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Farrey: History is made over time
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Caple: The summer of McGwire
Monday, September 10, 2001
It's a long ways from '91
By David Albright
Special to ESPN.com
Editor's note: This column originally appeared on ESPN.com on Sept. 29, 1998.
ST. LOUIS -- Mark McGwire was afraid. But he wasn't too afraid to admit it. Back in 1991, when he still played for the Oakland A's, he was scared that he might end up the season hitting below .200.
That may have been seven long years ago in McGwire's career, but it's something he hasn't forgotten -- even on the day he celebrated his 70th home run of the 1998 season.
"I appreciate everything," he said. "Back in '91, you're looking at a guy that asked his manager to sit down, scared to hit under .200."
La Russa remembers that moment, too.
"I've always felt that was one of the nicest compliments anybody has ever given me, because you have to have a lot of confidence in your relationship to ask," La Russa said Sunday in his office following McGwire's historical day. "The truth is, when I left the house the night before I said, 'I'm not playing Mark. We're not going to allow it to happen.'"
He came back strong in '92, hitting .268 and increasing his power output from 22 to 42 home runs, but then the injuries started. McGwire only played 74 games over the next two seasons.
It could have been the end.
"But you're also looking at a guy who turned his career around because I could have walked away from the game, stuck my head in a hole and never been heard from again," he said. "So, I'm a perfect example of a player who has dealt with so much adversity -- injuries, playing terrible -- but then working hard, climbing that mountain and reaching the peak."
From the depths of '91 to the zenith of '98, it's been a remarkable run for McGwire.
"Even if it was just the baseball side it would be really significant and impressive," La Russa said. "But you think about the injuries and the rehabilitations, that he overcame those things. I think it's even stranger than fiction what this man has done."
What's really scary is that McGwire, who turns 35 on Thursday, thinks he is still in the prime of this athletic career.
"I can remember my comments from three or four years ago," McGwire said. "I said I didn't think I was getting into the best part of my life yet as far as an athlete. I think now I'm right in the mix of it."
And he's not afraid to admit it.
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