Mark McGwire, my childhood, and why he should be in the HOF despite the “Boomers” that keep him out.
It’s strange; when most baseball fans talk about iconic cards of their youths they will usually cite a 1952 Mickey Mantle, 1968 Nolan Ryan or even a 1984 Don Mattingly rookie. That is all well and good; I enjoy baseball’s past and have spent countless hours and even days researching it. The most iconic card in my youth, however, was the 1987 Topps Mark McGwire.
You see, he was my favorite player on my favorite team; that’s not much of a stretch for a kid growing up in Northern California. When I look at this funky piece of cardboard with a blurry photo of a young, lanky, hunchbacked McGwire with the tacky, 1970’s Dad’s den border, I feel that it represents a couple of things that my generation encompassed so well–mass production and the willingness to do anything at all costs to achieve economic success in an era of unemployment and despair. (In this case “success” can be translated into “baseball success” through PED’s which equals economic success, my generation didn’t have the leisure of the metaphorical PED in the workforce due to the “Boomers” taking all the corporate sectors that they inherited overseas in order to pay the rabble pennies on the dollar. In effect, fucking over China, Indonesia and El Salvador’s working poor and their own people as well. We are forever destined to bat .260 and never have a set position…so much for the “hippy generation.”)
“Popularity of era” is a part of becoming a HOFer…that is why Mark McGwire should be in there. PED’s or not, he was a HUGE part of those 90’s Athletics teams that people love and will talk about forever. Not to mention the class he showed to Roger Maris’ family when he broke the home run record.. (who was vilified as well by the fascist MLB brass…the asterisk instilled by then commissioner Ford Frick still has not been removed due to Maris breaking the record in the then-newly instilled 162 games. The feeling and overall jealousy of the new generation (now old as dirt or perhaps dead…do you see a running theme here?) was further recognized when HOFer Rogers Hornby said, “It would be a disappointment if Ruth’s home run record were bested by a .270 hitter”. Isn’t it strange how the players in an era with the least talent in an era where they didn’t even have to face black players are the biggest shit talkers!?)
There is a lot of talk about Tim Raines for the HOF..let’s get real…his stats are solid and then as the 90’s become a reality he becomes sort of hanger-on and a non entity. No one cared outside of Montreal. (and then again...they didn’t even care) It’s akin to giving the handicapped kid a pat on the back.
It’s all about IMPACT, era and the impact of that specific era. Just ask Derek Jeter, who was never even close to being the best player on his team, (or Pee Wee Reese for that matter.) yet Jeter will be a first ballot HOFer based on “good looks,” a great interview and a legion of mooks from Brooklyn who think they can be an MLB player because he did it. (Miguel Tejada was infinitely better in his prime.)
Here’s what I remember:
Multi-ethnic “sources” saying over half the players on every team used, and that MLB even tacitly encouraged it. I remember a reporter mentioning McGwire having androstenedione displayed openly in his locker, then said reporter getting raked over the coals by players, other reporters, and even the commissioner of baseball–Bud Selig.
Players linked to steroid use have been resoundingly rejected by Hall of Fame voters in recent years, shunned as synthetically enhanced frauds. But drawing an integrity line in the sand is a tenuous stance at a Hall of Fame with a membership that already includes multiple cheaters. Baseball has always had some form of hypocrisy when it comes to its exalted heroes. In theory, when it comes to these kinds of votes, it’s true that character should matter, but once you’ve already let in those who cheated, how can you exclude anyone else?
Here are a few:
Gaylord Perry (class of 1991) had a disregard for the rules that was far more patent and unashamed than any steroid user. Perry doctored baseballs with spit, Vaseline and other substances to confound hitters. All of baseball knew what Perry was doing even if he never admitted it — until writing a tell-all book after his retirement.
Don Sutton (class of 1998) Late in his career, Sutton was often accused of scuffing. In 1978 he was ejected and suspended 10 days for defacing the ball, but when he threatened to sue the National League, he was let off. Was teammates with Gaylord Perry for a while. “He gave me a tube of Vaseline,” joked Sutton. “I thanked him and gave him a piece of sandpaper.” Umpires took the allegations seriously, and sometimes gave him a good going over. Once, he left a note inside his glove for the men in black. It said, “You’re getting warm, but it’s not here.”
Whitey Ford (Class of 1974)… Ford used his wedding ring to cut the ball, or had catcher Elston Howard put a nice slice in it with a buckle on his shin guard. Ford also planted mud pies around the mound and used them to load the ball. He confessed that when pitching against the Dodgers in the 1963 World Series, “I used enough mud to build a dam.” He also threw a “gunk ball,” which combined a mixture of baby oil, turpentine, and resin. He kept the “gunk” in a roll-on dispenser, which, the story goes, Yogi Berra once mistook for deodorant, gluing his arms to his sides in the process.
Things are becoming a bit strange in the baseball world due to the advent of the internet and the basic human emotion of being a follower in a world of followers. (or they may do it to seem intelligent; I know this blog has been attacked by many lard-ass “experts,” with mustard stains running down their shirts, living in their mom’s basement and if they’re lucky MAY have a book published with a small run that no one will read.) I’m starting to see a lot of followers who have no ideas of their own embrace idiotic “statistics”, nostalgia where there never was any, forced moral platitudes and just overall madness. I would die of shock if anyone had an original idea that was absolutely and irreducibly their own. Let’s hope the future generation/s gets it right when the novelty of being angry about a specific (and fun!) era finally dissolves after the Boomer HOF voter generation is finally dead. I have a feeling that the children of the future, because of their gradual and inevitable loss of civil rights, may find fault in the faceless men in the ivory tower who cashed in their billions and instead find compassion for the men simply trying to please them.
This post is just a reminder of all the “fun” that some readers of this blog are missing on the Facebook page. These are just a few of the nasty comments I receive daily from mostly *cough* Giants fans. (After bringing up the fact that Giants owners are treating territorial rights over San Jose like they were bestowed to them at birth. The truth is, former A’s owner Walter Haas gave the Giants ownership rights of Santa Clara County when it appeared that the team might move to Florida. He felt it was in the best interests of baseball (not his wallet) to have two teams in the Bay Area.) All the misspellings were left as-is so you could enjoy the comments in their most pristine form of expression.
***Wow really relevant going back 25 years to make a point. It must suck always being #2 behind the giants if you have to go that far back. Try to win a world championship sometime this decade then run your bitch ass mouth. By the way the team that last one a title for you was all roided up. They were called the bash brothers cause they bashed each other in the ass with needles. Kiss our more recent rings you little bitch
your the reason why the a’s and their so called fans are a joke in the bay. Get a life you queer. So what if I’m on a a’s page I like to laugh at all the stupid shit you don’t know. Plus I’m standing up for my homie who made you look stupid and you went and became a little bitch and banned him. This has nothing to do with my name or profession so that shit ain’t fading me. This is about you Brian a bitch ass a’s fan that don’t know shit and runs and hides when he can’t take a beating from real fans that have rings from the 2000’s. Keep hating you punk ass bitch. No skin off my balls that by the way were in your moms mouth last night
***You are an embarrassment to As fans. Your crude comments just show how unintelligent you are. They have no substance rooted in actual knowledge of baseball. This is Facebook and your picture and comments are circulated on more than just As fans news feeds. I did not seek this page out. Dont flatter yourself. Btw Coco cut his afro….bye Felicia
***Does anyone remember the Giants fans of Candlestick Park? You almost had to sign a waiver if you bought bleacher tickets because there undoubtedly would be a fight at least twice a game. The Park sucked and the fans were a bunch of hippies and deadbeats. Look at the Giants and their fan base now and you wouldn’t even know it was the same team. But that’s not what bothers me. What I find offensive is that If you asked the current crop of fans, they’d act as if those fans never existed; that the Giants of today and PacBell Park, with is aristocratic food menu and fascist ushers, have always been the image of the Giants organization. This is typical SF limousine liberalism that disavows its past if that past is ugly.
*** They are having an amazing season for a team of relative nobody’s. still plenty of baseball left for them to sputter out and choke. One last quick thing…. How many A’s players are all stars this year and last year? What’s that, close to none? Ooooops. Great fans over there in the war zone called Oakland.
***oh please…are you finished…since when does anybodys fan base get up on theyre collective feet and start chanting after losing…don’t you forget coco the giants are still the world champions stick that in your big mouthed chant and smoke it..since when did the a’s turn into a bunch of fucking babies..no wonder you choke at the end of the year..good luck losing
***Although Donald Sterling and Michael Sam make for good human interest stories, it’s important to remember that basketball and football are games designed for children, and all sports are irrelevant.
” Bonds is completely, undeniably 100 percent full of shit. He truly is. I no longer buy his love of baseball history any more than I buy the sanctity of his marriages or the purity of his blood stream. I was at Shea when the Giants came to New York a few weeks ago, and I had to laugh when hundreds of my media peers swarmed around him for comments. I understand why they were there, but it’s a waste of time. Nothing he says holds any meaning. He’ll say the sky is blue one second and red the next. He loves Dusty Baker, then he hates him. So on and so on. Bonds cares no more about baseball history than does my goldfish. He knows what Hank Aaron went through to hit 755 home runs, and he was more than happy to cheat, load up on steroids and HGH and surpass him. I’ve maintained some contacts, and I know of no one who’s actually happy that he’s breaking the record. It’s like I wrote in the book—Bonds has never treated people especially well, so there’s very little loyalty for the man. Do you root for someone who refused to sign a ball for your kid? Who ignored you when you asked for advice? Who told you you couldn’t carry his jock? I still often think of Dan Peltier, the former Giant backup who brought his young son to the team’s Family Day. When Bonds asked the kid to name his favorite ballplayer, he said, “My dad!” To which Bonds replied, “Why? He never plays.”
(Jeff Pearlman, Bonds’ biographer)
Bill Bathe played catcher in the Major Leagues for 3 years, including time with the Oakland A’s in 1986. I found this story on his website (http://pro-baseball-drills-and-equipment.com/stories/jose-canseco/) and found it to be interesting. He now lives in Tucson, Arizona and is captain of the Tucson Fire Deapartment. Enjoy.
Playing along side Jose Canseco, this is my account of my playing days in the Oakland A’s minor leagues.
I had an opportunity to play in Tacoma and Oakland with Jose along with Mark McGwire.
When Jose was first playing in the minors, he was a young kid. Not weighing very much and skinny in stature. In the low minors he hit few home runs and struck out a lot. He was signed by the A’s after a recommendation by a scout. He was not a high pick.
It was noticed that after his average year in single A, he came to spring training the following year looking like Charles Atlas. Jose Canseco had gone from being skinny to the hulk.
After talking to Jose, I proposed the question to him about what he was doing to increase his size and strength so dramatically. He replied that he was lifting weights 8 hours a day. I balked at this and asked him again how he was doing it and he replied that he was taking steroids.
The next season, Canseco went on a rampage hitting wise. He started tearing up the league in double A and was soon promoted to triple A where he joined me on the Tacoma Tigers. He proceeded to tear up the triple A league also and when we played in Vancouver, an interesting thing happened and was amusing. While playing a game and after the opposing team could not get him out, when he appeared for his next at bat, on the score board appeared, “Now batting, Roy Hobbs”.
So Roy Hobbs was born in the Pacific coast league and he was hispanic with unbelievable bat speed. He remained with us for the short remainder of the season.
When we played at home, we played in Cheney stadium in Tacoma Washington. The center field fence is a long ways away, some 400 and something feet away with a towering green monster that rises at least 50 feet. In my 4 four years at Cheney stadium, I never once saw anybody hit one over that fence. Not only was it a long way away with a towering wall, the temperature was always damp and the ball did not carry very well. When Jose Canseco joined us at Cheney stadium, it was the first time I saw an opposing team stop what they were doing to watch Jose hit. You could have heard a pin drop. Jose was launching balls consistently over the center field wall and also putting them over the light tower in left center field which was also a herculean feat. I had never in my life witnessed such power. It was truly amazing to watch. Senor Roy Hobbs!
I had asked Jose if he thought steroids had helped his performance on the field. His reply was that it had. He felt that steroids allowed him to play at the level he was at. Now the real question is, how is this going to effect him long term.
I was floored last night when a family friend told me that Jason Giambi had signed with the goddamn Cleveland Indians. Just months earlier I had a cheap laugh at his expense when I found out he was trying to manage the Colorado Rockies. Giambi in my eyes was a “party animal,” whose reign started long before he shed his mullet, beard and laid -back attitude for the lilly white sanctity of a Yankees uniform.
Giambi’s three-year tour of NYC’s taverns, according to eyewitnesses, actually began two months before he signed with the Yankees in December 2001, with him table- dancing until 4 a.m. in an Upper West Side bar the night he flew to New York with the A’s up 2-zip in the Division Series. (that series turned out to be the most chair throwing disaster in the history of my fandom thanks to his idiot brother)
Giambi’s excessive partying that night (complete with faux rockstar poser duds) apparently spooked several Yankees players. But maybe word never got up to George Steinbrenner before he signed off on the worst contract in Yankees history.(still laughing about that one) Giambi “lived the life of a rock star,” according to a former member of the Yankees’ traveling party, and several witnesses say he was partying late with Ricky Williams in Miami during the 2003 World Series, right before begging out of Game 5. The same person said Giambi would sneak beer onto the bench and call his in-game shots personal “protein drinks.” He also picked up smoking and could be seen during the 2004 ALCS chewing tobacco while supposedly in sick bay. His production withered to almost nothing as he transitioned from the physique of a He-man to Pee-wee Herman. (not from cutting fat out of his diet, it turns out) The fans started getting on his ass because he couldn’t get the job done without the ‘roids, and was being paid 120 million. A former Yankees official predicted the bad publicity would overwhelm him because he’s a “mental midget.”
I’m certainly not going to judge Mr. Giambi for partying and (alleged) drug use, I’ve done loads of that in my time and still drink or take a toke in a social gathering or if I’m trying to listen to some mellow jams. As any reader of this blog may or may not know, I also didn’t disapprove (then) of steroid use. The game needed a jolt, was at an all-time low in popularity and home runs made the game sexy again for a short time. Sure, I suppose there is a bit of jealousy because I’ll never make the kind of money this guy does; but it’s more than that. (or the Yankee signing) It’s about the privilege these guys feel they have. Giambi can disrespect the game, rape fans for their hard-earned cash, and still expect the game to give him a shot at a distinguished managerial role. I don’t hate the guy, he’s just the physical representation of everything that is wrong with this country; a culture of exposure, where we desire to let it all hang out in an orgy of exhibitionism, self-involvement and confession. An abuse of power and a big “fuck you” to the fans….. as I cry into my 15 dollar beer.
” Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.” Nietzsche
I recently read John Updike’s short story entitled “1960: hub fans bid kid adieu;” a glorified monument to Ted Williams’ final game at Fenway park. The long and wordy piece was impressive in its literary and authoritarian tone, reminding me of my own inadequacies when it comes to the English language, but also reminding me that the reader shouldn’t be bored out of their minds while the writer achieves some sort of mental jerk-off. Story finally completed and compartmentalized, one line stuck out like a huge pair of bosoms in the crowded bleachers; “Gods never answer letters.”
Jose Canseco was a god to me as a freckle faced, no girlfriend -having Jr. high schooler; he was the young, handsome baseball phenom, an Oakland A’s outfielder with unlimited potential, a muscular slugger with mythical power. After retiring, he wrote a book, “Juiced,” that rocked the baseball world, outing several superstar big leaguers as steroid users, or “juicers.” (The best part of the book being Canseco telling A-Rod that he ” hated him” after Mr. Yankee tried numerous times to fuck his wife) After a long and tiresome “sting operation” by the powers that be in the MLB kingdom (pathetically, i may add, as they knew this behavior was happening but thought home runs would bring the pissed off fans back after the strike of ’94.) they installed a new, more thorough way of testing players, all but eliminating steroid use in baseball and lowering home run totals dramatically. MLB needed a scapegoat, and they got it. Canseco was universally seen as a pariah for writing the book which all but astounded me for 2 reasons. 1) he was “cleaning up the game” single-handedly, (or at least bringing media attention to it) and 2) making some bread while he was doing it which seems to follow the age-old baseball adage of making money unethically and in a clownish manner at all costs no matter what the cost. Here we had a someone ready to speak out and debunk the myth of a “tighter wound ball” and baseball fans (mostly working class may i add) were siding with the money hungry, uber-capitalists that disrespected the hallowed home run totals for a quick buck at MLB. (reminding me of the controversy and backlash Jim Bouton received after his 1970 book, “Ball Four” was released. I had a chance to meet him, he is a wonderful man and I absolutely adore that book.)
Canseco continued his “career” playing for virtually peanuts for the Yuma Scorpions of the North American League in 2011, was banned in 2012 from playing with a Mexican team, the Quintana Roo Tigers for using testosterone; and finally in April, was signed by the Worchester Tornadoes of the Canadian/ American Association of Professional Baseball. Reading the latter story made me feel as if Canseco was a sad specimen, holding on to his youth and past glory; but also a bit of admiration because of his love for the game that keeps us all clicking the turnstiles no matter how uninterested the players are with our historical musings and passionate regional rivalries. I suppose then, I owe Mr. Updike a posthumous apology, as his admired, single statement above jolted these feelings lose and vehemently spread upon the page before you. It also reminded me of a fan letter I had written to Canseco in 2011, hoping that he would answer because of his bush league status. Hoping that perhaps he was humbled and ready to give something back to the fans that had enjoyed him as a player, author, cheater and jackass. Alas…. Gods never answer letters.