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Nearly everything about Mark McGwire is big. As McGwire goes after baseball's most imposing record, CNN/SI presents memorable moments from his larger-than life:
October 1, 1963
Mark David McGwire is born in Pomona, Calif., the third of five brothers who would make the Bunyan clan seem tiny. Fully grown, the McGwire boys will range in height from 6'2" to 6'8". Mark, at 6'5", will wind up right in the middle.
Talk about playground prescience: In his first Little League at-bat, seven-year-old Mark launches a home run. Three years later he'd set the Claremont (Calif.) Little League record for dingers with 13, a mark that would stand for two decades.
As a sophomore at Damien High in Claremont, McGwire decides to return to the first sport he learned—golf—and temporarily quits the baseball team. "The thing I liked about golf was that you were the only one there to blame when something went wrong." McGwire would eventually choose swinging a bat over swinging a five-iron.
Young Mark McGwire
As a senior in high school, McGwire impresses pro scouts more with his arm than his bat. In June, he is selected by the Montreal Expos in the eighth round of the draft—as a pitcher. Instead of signing, he accepts a baseball scholarship to the University of Southern California.
The '84 USC squad produces both a premier slugger in McGwire and a vaunted strikeout pitcher in Randy Johnson. McGwire, who dropped pitching and became a full-time first baseman after his freshman year, hits 32 homers in 67 games as a junior at USC. That single-season mark matches the school's career record. The Oakland A's draft McGwire in the first round. During the summer, he plays on the U.S. squad that wins a gold medal at the Los Angeles Olympics.
August 11th 1987
McGwire, who made the A's in spring training as a non-roster invitee, becomes one of the most successful rookies ever. On this date he hits home run No. 38, tying the major league rookie record. McGwire and wife Kathy go out for burritos to celebrate. He would break the record three days later.
Mark McGwire 1984
August 30,
Mark's brother, Dan, makes his first collegiate start at quarterback for Iowa in the Kickoff Classic at Giants Stadium. The P.A. announcer's introduction: "At quarterback for Iowa, Mark ... Dan McGwire."
October 4,
McGwire gives up a shot at 50 homers for the chance to greet his first-born child. Mark becomes the Mac Daddy when, with 49 dingers, he skips the final game of the season to be there when his wife, Kathy, gives birth to their son, Matthew. "I said to myself, 'I will never have another first-born, but I will have another chance to hit 50.'"
October 19th 1998
McGwire's game-winning homer off the Dodgers' Jay Howell in the ninth inning of Game 3 gives Oakland its only victory in the 1988 World Series. The home run was McGwire's only hit of the Series. It was a shocking defeat for the A's, who were powered by "The Bash Brothers"—McGwire and Jose Canseco. The duo combined for 154 homers during the '87 and '88 seasons.
Mark McGwire 1987
October 17,
McGwire atones for his '88 World Series ineptitude by batting .343 in the postseason. But his world is shaken—literally—when an earthquake registering 7.1 on the Richter scale postpones the World Series for 10 days. The quake rocks San Francisco's Candlestick Park just before Game 3, and McGwire helps family and friends out of the stands and onto the field. McGwire is the only Oakland regular not to homer in the Series, which the A's sweep from their Bay Area neighbors.
Returning briefly to the links, McGwire caddies for PGA Tour pro Billy Andrade at the Daikyo Palm Meadows Cup in Australia. Andrade finishes second. "They couldn't get over how big I was or that I was carrying Billy's bag with one hand instead of slung over my shoulder." No word on whether Big Mac got a big tip.
McGwire becomes a walking M*A*S*H unit. He spends five long stints on the disabled list and misses 290 games over three seasons. Assorted ailments include: a rib cage strain, a torn left heel muscle, a sore back, a stress fracture in his left heel, and a torn right heel muscle.
Another injury, this time to his right heel, causes McGwire to contemplate retirement. The people closest to him help change the slugger's mind. "My dad and family told me that if I retired, it'd be the biggest mistake of my life."
September 14,
McGwire launches his 50th round-tripper of the season, off Cleveland's Chad Ogea, to become the 13th player in history to reach that milestone. After the game, McGwire gives the home run ball to his eight-year-old son, Matthew.
July 31,
Cash-strapped Oakland deals the game's premier slugger, sending McGwire to the St. Louis Cardinals for a trio of young arms. To say the least, the city rolled out the red carpet. "I came to St. Louis, and the people just overwhelmed me. I had never felt anything like that. The energy level was just incredible."
August 8,
After a 71 at-bat drought, McGwire finds his home run stroke in his Busch Stadium debut. Against Philadelphia's Mark Leiter, he drills his first National League tater 441 feet off the left-field foul pole.
Mark McGwire 1997
September 16,
McGwire elects not to test the positively tropical free-agent waters and signs a three-year, $30 million deal with the Cardinals. At the press conference, a teary McGwire announces that $1 million of his annual salary will go to charities to aid abused children.
September 28,
McGwire hits his 58th and final home run of the season off the Cubs' Steve Trachsel at Busch Stadium. He becomes the second player in history to hit more than 50 homers in back-to-back seasons. Babe Ruth did it in 1920-21 and 1927-28.
March 31,
McGwire starts his run for the record in style with a a fifth-inning grand slam off the Dodgers' Ramon Martinez in a 6-0 St. Louis win. It's the first Opening Day grand slam by a Cardinal.
May 16,
McGwire clubs a bases-empty shot that travels an estimated 545 feet to straightaway center, the longest of his career and in Busch Stadium history. "It's the best ball I've ever hit," McGwire says afterward. "I don't think I can hit a better one that that." Home run No. 16 merely ties McGwire with Colorado's Vinny Castilla for the major league lead.
June 12,
McGwire reaches the midpoint of the march to Roger Maris' 61 homers, smacking a grand slam off of Arizona's Andy Benes for his 31st longball of the year. After the game, McGwire refuses to talk about the record chase. Heck, he didn't even know it was a grand slam until he received three high fives at home plate. "I was into trying to really mentally prepare myself against Andy because he got me out the first time. So I wasn't aware of who was on base." Now that's concentration.
Aug. 22,
An Associated Press writer spots a bottle of androstenedione in McGwire's locker and files a story on the slugger's use of the testosterone-producing supplement, which is available over-the-counter and is allowed by Major League Baseball but is banned by the NBA, NFL and the IOC. The story causes a minor sensation. "It's legal and nobody even bothered talking to our trainers," McGwire would respond the next day. "There's absolutely nothing wrong with it. The whole basis of this was some guy from the AP snooping around my locker."
Aug. 29,
After chatting with volatile Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight before a game against the Braves, McGwire is ejected by rookie umpire Sam Holbrook in the first inning for arguing a called third strike. Fans at Busch Stadium show their displeasure by showering the field with trash and assorted knickknacks. "The farthest thing from my mind of what I wanted to do was eject Mark McGwire," Holbrook would say. "I bent over backwards not to do so. I did everything I could to keep him in the game and he continued to argue. At some point I had to draw the line."
Sept. 1,
With two swings, McGwire ties and then breaks Hack Wilson's 68-year-old National League record with home runs number 56 and 57, helping the Cardinals to a 7-1 win over the Marlins. "They look like pingpong balls going out," Florida manager Jim Leyland says afterward. "I haven't seen anything like it."
Sept. 8,
A day after tying Maris's mark of 61, McGwire ends the suspense. With two out and none on in the fourth inning, he lines a pitch from the Cubs' Steve Trachsel into the left-field corner at Busch Stadium. The ball barely clears the fence, ending Maris' 37-year-reign. In his excitement, McGwire leaps over first base and has to go back to tag it. After rounding the bases he lifts son Matthew high into the air, then goes into the stands to meet with Maris's children. Sosa later comes in from right field and McGwire picks him off the ground as well. Before the game, McGwire had been presented with the bat Maris used to hit No. 61. "I touched it. I touched it with my heart," McGwire said. "Now I can honestly say my bat's going right next to his and I'm damned proud of it." Ironically, at 341 feet the record-setting home run is his shortest of the season, but it helps the Cardinals to a 6-3 win.
Sept. 25,
When Sosa hits No. 66 in Houston, McGwire falls behind in the home run race for the second time this season. Big Mac needs only 45 minutes to respond—his No. 66 is a fifth-inning, two-run shot off Montreal's Shayne Bennett at Busch Stadium.
Sept. 27,
The challenge from Sosa seems to ignite a torrid streak. With a pair of homers—his fourth and fifth in the last three games of the season—McGwire takes the home run record to a new plateau. The first shot, No. 69, comes with none on in the third inning off Montreal's Mike Thurman. Then, in the seventh, in what would be his last at-bat of 1998, McGwire scorches a Carl Pavano offering into a luxury box in left, a three-run laser shot eerily similar to the homer that broke Maris's record. The final number that will go into the record books: 70. "I can't believe I did that," McGwire says. "It's absolutely amazing. It blows my mind."

Text by Brian Hamilton
Photos by (top to bottom) Courtesy of the McGwire Family, Jacqueline Duvoisin, Mickey Pfleger, Ronald C. Modra


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