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To Retire or Not to Retire

by LS Murphy

When Mark McGwire hit his 62nd homerun on September 8th, 1998, the steroid era was in full swing. Looking back on that day, the world was different. The World Trade Center stood proudly over the New York skyline. No one had any idea what a hanging chad was. The war in Iraq was over. Twitter didn’t even exist as a word. The world was more innocent. And the nation had it’s national pastime back.

Watching the ceremony 11 years later doesn’t take away what McGwire did. Even if he was juiced. When a young Tim Forneris said, “Mr. McGwire, I think I have something that belongs to you”, the heartfelt sincerity of the young man echoed the thoughts of the city. It couldn’t have played out better. It was a perfect moment.

And during the post game ceremony, Bill DeWitt pointed to the retired numbers in the upper deck of Old Busch Stadium, and said “That number (McGwire’s 25) will be parked right up there.”

McGwire retired unceremoniously via fax in 2001. Old Busch gave way to New Busch in 2006.

His number still was not retired.

Before the steroid scandal became public knowledge, Big Mac should have seen his number retire. Ozzie Smith’s #1 was retired on September 28th 1996, before the season even ended. It was clear that Ozzie had a Hall of Fame career. It was fitting to retire his number. Prior to the 2005 Congressional hearings, McGwire was headed to the Hall himself.

The St. Louis Cardinals have not reissued #25 since McGwire retired from playing. They also have not reissued #51 (Willie McGee) or #57 (Darryl Kile). It’s a nice gesture but it isn’t the same. Especially after the owner of the team made it clear that he intended to retire the number on national television.

It’s obvious that the steroid scandal did not cause McGwire’s name and number to stand with Bruce Sutter, Jackie Robinson, Ozzie Smith, Lou Brock, Dizzy Dean, and Bob Gibson. The question then is why? You’d have to ask Bill DeWitt that one.

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Cardinals Mix blog featured writers LS Murphy,Brian F. Logush
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