(Busch Stadium) Earlier tonight, the St. Louis Cardinals announced Pepper Martin, Tim McCarver, and Mark McGwire as their 2017 Hall of Fame inductees.
“I was really impressed with Mark,” shared Mike Matheny, who was teammates with the slugger during the 2000-01 seasons. “Nobody’s going to give any sympathy, but it would have to be extremely difficult to be a superstar and be anywhere near normal. There was a period of time, specifically ’98, probably outside of our political leaders maybe the most recognizable face on the planet. With that in mind, I thought it transferred over–and I was able to spend a lot of time with him when we were teammates, and to watch how he treated people when everybody wanted something from him all the time. I know that sounds like that’s a great thing, I don’t care who you are, that would wear on you. He handled that with as much class as I think you could handle it.
“Watching him then, you take a superstar and put him into a coaches role, and that doesn’t always translate well when you think it would. But amazing how he was able to switch it and it be all about somebody else, when it was forced all about him. The pressure he withstood that season and what he did for the game, when the game was at a very vulnerable state. Give Sosa credit too, but Mark was amazing.
“Everybody, the state of the game I believe should be grateful for how he handled that. Watching him as a coach then and how he sincerely just wanted to see other people succeed and didn’t want the limelight, all he wanted to do was help–a lot like what we see with Willie McGee now, it’s the exact way you’re supposed to go about it as a coach. Mark was very impressive.”
In his five seasons with St. Louis, McGwire played in 545 games and hit .270 with 220 home runs and 473 runs driven in.
He was the hitting coach for the Cardinals when Matheny took over as the manager after the 2011 season. The two worked together that next season before McGwire accepted the same position with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“We talked a lot about how hard it was, once again I don’t think you get too much sympathy out there for fame,” continued Matheny. “I think people around here catch a little bit of that, enough to understand the magnitude of what he had to deal with. But as a coach, he was himself. Really, there was still a lot of attention when he’d head out into the public, but around here, he was even more so himself because it was him giving instead of so much being expected. Because as a player there was a lot on him to be ‘the guy’. He loved just being one of the staff. I’ve got a lot of respect for him in many different ways.”
More than 40,000 votes were cast during the six-week voting period. Other nominees included Steve Carlton, Keith Hernandez, Jason Isringhausen, Edgar Renteria, and Scott Rolen.
The 2017 Cardinals Induction Class will be formally enshrined at a ceremony on Saturday, August 26th.
photo credit: Eric Risberg-AP, Ron Vesely-Baseball Hall of Fame