McGwire on Hall of Fame ballot for sixth time

Statistically, he’s the most consistent power hitter the game has ever known.

Mark McGwire’s story contains so much more than that. But on the field, McGwire was undeniably a star.

“I still tell him that it was an honor and pleasure to play with him,” said Albert Pujols, the man who took over for McGwire at first base for the St. Louis Cardinals.

McGwire is one of 34 players on the 2015 Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot for the Class of 2015 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. McGwire returns to the BBWAA ballot for the ninth year after receiving votes on 11.0 percent of ballots in 2014.

BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 6. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all BBWAA votes cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2015. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 26 in Cooperstown.

Born Oct. 1, 1963, in Pomona, Calif., McGwire was an eighth-round draft pick of the Montreal Expos in 1981 – but opted for a scholarship at the University of Southern California. After three years at USC and a stint on the 1984 United States Olympic Baseball Team, McGwire was drafted in the first round by the Oakland A’s.

The 6-foot-5, 225-pound McGwire shot through the minor leagues and debuted in Oakland – as a third baseman – on Aug. 22, 1986. The next season, the A’s moved McGwire to first base – where he proceeded to hit a rookie record 49 home runs en route to a unanimous win in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.

With McGwire and Jose Canseco leading the way, the A’s became the American League’s dominant team – winning three AL pennants from 1988-90, and the World Series in 1989. In those three seasons, McGwire averaged almost 35 homers and 101 RBI per year – and won the AL Gold Glove Award at first base in 1990.

Injuries began to take their toll on McGwire as he approached his 30s, and he missed most of the 1993 and 1994 seasons. But in 1995, McGwire – playing in only 104 games – hit an astonishing 39 home runs and was named to his seventh All-Star team. The next season, McGwire hit 52 home runs in only 130 games.

More was still to come.

“I don’t know if people believe this stuff,” McGwire said. “But I think when that when the stars are aligned right, things happen.”

In 1997, McGwire had 34 home runs on July 31 when he was traded to the Cardinals for Eric Ludwick, T.J. Mathews and Blake Stein. Then, in the season’s final two months, McGwire hit 24 more home runs – making a run at Roger Maris’ single-season mark of 61 before falling just three short.

The next year, with baseball still struggling to recover from the devastating strike of 1994, McGwire – along with the Cubs’ Sammy Sosa – chased Maris’ record all summer. Finally, on Sept. 8, McGwire broke the record with his 62nd homer – hugging his son Matt as he crossed the plate.

He finished the season with 70 home runs, a mark since topped by only Barry Bonds. More importantly, he brought many fans back to the game.

“That day, Sept. 8, I had a real calmness about me,” McGwire said. “It was a very eerie feeling that I didn’t ever experience again or hadn’t experienced before.”

McGwire led the National League with 65 home runs and 147 RBI in 1999, but was limited to just 32 home runs in 89 games in 2000. The next season, plagued by injuries, McGwire hit .187 – but did have 29 homers in just 97 games.

He retired following the season with 583 home runs (tied for 10th all-time), 12 All-Star Game selections and a home run every 10.61 at-bats – the best mark ever.

1998 St. Louis Cardinals scorecard vs the Montreal Expos - Mark McGwire's 69th and 70th home runs of season. - BL-3904-2000 (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

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