In the late ’90s, Mark McGwire was the king of baseball. His race to break Roger Maris’s record for most home runs in a season was a buzz-worthy news topic, and his downfall served as a cautionary tale. One fan McGwire lost after admitting to steroid use, however, stings above the rest. His brother, Jay, claims to have both introduced his brother to steroids and lost his relationship with the MLB star because of it.
Mark McGwire’s beginnings
Mark got his start as a member of the Oakland A’s in 1986, details Baseball-Reference. Drafted with the 10th overall pick in 1984, he spent the better part of three seasons in the minors before getting his brief call up in 1986. The following year, however, everything changed.
Now a full-time starter with the team that drafted him, Mark spent his first full season in the majors sending the ball out of the park with ease. He had 49 home runs, but the party was just getting started. Mark immediately developed a rapport with fellow slugger Jose Canseco, and the bash brothers were born.
These two sluggers paired up to become one of the best hitting duos in the history of professional baseball. It was on their backs that the 1989 Oakland A’s won the World Series over their regional rivals, the San Francisco Giants.
The fall and rise and fall of Mark McGwire
By 1995, Mark looked like a different player. The man who hit at least 30 home runs in each of his first four seasons as a full-time player had only broken 22 home runs once in four years, and he missed the majority of both the 1993 and 1994 seasons with injury.
Mark came back with a vengeance, however, showing his old self and then some. By 1997, he was not only creeping in on Maris’s record, however, but he also found himself doing so on a new team in the Cardinals.
In St. Louis, Mark made history. In 1998, he went head-to-head with Sosa as the pair attempted to make history with 61 home runs. Mark won the race, hitting 70 home runs in 1998 and beating Maris’s record again with 65 in 1999. Injuries highlighted Mark’s final two years in the MLB, but his record-setting seasons put him in the history books forever. That history, however, was made for all the wrong reasons.
A brotherly betrayal
Mark’s steroid use was not exactly a secret during his home run race, details ESPN. He even displayed a bottle of androstenedione, which was banned in the NFL and several other leagues, but not the MLB. At the time, baseball didn’t care enough to jump on the obvious secret. Fast-forward to several years later, and steroids in baseball were all the talk.
Throughout the following years, Mark waffled between taking the blame and playing ignorant for many years before coming clean about his steroid use in 2010. That same year, Jay released a book highlighting his brother’s steroid-use. Mark claimed that steroid-use stemmed from injuries, but Jay, a bodybuilder, disagreed, according to Bleacher Report. He pointed to his brother’s increased size as proof.
“[Mark] knows that he [was] getting stronger and bigger, come on,” Jay said in an ESPN interview to promote the book. “He is coming across that it is only for health reasons [that he used the drugs], but he put on 30 pounds of lean muscle mass. That is why a lot of people don’t understand why he is not really coming out clean like that. Why not just admit it all? It is OK, everyone knows how powerful these drugs are.”
How this affected Mark McGwire’s bond with his brother
Jay wanted his brother to just admit that he was complicit, but Mark continued to paint himself as a victim by throwing Jay and others under the bus. This caused a rift in their relationship that lasts to this day. Mark was devastated to see his brother go public with such allegations.
“You try to be a good person, you try to take care of somebody, be a good brother,” Mark said per ESPN. “It’s sort of sad. It’s a sad day for my family. I don’t know how a family member could do something like that.”
Nowadays, Mark is coaching at a high school level after several years as an assistant in the majors. For his part, Jay has been silent since the book dropped in 2010. The Mark McGwire story was once a happy distraction from the outside world, but it quickly turned ugly. Lost in all the tarnished records and debates about performance-enhancing drugs is a story of brothers who were torn apart because of the scandal. Hopefully, the pair can rekindle their relationship before it is too late.