When Mark McGwire played at the Olympics
Mark McGwire may be the most famous Olympic baseball player.
McGwire, then a 20-year-old who had yet to play a professional game (and 25 years before he admitted to steroid use in the 1990s), beat out Will Clark for the starting first base job on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team.
McGwire, Clark and Barry Larkin turned out to be the biggest MLB stars from those Los Angeles Olympics, where American players were recent collegians. Larkin remains the only MLB Hall of Famer with Olympic experience.
Tryouts included more than 3,000 candidates -- from a 12-year-old girl to a 43-year-old man -- scattered across 63 open one-day tryouts in fall 1983, according to Sports Illustrated.
McGwire, who went 4 for 21 in five Olympic games, and the U.S. lost in the final of that Olympic baseball tournament to Japan at Dodger Stadium.
“I don’t really remember,” much about the Olympics, McGwire said in 2014. “I remember I didn’t do very well.”
Though McGwire said in 2014 that he has a medal, baseball was merely a demonstration sport at those Games, hoping to join the official Olympic medal program.
“It was like a World Series atmosphere, for never being in a World Series at the time,” McGwire said of playing in front of a reported crowd of 55,235 in the night-time Olympic final. “Now I know what a World Series is like. But it was awesome, it really was. A packed house.”
The IOC approved baseball as a medal sport starting with the 1992 Barcelona Games and running through Beijing in 2008, but big leaguers never participated as MLB never took a break in its season.
Baseball returns to the Olympic program next year in Tokyo but will not be played at the 2024 Paris Games. It could be added for the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028.
“It was a great honor,” McGwire said. “Unfortunately, I wish I could say that I had a gold medal for it.”
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