around between each other. Let me know if this is possible. Both my links are below my name. Until then, keep up the good work.