Mark McGwire 70th home run ball
Unfettered conspicuous spending and tacit approval of performance-enhancing drugs in sports: The '90s were a far different time.
Back when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were chasing Roger Maris' single-season home run record, it was largely viewed as a renaissance for Major League Baseball and the closing of a sad chapter that included the loss of the 1994 World Series to a labor dispute. Did fans know that, years later, both McGwire and Sosa would be hauled in front of Congressional committees and grilled about steroid use? Maybe, but they weren't saying so when McGwire and Sosa were trading shots.
Comic book creator Todd McFarlane showed particular interest, buying nine of McGwire and Sosa's home run balls and paying a whopping $3 million for McGwire's 70th in 1999. McGwire's record wouldn't stand long, as Barry Bonds would hit 70 home runs during the 2001 season.
McFarlane bought Bonds' ball, too, but by then the tide had started to turn against steroids. In 2003, McFarlane paid $450,000 for the Bonds ball and watched the steroid era unravel. Jose Canseco started writing tell-all books, 11 ballplayers testified before Congress in 2005 and, ultimately, McGwire flat-out admitted to steroid use in 2010 -- acknowledging he'd used them during the 1998 season specifically. He's since started a career as a hitting coach with the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers and coached the Cardinals lineup that won the 2011 World Series.
McGwire is successfully rebuilding his image, but only history can decide if that 70th home run ball will ever return to its original $3 million value.