Remembering the Cardinals-A's Trade That Sent Mark McGwire to St. Louis

Mark McGwire was traded by the Oakland Athletics in 1997.
Mark McGwire was traded by the Oakland Athletics in 1997. / Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

Mark McGwire was one of the best players in Major League Baseball during an era that has unfortunately been marred by rampant steroid use. McGwire was one of the stars whose career has been stained, but in his prime he was atop the baseball world.

Younger fans may not realize McGwire played 12 seasons with the Oakland Athletics. That's because of a 1997 trade that sent the slugger to the St. Louis Cardinals, where he reached a new level of stardom by hitting 70 home runs in 1998. The trade was great for the Cardinals, but it didn't do much to help the A's.

McGwire was in the final year of his contract on an A's team headed toward a fifth straight losing season. In return Oakland got three pitchers in Eric Ludwick, T.J. Mathews, and Blake Stein. Luckwick appeared in six total games for the A's; Mathews made 210 appearances as a reliever over the course of five seasons; and Stein didn't turn out to be much either, with his claim to fame being a start in 1998 when he failed to record an out through the first eight batters of the game. His A's career was over in 1999.

McGwire hit 363 home runs in his 12 seasons with the A's. He started his Cardinals career with a bang by launching 24 home runs in only 51 games to end the 1997 season. Then came two insane campaigns in which he hit a combined 135 bombs. However, his career was over after just five seasons in St. Louis.

On the other hand, the A's avoided paying McGwire and became a playoff team once again in 2000 by instituting the "Moneyball" strategy. If this trade wasn't a complete bust and managed to help the A's at all, Oakland might've had a different playoff story from 2000-2003 -- a span in which they lost in Game 5 of the ALDS every time.