Monday, September 17, 2012

Renaissance Man

During my Saturday night rant about the NHL and the current state of affairs there, I started thinking about baseball's strike that ended the 1994 season, and dipped into the 1995 season also.

I thought about the reactions that people had to the cancellation of the World Series, and the players eventual return to the game in April of 1995.  Hostility, anger, and mistrust are 3 of the words that would describe the feelings of both fans, players and owners alike.

There were a lot of people that were turned off of baseball for good.  I'm sure that there are still people who don't bother with the game today.  I can honestly say myself that I went through a period where baseball was not part of the fabric of my existence.

Then came the 1998 season.  The summer of McGwire.  The chase for 61.  I watched more baseball that summer than the previous 5 years combined.  I know I did, because I can remember ESPN being on the TV constantly at my house, McGwire's every at bat shown live for the entire country to see.

That summer was the renaissance of baseball for me.  Years before the scandals and innuendo that has plagued the steroid era, there was the summer of '98, and the feel good story that brought baseball back into the national spotlight.

I watched the video of HR # 62 again today, and marveled at everyone's reaction to the event.  The Cubs infielders all either high fiving McGwire, shaking his hand, or in the case of Scott Servais the Cubs catcher, hugging McGwire before he reached home plate.  The elation of his teammates in the dugout.  The hug that Mark gave his son at home plate.  I was verklempt all over again.

I also know that in any video that you watch of the '98 season, McGwire is definitely not the "skinny kid" that you see in the cards below..

Cards courtesy of various card drafts

You can chastise me, call me names, say whatever you like for my writing about Mark McGwire.  I will never have any qualms about supporting a man who is an admitted steroid user.  Unlike a lot of other guys who used the juice, McGwire has admitted his transgressions and apologized for them.

This brings me back to my disappointment and fear that the NHL is going to lose another season to labor strife.  It took almost 4 years for me to find a renaissance man in baseball, a sport that for me is #2 only behind hockey in terms of passion for the game.

I worry that if there is another season destroyed, that there are a lot of fans who consider hockey as maybe their #2 sport that will need their own version of a renaissance man in order to bring them back to the sport.

Somebody to electrify the game like McGwire did in the summer of '98.

I fear that there may be nobody out there that can do for the NHL what Mark did for MLB.  If that's the case, the NHL may be in more trouble than they think.

Only time will tell.

Thanks for reading, Robert


  1. I don't care who knows it: That '88 McGwire is one of my favorite all-time cards.

  2. So if a serial killer admits to what he did and apologies, that makes it ok? I know I sound like a jerk - the game has been tainted by the McGuires, Sosas, Pettittes, Clemens, Bonds and all the others that falsified their numbers in an illegal fashion. The very fact these guys are eligible for the HOF upsets me. If they can be considered HOF material, why not Rose, Shoeless Joe, Buck Weaver and others? Why is one blight so horrendous and career destroying when another is given a slap on the wrist? The only records I recognize are 61 and 755. The others are fake. Baseball would have come back without the steroid years. Maybe not at the speed the greedy owners and greedy players desired, but it would have been back in time.

    Cheat in the Olympics and you are stripped of medals and banned for years. Cheat in cycling and you are stripped of titles and banned for years. Cheat in baseball and you get a 50 game paid vacation. Or you get out of it and you keep your awards (I am looking at you, Braun).

  3. Did you seriously just compare guys who take questionable vitamins in the privacy of their own homes in the off-season to serial killers?

    "ah, hey-zeus, I like him very much, but he no help with curve ball." -Pedro Cerrano, "Major League"