Rugby World Cup
This Week's Issue
Life of Reilly
SI for Women
CNN/SI - TV
Golf Pro Shop
MLB Gear Store
NFL Gear Store
SI FOR KIDS
One Cool Daddy: An Inside Look|
Posted: Wed September 2, 1998
In this week's cover story, which reaches newsstands and subscribers starting Wednesday, senior writer Rick Reilly introduces the Mark McGwire you've probably never meta man who, during a drive home to Southern California after the 1991 season, finally realized what was important to him. The revelation helped resurrect his career.
Reilly spoke with CNN/SI about the flip side of Big Mac.
REILLY SOUNDS OFF:
Rick Reilly: Compared to the access I had to Michael Jordan, it was like visiting your next-door neighbor. He just gave me all kinds of time. He just couldn't have been nicer. You know, I expected it to be every day like the last day of Saigon, but it wasn't. If he didn't have a big game or if he didn't hit a home run, I guess the other writers didn't even try to talk to him, or he had some rule. But what I would do is, he would always work out after the game, then he'd come back to his locker and I'd be the only one there, and he'd give me 45 minutes to an hour every night. He was always the last to leave the clubhouse.
CNN/SI: Can you compare McGwire's life to what you saw with Jordan and the Bulls?
Reilly: Every step Jordan made once he got out of his Range Rover inside the United Center was covered by cameras, every step. And not just one camera10 cameras, until he got into the locker room. And then when got out of the locker room, every step until he got into the Range Rover, and then until he was gone. That wasn't how it was with McGwire. I would say it was one-fifth as bad as Jordan.
The only thing that was similar was the signs, the people begging, the people leaning over walls trying to get things to him. With McGwire it only lasts an hour out on the field before the game. And then the other thing is, unlike Jordan, where people are shooting pictures in warmups because he exists, with McGwire they were all there to see the warmups. It was amazing: stands packed, the cage totally surrounded, and both teams come out, even his own pitchers who see it every dayto watch him hit those BP balls. I've never seen anything like it.
CNN/SI: How much do you think he cares about breaking Maris's record? He often tries to downplay it.
Reilly: He gets misty in his eyes so often, I noticed, when he starts talking about history. He gets misty. He's very emotional now, and I think he downplays it because he doesn't want to start crying in front of people. I think it means a lot to him. Since he hit 50, he's been much more emotional about it, much more talkative. And I think the record would mean a huge amount to him. But, you know, he started to get misty talking about three straight years with 50, which no one had ever done; that meant a lot to him too.
He's kind of a worrier, and I think it does bug him that if he doesn't do it people will think he's failed. And he's trying to tell us all, "Hey, I hope you won't think I've let you down if I don't do this."
CNN/SI: In the story you talk about how McGwire is kind of a homebody. Is that a result of his celebrity, or is that just the way he is?
Reilly: He's always been that way. I don't think he's much of a drinker; I think he has a grasshopper now and then. I think he's kind of the anti-jock: He doesn't wear a lot of jewelry, he doesn't want to go out, he doesn't care much about money. He's pretty simple.
CNN/SI: How well did you know him before, when he played in Oakland?
Reilly: He was really friendly with me when I used to do Jose Canseco stories or when I'd see him in clubhouses. He seemed to read my stuff, which is rare nowadays. But he knew me, and he read me, and when I'd see him he'd say, "This piece was good," or, "That piece was no good."
So when I saw him this time I said, "It's Rick Reilly from Sports Illustrated," and he turned and he goes, "I know who you are," like really glaring. And I thought, Oh God, this is going to be the worst month of my life. Then he stuck out his hand and said, "Nice to see you again," laughing. So he was kind of sending me up.
CNN/SI: How does he feel about the adoration and attention he gets from fans?
Reilly: He's great about signing autographs. He's not real talkative with fans. He hates collectors and he can pick them out of the crowd. One time when he and I were standing near the first-base stands, he goes, "That guy in the dark glasses, he thinks I don't see him but I see him. He was here yesterday, and now he's trying to wear dark glasses and a hat, I'm not signing for that guy." And the guy of course is hearing everything he's saying, and he just backed off.
CNN/SI: How has McGwire changed since his days with the A's?
Reilly: I think that when Canseco was such a hot story, McGwire liked not being the hot story; he actually liked watching it and not being in it. And now that he's in it I don't think he likes it that much.
As for his emotional side, I didn't know him that well before. But I had dinner with his ex-wife, visited with his parents, got to know his brotherand they all told me about the changes.
CNN/SI: Obviously he's grown closer to his family, but how tight were they before?
Reilly: I think they were a very nice, all-American family. But you know, jock families, they don't often talk. They don't go into emotional things. A lot of jock dads think it's weak: "We don't talk about that, that's wimpy. We don't cry, we don't talk about emotions, we don't talk about love." So here's this 250-pound beast trying to discover how to do that all on his own and failing lots of times until finally he seems to have gotten it right.
CNN/SI: Do you think he'd be having the kind of success he's having without this self-discovery?
Reilly: No, I don't think there's any way. That's what he said, too. Once he got his priorities rightwell, that's such a cliché. Once he figured out what mattered to himhis son, his own peace of mindand got over the failure and realized that he's a good person, then baseball became what it is supposed to be, which is a game. I don't think there's any way he'd be doing what he's done the last three years if he wasn't emotionally right.
Copyright © 1999 CNN/SI. A Time Warner Company.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.