Former star first baseman Mark McGwire put together a highly productive 17-year career in the majors. During his heyday, McGwire was heralded as one of the game’s best home run hitters that were vaunted by his 70-home run year in 1998 with the St. Louis Cardinals. That all came tumbling down as he became linked to steroids that led to his eventual admission to using performance-enhancing drugs nearly a decade after he played his final MLB game. It was a long journey toward McGwire admitting to using an illegal substance, but it didn’t come without him trying to cover his tracks a bit in why he used them.
Mark McGwire’s MLB career
From the moment that Mark McGwire burst onto the scene in historic rookie campaign behind a then-record 49 home runs by a first-year player, he stayed in the limelight as one of the young talents in the league.
McGwire was a key part of the Oakland Athletics through the late 1980s and into the early 1990s, where he established himself as a bonafide star player behind multiple All-Star selections and was part of the 1989 World Series winning team. During his span of six straight All-Star selections, he topped 30 home runs five times and more than 40 home runs twice. McGwire experienced rough stretch with injuries, but did hammer out a pair of 50-home run campaigns before being traded to the Cardinals in the 1997 season.
He spent the last five years of his career with St. Louis before retiring due to injury after the 2001 campaign. That saw him experience two of the greatest single seasons in his first two years with the team. That was highlighted by his 1998 home run battle with Sammy Sosa as he had a then-record 70 home runs and followed that with 65 the next season. McGwire struggled with injuries in his final two years playing in fewer than 100 games in each campaign before retiring at age 38.
Mark McGwire’s reason for taking steroids
Mark McGwire’s career has since been clouded by the talk of steroids use as he was outed by former longtime teammate Jose Canseco in his book entitled Juiced.
McGwire was among the 11 baseball players and executives subpoenaed to testify at a congressional hearing on steroids in 2005. The 12-time All-Star denied discussing his career at any length. However, McGwire did come clean in 2010 as he admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs only for health purposes, according to ESPN.
“During the mid-’90s, I went on the DL seven times and missed 228 games over five years,” McGwire said. “I experienced a lot of injuries, including a ribcage strain, a torn left heel muscle, a stress fracture of the left heel, and a torn right heel muscle. It was definitely a miserable bunch of years, and I told myself that steroids could help me recover faster. I thought they would help me heal and prevent injuries, too.”
McGwire did experience a tough stretch in his career where he missed more than 200 games over five years. He worked through many injuries, but that doesn’t excuse his decision to utilize that to get through it. That may not have been on the banned list, but it was a shady and unfair method that contributed to his success.
Mark McGwire’s legacy forever tainted
Mark McGwire’s career has become forever linked to steroid use that has tainted his legacy.
That made it extremely difficult for him to get any footing in the voting for the Hall of Fame as he never got any real traction. Other players associated with steroids such as Sosa, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds have yet to receive enough votes to earn an induction.
McGwire put forth a highly productive career, but his legacy has become one of the most notable asterisks in MLB history.