McGwire Hits His First Home Run

McGwire Hits His First Home Run

August 25, 1986

The fans in Tiger Stadium on August 25, 1986 didn’t know they were about to witness history when A’s prospect Mark McGwire stepped to the plate in the fourth inning. The man who would later shatter Roger Maris‘ single-season home run record was about to go deep for the first time in his major league career.

The Montreal Expos originally drafted McGwire as a pitcher in the eighth round of the 1981 draft. He decided, however, to go to the University of Southern California, where he flourished at first base, setting a Pac-10 record with 32 home runs his junior year and earning a spot on the 1984 Olympic team. The A’s drafted McGwire with the tenth pick in 1984 and sent him to Single-A Modesto as a full-time third baseman. McGwire won the 1985 California League Rookie of the Year Award and his performance in the minors the following season earned him a promotion to the A’s on August 20th.

McGwire got his first major league hit on August 24th against Yankees left-hander Tommy John and bashed his first home run the next day off Tigers’ right-hander Walt Terrell, a majestic 450-foot blast to center field. His home run sparked the A’s in a five-run fourth inning, capped by a Mickey Tettleton home run. The A’s won the game 8-4. Three days later, Mark hit his second home run against Baltimore southpaw Scott McGregor, and launched his third on September 9th at Chicago off another lefty, Ray Searage.

Despite his obvious power potential, McGwire batted an anemic .189 with only ten hits in 18 games. He also had some trouble in the field, making six errors in 16 games at third base.

But in 1987, McGwire flourished in his first full season in the majors, aided by a shift across the diamond to first base. Hitting behind 1986 AL Rookie of the Year Jose Canseco, McGwire drove in 118 runs and tied Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson for the major league lead with 49 home runs. A unanimous choice for AL Rookie of the Year, McGwire smashed the major league record for home runs by a rookie, which had been jointly held by Frank Robinson and Wally Berger with 38.