Let me just start by saying that I LOVE MARK MCGWIRE.
I also hate him.
I hate him because he turned out to be everything Jose Canseco was not. A true king of home run hitters, quiet, respectful, fan friendly, and he always carried himself with grace. I was jealous of Big Mac, especially during his 1998 home run chase that captivated America. In the end, Jose Canseco turned out to be a one-hit wonder who succumbed to the fast lifestyle he chased. Meanwhile, McGwire’s journey ended in St. Louis, where he was poised to break Hank Aaron’s record until injuries and rampant speculation ended it all. By the time he faced congress in 2005 and appeared to be holding back tears as he repeated over and over again how he didn’t go there to discuss the past, I was first in line to say I TOLD YOU SO. JOSE TOLD US ALL.
I celebrated Mark McGwire’s downfall.
I’m not proud to admit jealously made me a Big Mac hater. How would you feel if the player you worshipped for 20+ years suddenly asked his fans to pay $2,500 to spend the day with him while serving house arrest? All that and so much more even before Twitter was invented and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Jose Canseco is a clown and not a funny one. Meanwhile, McGwire and his home run rival, Sammy Sosa, have been silent for what seems like two decades. Perhaps these former stars chose to enjoy their golden years away from the spotlight OR just maybe they both went into seclusion after fans and yes, collectors, turned their backs on them for the better part of twenty years? Whatever the case, it’s time to dust off your McGwire and Sammy Sosa cards because both of them are back in the spotlight in 2020!
In case you missed it, there is an upcoming ESPN documentary based on the 1998 Home Run Chase between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. It was in that season that McGwire broke Roger Maris’ single season home run record. As the supporting cast member, Sammy Sosa put together the most dominant numbers ever seen in which he hit 60 or more home runs in 3 out of 4 seasons. In that non-60 home run year, he hit 50 home runs. Today, both players have been all but forgotten in the world of sports and by the collectors who chased all their cards in the 90s but long ago unloaded their collections.
Until this month, that is. If you don’t have copies of these two outcasts’ rookie cards before the end of May, your window of opportunity “may” soon expire. See what I did there? You can also expect to see older certified autographs of these two sluggers absolute explode due to the fact that back in the late-90s and early-2000s, card manufacturers were not including 50,000 autographs and parallels in every product. If you pulled a Mark McGwire autograph in 2000, it was the equivalent of winning the lottery. Today, the mystique of finding a “golden ticket” has been removed thanks to guaranteed autos per case, box, and packs.
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There is absolutely nothing good about this pandemic that has nearly killed 100,000 Americans and left over 30 million unemployed BUT I am happy that thanks to the stay at home quarantine, sports fans and former collectors have begun digging through their old collections and have slowly been getting back into this hobby. Unfortunately, collecting is nothing like it was in the 80s and 90s but thankfully, rediscovering the careers of these two baseball heroes doesn’t have to include a $500 game of chance in which you might be lucky to find a bench player’s autograph.
Let’s once again celebrate these sluggers and the good days of collecting when design was more important than including 15 year old prospects in the checklist, 30,000 sticker autographs, and 40 indistinguishable parallels. These two stars came from the days when card companies produced only 4-5 rookie cards but collectors only bought into one. Today, any big prospect will have 20,000 different rookie cards, not to mention another 10,000 Minor League cards. Less is more and that is why the days of iconic imagery and unforgettable baseball cards are long gone.
As for Sosa and Big Mac, it’s time to forgive. In the 80s and 90s, mostly everyone in the game was cheating. Mark and Sammy’s careers were the stuff of legends and their downward spirals were just as remarkable. It was a time when anyone and everyone was cheating to put up big numbers and were rewarded with huge contracts. You can’t just single out a select few and make them the scapegoats for an entire era of sports. I for one am excited that these two ambassadors of the game, as it was in 1998, will once again have their moment to shine in the sun, both in the sports world and in the card collecting community.
Welcome back, guys. We all missed you.