McGwire Highway Revisited

I am advised by the impeccable Derrick Goold of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the stretch of asphalt to be de-named after Big Mac (see lengthy tedious post below) and rechristened in honor of Mark Twain, had, long before Mac, been part of the Twain Expressway. So the great writer has not somehow been overlooked by Missouris Department of Transportation. Of course, this does mean that the DOT has gone back from McGwire to Clemens.

12 Comments

That last sentence is a perfect example of why I love you so much. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the fact that this is a managed site. The last few days have been very upsetting. I was relieved to come home and not find myself dragged into the fray.

In my opinion, Bic Mac fading away into obscurity doesn’t necessarily serve baseball. Every time his name comes up his steriod use is mentioned. There is talk about how he will never be admitted into the Hall of Fame. I think it’s a good reminder that there are consequences when you cheat. It may take some time but my hope is that there are kids out there who will grow up knowing that there are no circumstances where this use is appropriate.

Thank you for updating on your dad’s condition. I will continue to send positive thoughts your way. I’m glad you are able to use this site as a getaway. Be well and give your dad a kiss for me ;)

Keith — your McGwire-Clemens crack annoys me to bits … but only because I didn’t think of it first. Darn it.

Norman Chad’s column this week features this query from radio’s Jim Bohannon: “Because of his steroid use, the Missouri State Senate has voted unanimously to rename a stretch of I-70 now called Mark McGwire Highway. Wouldn’t it make more sense to just keep the name and widen it to 16 lanes?” (I’m not necessarily a devoted fan of either guy, but, hey, I laughed.)

I’ve always wondered how “Big Mac Land” in both new & old Busch Stadia has escaped de-naming. A quick check of the Internets reveals that St. Louis area McDonald’s restaurants are pretending that the idea for Big Mac Land just sprang randomly from someone’s head one day in 1998. (Mark McGwire? Who is this Mark McGwire of whom you speak?) I get that McDonald’s is anxious that people not think “steroids” when they think “beef,” but, geez, a lot of people already know what the inspiration for Big Mac Land was. Don’t they?

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to think of something clever or magical or flowery to say about you & your father. I haven’t come up with anything, save … your intelligence, compassion, eloquence, humor (and love of baseball) have deeply touched my life, & the lives of many others. You make us laugh, you make us think, you revive us when we may be discouraged about … um … things (baseball -related and otherwise). Because members of your audience don’t actually know you, we can’t truly reciprocate in your time of trouble — except in fervent & hopeful thoughts, prayers, and good wishes. You and your father have mine, every day. And I’m also hoping you can somehow be insulated from the cruelties of the small-minded.

Lol, Clemens.

KO- your Dad is always on my list of people that I wish for a return to
good health. Unfortunately, My Dad and as of last Sunday his brother are also on my list. My uncle was a Marine officer for some 25 plus years and I always tell him that he is my hero. He tells me to not put him on a pedestal, because it’s a long way down. I am of the opinion that Mac,BB, Sammy et. al. have definitely fallen off.Loved the Clemons comment, and I am sure you know that “mark twain” is twelve feet deep.

So, “little” Marky is losing his stretch of Interstate 70, huh? Well, as a Cubs fan, I’m truly crying a river. And, Mark Twain getting it “back” isn’t exactly an improvement as far as I’m concerned. If someone wants to name that stretch of highway for a Cardinal, there’s gotta be more worthy Cardinals out there; heck, I’d settle for Bruce Sutter since he was the relief pitcher for Ryne Sandberg’s iconic game back in July 1984! ;D It could be called the “Sutter Slide” or something; I’ll come up with something more catchy when I’ve had all my coffee.

I’ve been sitting here thinking… I think the reason I enjoy your baseball blog (and Countdown) so much is that you don’t just deliver information, you give it life. I’ve always enjoyed politics and baseball, but with you it’s like the difference between seeing a picture of the Eiffel Tower – and actually visiting and exploring it with a cheerful, funny and friendly tour guide who knows all the interesting stories involved. Or the difference between seeing a picture of a meal – and smelling, tasting and enjoying a gastronomical delight. Does this make any sense? I hope so… it’s late and I’m sick, so please forgive me if I miss a step here and there. :) You have truly enhanced my love of baseball, and informed me politically, while keeping me delightfully entertained at the same time. That’s no easy task, but you make it look easy. You have a gift, and you use it well. Sorry if this is embarrassing you (I hope not), but I just felt like I needed to say it. It’s been buzzing around the back of my mind for some time, and I just finally figured out why it is that poor Lawrence O’Donnell (who does a fine job, don’t get me wrong) has trouble sometimes holding your audience’s attention. It’s not that he’s bad – far from it. He’s quite good. It’s just that he doesn’t have your gift – and very few actually do, so he’s working with a bit of a disadvantage. I’m glad he’s there to step in for you while you’re gone. By the way, I love the research you do on baseball… research has always been one of the things I love to do, and you bring up such interesting tidbits that I always look forward to your next post. Your piece on Christy Mathewson had me totally enthralled. P.S. – loved the Clemens bit in this post. I thought about Clemens vs. Twain, and completely forgot about Clemens vs. McGwire, and then it hit me and I laughed out loud. That one snuck up on me. Last, but far from least, I’d like to send hugs to you and your father. I hope he wakes up soon – without pain – and is able to move closer to you as originally planned. Wish I could meet him. I’d be willing to bet he’s an amazing person. Take good care of him – and of yourself. Thanks. :)

Regarding your dad: keep the faith. You may not realize how much you are doing for your father simply by your reading to him and your presence, whether he is conscious or not. May your heart find peace. Jan

Kieth
I love baseball and this blog and the peace I know it gives you. I don’t read or post on blogs much I found yours sometime ago and check it out each week for baseball history,trivia or whatever you write about and yes I’m a big fan of Countdown you have spoken for this steel worker many times for that I thank you.
I live in small southeastern Ohio town grew up with the Big Red Machine my dad would take me to Riverfront stadium to watch some of in my mind some of best baseball players of our time Rose,Bench,Morgan,Perez just to name a few.
I have an eleven year old son that gets to meet some of the Reds greats each summer they have a Reds legends camp for the kids where I live.
I wish there was a way to repay you for being a voice for us hard working middle class people the only thing I can and will is to keep you in my thoughts and prayers I’ve been in your situation and it’s hard I try to remember all the good times me an my dad had I still miss him every day.
Thanks again KO for all you do.

Insomnia & the internet … a bad combination …

For some reason, Thomas Oliphant’s anecdote about happening upon the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge in Indiana — from the book Praying for Gil Hodges — popped into my head tonight, as I mused some more about the Missouri Highway Formerly Named After Mark McGwire. Which led me to wonder …
Are there any other U.S. highways/bridges/infrastructure-y type things named for living and/or active ballplayers?
There are plenty of roads, etc. named in memory of great players. A (very) cursory search online, & through my memory, reveals –the Jackie Robinson Parkway, part of Georgia State Route 93 near his birthplace in Cairo,
–the Jackie Robinson Parkway, connecting Queens & Brooklyn
–the Ted Williams Parkway, a part of California State Route 56 near San Diego
–the Ted Williams Tunnel (“the Big Dig”), under Boston Harbor, leading to Logan Airport
–the Branch Rickey Memorial Highway, a section of U.S. Route 23 near Columbus, Ohio
–the Jim Thorpe Memorial Highway & Mickey Mantle Memorial Highway, both in Oklahoma
–the Jack Buck Memorial Highway, described appropriately enough as “running through the heart of St. Louis” (I know, he wasn’t a player, but I couldn’t leave him out)
–the other Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge (really the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Bridge), from Brooklyn to Queens

Undoubtedly there are more, but you get the point (now that I’ve cured everyone else’s insomnia).

I limited this search to major freeway-type roads, b/c otherwise this could have gone on all night. But once I saw the Mickey Mantle Memorial Highway — you’ll like this, ford810 — I had to know if anything in OK was named for Johnny Bench, & indeed there is a Johnny Bench Drive in Oklahoma City, in what looks like a trendy retail/restaurant area. (It’s right by Mickey Mantle Drive.) But it’s unclear to me whether it was named while he was an active player — it may have been in honor of his retirement. I dunno.
Does anyone know of any roads named for an active player? I can’t think of any offhand. (I once considered launching a campaign to re-name Cleveland “Thometown,” so that he might stay here, but that’s not the same thing.) For that matter, does anyone know of any other roads, etc., named for ballplayers? There doesn’t seem to be a master list on the internet, so you know, if my sleeplessness continues, I could end up creating one. It would be totally pointless, but many baseball-related lists are, so why not?

Anyway, McGwire may demonstrate why it’s sometimes dangerous to name stuff after the living — they still have ample potential to disappoint.
KO: the usual love & prayers to you & your dad. I hope you read him “The Unicorn in the Garden.” (There’s a sculpture of Thurber’s unicorn, along with a plaque containing the entire fable, in the garden by the Thurber House in Columbus. It’s lovely.) Love & prayers, too, to everyone here with family members in ill health.

So what am I supposed to do with my 36″ long ‘Mark McGuire Drive’ Cardinals red road sign purchased from the St. Louis County Housing Authority as a fund raiser in 1999?

When the legislator who’d authored the original change from Mark Twain to Mark McGwire Hwy, proposed changing it back to the more worthy Mark, local news here in Cardinal Nation interviewed fans for their views. My absolute favorite reaction was the guy who said, “Don’t rename it; just add an asterisk!”

On another topic, if I may, I only just found this post when I linked over from HuffPo to read your poignant tribute to your father. You have my family’s sincerest condolences. Last Wed. would have been my mom’s 83rd birthday, the first since I lost her, along with my role as the caretaker daughter. So like many who posted on your tribute page, I know what you are going through. Being the one sib still in town with her could be heartbreaking, exhausting, exasperating, bureaucratic (the great Medicaid spendown of all she had worked for on her own), often lonely, but had a grace all its own, and I would not trade the blessing of being with her for her last hours on earth, for anything else on this earth. It is clear from your posts that you feel the same way. I’d like to add as well, that my son follows baseball, and your sports AND pol. commentaries with the fervor unique to one w/ ASD, since losing the similarly stat-memorizing presence of HIS father. My son tries to discuss sports with his sports-challenged old Ma, and I try my best. But I am glad you are out there to pick up the slack in that particular area. Politics, tho, is my thing, and he keeps me up to date on your great work. (In deference to MLB, I’ll leave it at that.) Again, sir, our deepest sympathy to you and your sister on your sad loss.

First, Keith, my sympathies for your loss. Like many who watch you on Countdown, we feel we know you even though you don’t know us and I know these last months have been very difficult. Take your time and come back to us when you can (hopefully before the ’10 elections.)

I am of two minds regarding Mark McGwire’s highway. I still have his US Olympic Card and can remember how he thrilled us then and in his early years with the A’s. Sure, he took enhancing drugs, but he did it in a different era, before there were rules against it. I remember that back in those days the concern was not about Andro and steroids but real illegal drugs like the cocaine scandals that swept the Mets and the Pirates in the 80s. It is easy to condemn in retrospect, but most of these enhanced players were less than bright athletes who were being encouraged to dope by coaches, trainers, and agents.

On the other hand, Missouri’s dilemma gives us a good cautionary tale. I currently live in Georgia where state law allows public roads, highways, and bridges to be named after any person, living or otherwise, nominated by the legislature. This has led to a mania for naming stretches of road after minor and obscure politicians (I live off a highway named for the local chairman of the Parole Commission), many of whom have since been indicted or otherwise disgraced. There are also tributes to Braves players, some of whom are still active on other teams. While Hank Aaron Way, which passes by Turner Field, seems well named, one shudders to think of how many locales may carry the names like OJ Simpson or Pete Rose.

Maybe states should consider laws limiting such accolades to players who have since been admitted to a hall of fame, although this would not have helped with OJ Simpson (I wonder if the city fathers of Buffalo or Erie County have had to make any similar revisions.) Just because someone can hit a ball or run a play better than anyone seen in years seems like a transitory reason for immortalizing them in geography. Better to wait, as in the case of Ted Williams or Jackie Robinson to insure that their fame and accomplishments really do transcend their own era. (And the same should go double for politicians; “Duke” Cunningham Parkway anyone?) In the meantime, if highways and other landmarks really need naming, perhaps the custom should be to revert to safe and deserving persons, such as fallen soldiers, police officers, and firefighters. I think we can all agree that these heroes far more enhanced their communities even if they couldn’t hit a low-slider or throw on the run. (And maybe B-H could name a store for Theodore Olbermann so it really could be “his” store?)

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