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McGwire still the best of 1984 draft
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2004 First-Year Player Draft
06/01/2004  3:32 PM ET
McGwire still the best of 1984 draft
Pitching-rich draft featured Maddux and Glavine
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Mark McGwire finished with 583 home runs, the sixth-highest career total. (James A. Finley/AP)
It would make sense to write a story about the pitchers drafted in 1984. When you take into account that those pitchers include Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Al Leiter and Jamie Moyer, you could write a dissertation on how the 1984 draft was the birthplace of the modern day changeup.

Despite the pitching legends signed that summer, one name called in June of 1984 still towers above the rest: Mark McGwire. The gangly USC first baseman had some power potential coming out of college. But it's unlikely the Athletics knew they were drafting a man who would become the best right-handed power hitter of his generation, and possibly of all-time. It's impossible anyone knew that the redhead with a million-watt smile would resurrect the game of baseball in front of millions of adoring fans while he chased the famed "61."

But in 1998, 14 years after being selected with the 10th overall pick in the 1984 First-Year Player Draft, McGwire did just that. In his first full season as a St. Louis Cardinal, McGwire lived in a baseball world that hadn't fully recovered from the 1994 work stoppage. Attendance was sagging, and casual fans hadn't completely come back to the sport.

Still, the baseball community was holding its collective breath anticipating McGwire's season. Why? Because in 1997, playing for the Athletics and Cardinals, McGwire had bombed 58 home runs, and looked effortless doing so. For a country captivated by the home run, Big Mac was its premier entertainer.

And for the first time in decades, McGwire was a hitter that actually looked like he could and would break Maris' record.

By the start of that 1998 season, McGwire was easily the biggest draw in baseball. The ability to sell tickets, alone, makes a first-round pick a draft winner. Baseball fans showed up to watch him hit behemoth home runs during the games, and surreal home runs during batting practice. And by the All-Star break, McGwire had launched 37 homers, tying the mark set by Reggie Jackson in 1969 for most home runs in the first half of a season.


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The nation was on alert. Those casual baseball fans began attending the Cardinals' games all over the country, in record numbers. Then, even the casual non-fan was drawn into the spectacle.

The great home run race of 1998 was unique because McGwire and Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa were both chasing the great 61. But McGwire remained the steady leader for most of the season. And with it, he remained baseball's favorite son.

History was finally reshaped on September 7th, when McGwire matched Maris. One day later, No. 62 barely cleared the left-field wall in Busch Stadium, completing McGwire's ascension to the top of the record books.

It's safe to say eight other teams kicked themselves the entire summer for letting McGwire slip to the tenth spot in the 1984 draft. Ironically, the Cardinals passed on McGwire for pitcher Mike Dunne out of Bradley, but amended their error some 13 years later.

Of course, Big Mac was a first-round winner before the historic 1998 season. His career began in the same glorified fashion. As a rookie in 1987, Big Mac blasted 33 homers before the All-Star break and finished the season with 49, as well as 118 RBIs. He was a unanimous choice for AL Rookie of the Year and was one of the most lauded rookies in history.

His 49 long balls smashed the old rookie record of 38, which was previously held by Frank Robinson and Wally Berger. And he had a few great years in between as well. When it was all said and done Big Mac walked away with 583 home runs, and a little place in America's imagination.

Of course, McGwire is just one the 839 total players selected during the 1984 draft's 51 rounds. Some fulfilled their potential, and some didn't. Here's a sample of 1984's solid first-round choices, flops and its later-round gems:

First round to the Major Leagues

No. 1, OF Shawn Abner, Mets (Mechanicsburg HS, Pa.): Abner spent seven Major League seasons as backup outfielder, primarily for the San Diego Padres. Clearly, the .227 lifetime hitter didn't reach the potential scouts saw in a first overall pick. But he did become a contributor.

No. 2, RHP Bill Swift, Mariners (Maine): Swift reached the Mariners the summer after being drafted. As a 23-year old in 1985, the right-hander held his own with a 6-10 record. He teased the Mariners for the next five years, never quite demonstrating the ability to win every fifth day that was expected. His best season came in 1993, when he won 21 games for the Giants. But Swift never won more than 11 games in any other Major League season.

No. 4, SS Cory Snyder, Indians (Brigham Young): After exploding onto the scene with 24 home runs in just 416 at-bats during the 1986 season (back when 30 home runs was the benchmark), Cory Snyder was tagged as the next great power hitter. But after tallying 33 and 26 in his next two seasons, Snyder began a rapid decline and never hit more than 18 in any season.

No. 8, SS Jay Bell, Twins (Gonzalez Tate HS, Pensacola, Fla.): As a sure-handed shortstop, Bell was a key component in the great Pirates teams of the early 1990s. By 1995, he had also become an offensive force, culminating with 38 home runs and 112 RBIs in 1999 for the Diamondbacks.

No. 11, OF Shane Mack, Padres (UCLA): Best remembered for his role on the 1991 World Series champion Twins, Mack hit .310 with 18 home runs and 74 RBIs that season.

No. 12, OF Oddibe McDowell, Rangers (Arizona State): Good player. Great name. McDowell was an everyday player for the Rangers just one year after the draft, and hit 18 home runs in both 1985 and 1986. His play declined after 1987, but his name will always be remembered as one of the greats.

No. 24, LHP Terry Mulholland, Giants (Marietta College): The durable lefty has a no-hitter and 2,400-plus innings pitched to his credit. And at 41 years old, Mulholland is the only player in the first round of the 1984 First-Year Player Draft still playing.

No. 28, LHP Norm Charlton, Expos (Rice): The "Nasty Boys" wouldn't have been the same without this eccentric lefty starter/reliever. He won 12 of 16 starts for the 1990 world champion Reds, with a 2.74 ERA, and later became a solid closer for the Reds and Mariners.

Other Notables: No. 14 C John Marzano, Red Sox (Temple); No. 16 RHP Scott Bankhead, Royals (North Carolina); No. 21, RHP Pete Smith, Phillies (American HS, Hialeah, Fla.).

Disappointments

No. 5, RHP Pat Pacillo, Reds (Seton Hall): Pacillo will always be remembered as one of the top relievers in Seton Hall history. Sadly, he didn't make a successful transition to the Major Leagues, starting just 18 games in 1987 and '88. He never pitched again after that.

No. 9, OF Alan Cockrell, Giants (Tennessee): Cockrell hung on to his Major League dreams for years, finally appearing in nine games for the Rockies in 1996 as a 33 year old. His career line: eight at-bats, two hits, two RBIs.

No. 13, C Bob Caffrey, Expos (Cal St. Fullerton): The key figure on Fullerton's 1984 team that defeated Mark McGwire and USC in the College World Series regionals, Caffrey never played a game at the big-league level.

No. 15, LHP Kevin Andersh, Pirates (New Mexico): He left the University of New Mexico as the Lobos' career leader in losses, not what you'd expect for the No. 15 overall pick. Maybe scouts saw "potential" in Andersh, but he had little more success at the minor league level and never played a Major League game.

Late-round jackpots

RHP Greg Maddux, Cubs, 2nd round (31st overall): Not exactly a late-rounder, but based on his career it's hard to imagine Maddux wasn't taken higher. Seven wins shy of the 300 in his illustrious career, the 38-year old Maddux is still a solid Major League starter. During the 1990s, however, he was the best right-handed pitcher in baseball, redefining the standard for control pitchers. Between 1992-'95, the man with a career 2.91 ERA won four straight Cy Young Awards. He's Cooperstown bound and will be talked about for generations to come.

LHP Tom Glavine, Braves, 2nd round (47th overall): Virtually the left-handed equivalent of Maddux, Glavine followed him in the Braves rotation between 1993 and 2002. Two Cy Young Awards adorn his mantle, from the 1991 and '98 campaigns. In the midst of a 2004 revitalization, Glavine is 43 wins shy of the daunted 300 mark. Whether or not he ever reaches the milestone, he will be considered one of the greatest left-handed starters of all-time.

LHP Al Leiter, Yankees, 2nd round (50th overall): Leiter wasn't considered a late-round steal by the Yankees, who immediately created lofty expectations for the young lefty. He never reached his potential in pinstripes, but went on to become a top-tier starter for the Blue Jays, Marlins and Mets, reaching the World Series with each of the three teams. The two-time All-Star hasn't won less than 11 games since 1994.

3B Ken Caminiti, Astros, 3rd (71st overall): The switch-hitting third baseman was rarely healthy enough during his career to play a full season. But when he was, Caminiti was an All-Star caliber player, making three midseason appearances in 1995, '96, and '97 -- and a one-time MVP in 1996.

LHP Jamie Moyer, Cubs, 6th round (135th overall): Moyer's career numbers won't warrant Hall of Fame consideration, but if there were a museum for "over 40" performers, Moyer could well be the charter inductee. The lefty dominated American League hitters in 2002 and '03 at the ages of 40 and 41, respectively, tallying 34 combined wins with an ERA hovering around 3.30.

Other notables: OF Keith Miller, Yankees, 2nd round; OF Greg Myers, Blue Jays, 3rd round; SS Sean Berry, Red Sox, 4th round; LHP Mike Henneman, Tigers, 4th round; OF Wes Chamberlain, Pirates, 5th round; OF Lance Johnson, Cardinals, 6th round; 3B Scott Livingstone, Blue Jays, 6th round; SS Jody Reed, Red Sox, 8th round; 1B John Vander Wal, Astros, 8th round; RHP John Wetteland, Mets, 12th round; RHP Jeff Brantley, Expos, 13th round; 3B-SS John Jaha, Brewers, 14th round; RHP Darren Holmes, Dodgers, 16th round; RHP Mark Gardner, Indians, 17th round; OF Dante Bichette, Angels, 17th round; 1B Gene Larkin, Twins, 20th round; LHP Jeff Fassero, Cardinals, 22nd round; Jeff Nelson, Dodgers, 22nd round; RHP Bob Scanlan, Phillies, 25th round.

Kent Malmros is a contributing writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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