McGwire Belongs In Cooperstown
That is all it takes. In baseball, it does not take much more than that one word to start an argument, inspire awe, or draw some attention. This year, there are 33 names on the ballot for admission into the hallowed halls. On January 5th, the Baseball Writers Association will announce the results of their voting for the next legends to become immortalized with a brass plaque hanging in the Hall of Legends.
The Baseball Bloggers Alliance announced their choices for Hall Of Fame enshrinement. Read the press release right here on I-70.
In just a few days, on I-70 Baseball Radio, we will feature a panel discussion with respected writers from around the country as we break down the 33 man ballot and voice our opinions on who gets in and who gets left out in the cold. We will be joined by Shawn Anderson from HallOfVeryGood.com, Michael Lynch from Seamheads.com, Kary Booher from the Springfield News Leader, and Mark Healey from BaseballDigest.com. This panel of writers will help Matt Kelsey and I break down everyone on the ballot and come to our own conclusions as to who we think belongs in the Hall Of Fame in 2011. You can listen live on Monday, January 3rd at 10 p.m. CST by clicking here.
I will gladly wait and discuss 32 names on that radio show, but one will be discussed right here today. Mark McGwire belongs in the Hall Of Fame.
Yes, you heard me correctly. Yes, I know he rocked the ‘roids. Yes, I am aware that this act is cheating. Yes, I am aware he has confessed this ballgame sin and found his way back into baseball.
I take a very simple stance on this subject. The man was good for baseball, put up seriously good numbers for a long period of time, and he played the game during a time frame where everyone turned a blind eye to what was being done behind the scenes. The “Steroid Era” left a lot of rubble behind in the time frame it existed. The tainting of the sport during that era was as far reaching as to extend to members of the press, coaches, players and fans alike.
The Hall Of Fame is full of players who, in one way or another, cheated the game. It is full of liars, gamblers and thieves (no, I am not referring to Rickey Henderson or Lou Brock). The character of the man has never before prevented a player from being enshrined for his (or her) contributions to the game.
Like it or not, baseball was in shambles in 1997. The game could not recover from the players strike earlier in the decade. Fans did not want to be part of the game. They felt disconnected. They felt like the game was not for them anymore. The home run chase began and people flocked back to the gates to see the ball fly out of parks at a rapid pace. People rumbled even then about the size of the players and the medication they were taking. No one cared. Baseball was back. It was okay to love the game again.
But one season does not make a Hall Of Fame career. McGwire started his assault on record books in 1987 when he hit 49 home runs as a rookie first baseman for the Oakland Athletics. He worked hard over his entire career to achieve a better batting average and take more prolific at bats. He took as much pride, if not more, in hitting .300 then he did in any of his home run totals. He was at the park hours before anyone else and left later than most. The game consumed his life while he played it, dominating his time and his mind for many years.
McGwire would walk away from a guaranteed contract and leave the game he loved behind. His body, his mind, and maybe even his soul had been tarnished by the same game that had consumed him since childhood. He lied when asked about his steroid use. He lied to his fans, his country, and his game. He disappointed everyone.
Ultimately, he saved the game. He did what fans, owners, writers and players expected him and others to do. He brought the fans back to the National Pastime. He brought baseball back to the people. He put thousands of expectations on his broad shoulders and carried them to the nation as a whole. Over his career he performed at legendary levels consistently.
For those reasons, writers need to step down from their own soapboxes and give the man the plaque he so rightly deserves. It is time that everyone take a look inward and honestly evaluate what was felt when he played. If you suspected, as many of us did, yet cheered right along with the rest of us, why do you hold the man back now?
Allow the legends to embrace one of their own in Cooperstown. Take a stand for baseball above your own opinion.
Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
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