The Biggest Names of 1997
By Dana Heiss, Baseball Weekly 12-24-1997 - Bruce Brumfield of Christiansburg, Va., had the right idea. He voted for Roger Maris as baseball's biggest name of 1997.
``It was his record being chased,'' Brumfield said about Maris' still-standing single-season record of 61 home runs in 1961. ``He never gets the recognition he deserves.''
Maris got just that one vote, but the men who pursued his home-run record -- Mark McGwire and Ken Griffey Jr. -- scored plenty with fans.
They were the biggest names in baseball in 1997, according to more than 100 readers who responded to a Baseball Weekly Clubhouse survey.
Until the final days of the regular season, every hot streak and slump by McGwire or Griffey made news. McGwire, who was traded to St. Louis from Oakland after the All-Star break, finished on top of the majors with 58 home runs. Griffey followed with 56.
A similar neck-and-neck race developed between McGwire and Griffey in our Clubhouse survey, until a late surge of votes put McGwire ahead for good with a survey-high 91 votes. Griffey finished in second place with 77.
Three men tied for third with 48 points each: Eric Davis, Roger Clemens and the late Jackie Robinson, who was honored by having his number, 42, retired by every major league team 50 years after Robinson broke baseball's color barrier.
``It was a nice reminder this year of what Jackie Robinson meant to baseball and society,'' Troy Porter of Redding, Calif., said.
``He deserves to be named Sportsman of the Century,'' Bob Routier of Alpharetta, Ga., said.
Other top vote-getters were the AL Rookie of the Year, Nomar Garciaparra (46 votes), and the National League MVP, Larry Walker (40 votes).
People also wrote in names of players they thought Baseball Weekly overlooked. Leading the write-ins were Sandy Alomar Jr., the '97 All-Star MVP, with 13 votes, and Randy Johnson, who earned six votes after going 20-4 with a 2.28 ERA this season.
``I like Randy Johnson because he was out for almost a month, but still had almost the same numbers as Roger Clemens,'' Jane Provinsal of Spokane, Wash., said.
Judging by the results of the poll, fans found 1997 to be a banner year for new stars, old favorites and long-departed heroes like Maris and Robinson.
``I think baseball was awesome this year,'' Brendan Wood of Campbell, Calif., said.``I was sad to see the season end.''
Mark McGwire 91
Ken Griffey Jr. 77
Roger Clemens 48
Eric Davis 48
Jackie Robinson 48
Nomar Garciaparra 46
Larry Walker 40
Pedro Martinez 29
Cal Ripken 21
Randy Myers 11
Others receiving votes: Sandy Alomar Jr., Brady Anderson, Buddy Bell, Brett Butler, Tony Clark, Juan Gonzalez, Livan Hernandez, Todd Helton, Todd Hundley, Charles Johnson, David Justice, Tommy Lasorda, Mark Lemke, Roger Maris, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Denny Neagle, Carlos Perez, Ivan Rodriguez, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Scott Spiezio, Frank Thomas, Robin Ventura, Jaret Wright.
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