Before he became a superstar with the Oakland Athletics and well before he had any involvement in
using performance enhancing drugs, Mark McGwire had a good but very brief career with the Huntsville Stars.
McGwire played for the Stars in 1986, the second year the ball club was in the city of Huntsville. McGwire’s time with the Double A affiliate of the Athletics lasted 55 games.
Going into the 1986 season, the Oakland coaches were very aware of McGwire’s talents, especially when it came to appearing at the plate. In his 55-game career in a Stars’ uniform, McGwire batted .303, belted 10 home runs, drove in 53 runs and handled duties very well at first base.
McGwire was making an impact with the Stars at the same time another future Oakland player was
in which Huntsville was on top of the Southern League’s Western Division by the time the All-Star break had arrived.
Jose Canseco spent the inaugural season in Huntsville and welcomed McGwire to “The Rocket City” in 1986. Oakland decided to move McGwire on to the major league roster in August of thst season with the Athletics already out of contention for the American League Western Division crown and looking ahead in building a winner that would culminate with three consecutive appearances to the World Series by the end of the decade.
Those who were able to see McGwire and Canseco play in Huntsville, had the opportunity to experience the potential of these two up and coming stars from the minor leagues. McGwire with a size of six-feet, four-inches and thin, but with a tremendous bat in which would get him onto the majors in less than two years after was taken as the 10th player in the ’84 Major League Baseball Draft.
In 1987, McGwire was locked into the starting position for the A’s at first base and began to turn heads from the fans to the media in Oakland with a tremendous rookie season. McGwire crushed 49 home runs and went on to easily claim the American League Rookie of the year award.
McGwire, a native of California, was also a member of the ’87 All-Star Game in which the mid-summer classic was played that year in Oakland.
Getting a chance to display his skill in Double A with opposing pitching being at a quality to analyze hitting skills, McGwire was able to produce with Huntsville and set sail on a good beginning in the majors before his alleged involvement with performance enhancing drugs.
With McGwire leaving Huntsville in August of ’86, it didn’t stop the Stars from reaching the goal of winning their second consecutive Western Division title. Huntsville unfortunately wasn’t able to repeat as champions of the Southern League with the Columbus Braves getting past the Stars three games to two to be the best that season.
But the impact McGwire provided inspired Canseco, Terry Steinbach, Walt Weiss and others who would eventually join McGwire in Oakland a few years later and would create an incredible ball club that became champions of the American League in 1988, 1989 and 1990, winning the World Series in ’89 by sweeping the San Francisco Giants.
McGwire has been long gone from Huntsville, but his performance with the Stars has never been forgotten.