Mark Grace -- Under-appreciated "Ballplayer"

Mark Grace -- Under-appreciated "Ballplayer"

In case you missed the news, it was recently reported that Mark Grace was arrested on suspicion of DUI in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Fans and supporters of Mark Grace can only hope the incident results in more public awareness around the issue of driving while intoxicated.  

Grace, the one-time Cubs' ambassador to Chicago night life, currently works as a color commentator for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and is one of the more beloved former Cubs among Cubs fans.
Since leaving Chicago and joining the Arizona Diamondbacks for their World Series championship year in 2001, Grace has been regarded as somewhat of an outcast to members of Cubs management.  During an interview given moments after the Diamondbacks defeated the New York Yankees in the 2001 World Series, Grace remarked that somehow he wasn't good enough to play for the Cubs, but was good enough to be the first baseman on the world champion Diamondbacks.  Grace's comment was regarded as a slap in the face to the Cubs organization, and consequently, Grace has never been treated by the Cubs organization the way that other former great Cubs have been.
mark grace.jpgDuring his career, Grace was a notable enemy of sorts to Sammy Sosa.  As the world embraced Sosa during his breakout season in 1998, Grace publicly supported Sosa.  Upon leaving Chicago, however, Grace was quick to state that Sosa was one of the worst teammates he'd ever had and that Sosa had always placed his own personal success above that of the Cubs.
His take on Sosa drew even more ire from the Cubs organization and a large portion of Cubs fans.  In the ladder days of Sosa's career in Chicago, Grace's take on the Cubs slugging outfielder would come to light as Sosa's final game in a Cubs uniform led to him walking out on his team and leaving the ballpark before the game had ended.
As Sosa's public reception grew more sour thanks to reports that Sosa had been a user of performance-enhancing drugs, Grace's perception of the Cubs superstar seemed to hold more truth, and less careless despise, than Cubs fans once believed.
Still, after ten years, the former all-star and gold glove winning first baseman of the Cubs has been cast in the shadows by Cubs personnel.
Though Grace's career never ascended to the heights of other first baseman of his era -- Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Frank Thomas, just to name a few -- Grace's Major League Baseball career has always been overlooked.
Grace was quite possibly the last true ballplayer to play the game.  Along with the likes of other former great players like Tony Gwynn, John Kruk and Lenny Dykstra, Grace was one of a rare breed of Major Leaguers that were not necessarily great athletes, but rather great ballplayers.
While other players were often found in the weight room, working to become physical specimens, true ballplayers -- like Grace -- were often found enjoying their time away from the game mingling with fans, enjoying the night life and just being regular guys.
Over the course of baseball history, the presence of guys like Grace is what has made the game as relatable to the public and as fun to watch as it has been.  Guys like Babe Ruth, Ted Kluszewski, "Moose" Skowron, Yogi Berra and so many other "average Joes" are what has helped make baseball America's pastime.  
Known for being a smoker and drinker, Grace never aspired to be anything more than a solid baseball player.  His physique didn't matter, and publicly, he never tried to be anything other than just a "guy who plays baseball for a living."  In short, Grace just wanted to hit and field.
As the general public has come to find out that a vast majority of players during Grace's era were abusing steroids, Grace is still one of the forgotten standouts of the 1990s.  
As if the lack of appreciation for Grace's career wasn't enough, in his first year of eligibility for the baseball Hall of Fame, Grace received a staggeringly low 4.1% of the vote, and has thus been deemed ineligible for entry until 2024 under new Veteran's Committee rules.  
Seems a bit unjust for the player who had more hits in his era than any other player to play the game. 
And he did it without the help of pharmaceuticals -- unlike so many.

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