Mark McGwire is an American folk hero. There's really no other way to put it. He is permanently embedded in our national conscious as the man who, while in a heated race with Sammy Sosa, broke Roger Maris' single season home run record in the summer of 1998.
Whether or not he is ever put in the Hall of Fame or officially recognized for hitting the 11th-most home runs in baseball history doesn't really matter. McGwire played from 1986 to 2001. He was Rookie of the Year, a 12-time All-Star, won a Gold Glove, three Silver Sluggers, and even got a World Series ring when he was a member of the Bash Brothers.
McGwire may not have been the best player in the 90's but he was a living legend. And the same can be said about NBC's Mad About You, which ran from 1992 to 1999. The Paul Reiser / Helen Hunt vehicle may not be remembered the way that Seinfeld or Friends is, but it still had a memorable run highlighted by 12 Emmys, mostly won by Helen Hunt and Mel Brooks in guest appearances.
One person who did not get an award for his appearance on Mad About You is Mark McGwire. Big Mac appeared as himself in a 1999 episode called "Virtual Reality II." If you have 21 minutes, you can watch it right here. If you don't, I'll give you a quick summary.
Paul mops himself into the corner in the kitchen. Then Paul makes pancakes and is very excited to savor them, but Ira shows up and ruins breakfast. But then Ira saves the day by giving Paul a large check from an investment he made during a 1994 episode called "Virtual Reality." This has paid off big time and Paul wants to put the money in the bank, but Jamie, who is also wearing a robe (did I mention Paul was wearing a robe?) wants to roll the money over and invest in another virtual reality company run by a child. Jamie and Paul invest and the virtual reality program tells them that a man will choke on a bread stick at lunch. This happens and the man is Mark McGwire's agent. Also, Ira's girlfriend reveals she is getting a sex change operation. The program then tells them that Jamie will end up in bed with Mark McGwire. They go to the party and after Mark McGwire repeatedly spurns the advances of Jamie and Paul and Ira on Jamie's behalf, Paul and Jamie go to the bar to have two shots of vodka, as one does at a fancy party for Mark McGwire. Eventually, they get so drunk off vodka shots that Mark McGwire's agent gives them a hotel key so they can sleep it off. They get the wrong key, go to the wrong room and Big Mac gets into his boxers and then is shocked to find Helen Hunt in his bed. In the post credits scene McGwire has replaced Paul at the Buchman's dinning room table and Paul is off to play first base for the Cardinals. McGwire tells him to wait for his pitch.
So here's how I looked while watching this episode this morning.
What was the point of this? Ah, yes, Big Mac!
Mark McGwire was surprisingly natural in this. He only had a few brief lines, but he was funny and had great delivery. And of course he also had a classic cameo on The Simpsons. Kind of makes you wonder what we missed out if he had followed the path of other athletes who dabbled a little more in acting.
So take a few moments today to appreciate two unforgettable, but maybe under-appreciated titans of the 90's. Mad About You and Mark McGwire, together bonded by their domination of everyone's favorite decade to remember stuff from.