St. Louis Sports Online

Eric Niederhoffer 

St. Louis SportsOnline

columnist & principal photographer

Mark McGwire: "Baseball is not Important!" 13 September 2001

Well, I could not believe it this evening as I was driving home from work.

I was listening to a replay of an interview with Mark McGwire that took place at Busch stadium this afternoon.

Mark McGwire said, "Baseball is not important!"

To be fair, you must know the context of the remark.

McGwire was asked his opinion of MLB's decision to not play any games this weekend in light of the tragic events of this past week, the loss of thousands of lives from the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and western Pennsylvania plane crashes. The airplane crashes that resulted from four separate hyjackings by middle-eastern fundamental religious terrorists. What some of the major media are calling "Attack on America."

Don't misjudge me or Mr. McGwire. We both are moved and deeply saddened by what has happened this week. I could not read or listen to any account of the terror without tears coming to my eyes and dripping down my face.

I had family working near the Manhattan WTC site. Fortunately they were not physically harmed.

And after observing McGwire over the past few years, I think he is sincere in his feelings.

I am sure most of the players and management personnel are deeply moved and troubled by the national crisis facing us at this time. A crisis that some say will forever change America.

However, I paused during my listening to think about some other things associated with baseball. Some specific to the Cardinals and to McGwire.

First, the Cardinals have been lobbying for a new stadium and have been seeking a comprehensive funding package that uses mostly other peoples' money to pay for the proposed development. The plans call for a major investment in the downtown area.

To the Cardinals, baseball is important.

Some in the City of St. Louis and State of Missouri have said that there are other items more important than a new stadium when considering new funding projects. There appears to be a decrease in Missouri revenues and city and state services should come first.

To the critics, baseball is not important.

Second, McGwire recently signed a two-year contract extension that reportedly pays him ~$30 million dollars. He has been the major attraction for the team and has brought excitement and interest to St. Louis.

To Mark McGwire, baseball is important.

To some baseball fans, the disappointing injury to McGwire calls into question the wisdom of that big investment. A batting average of less than 0.200 draws some attention.

To those critics, baseball is not important.

Most people around the nation have been waiting for the President to tell them what to do. That to me provides an easy way out for MLB , the Cardinals and McGwire.

But the President has declared this Friday a national "Day of Mourning." He has encouraged us to spend time in our religious place of choice. He also said that we should return to normal activities. A statement that McGwire used during his comments.

To the President, baseball is important!

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