Mark McGwire

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Mark McGwire
McGwire as Dodgers hitting coach
San Diego Padres
First baseman / Coach
Born: (1963-10-01) October 1, 1963 (age 56)
Pomona, California
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
August 22, 1986, for the Oakland Athletics
Last MLB appearance
October 7, 2001, for the St. Louis Cardinals
MLB statistics
Batting average .263
Home runs 583
Runs batted in 1,414
As player

As coach

Career highlights and awards
Medal record
Representing the  United States
Men's Baseball
Summer Olympics
Silver medal – second place 1984 Los Angeles Team
Pan American Games
Bronze medal – third place 1983 Caracas Team
Intercontinental Cup
Silver medal – second place 1983 Brussels Team

Mark David "Big Mac" McGwire (born October 1, 1963), is an American former professional baseball player and currently a hitting coach in Major League Baseball (MLB). As a first baseman, his MLB career spanned from 1986 to 2001 while playing for the Oakland Athletics and the St. Louis Cardinals. He quickly grabbed media attention in 1987 as a rookie with the Athletics by hitting 33 home runs before the All-Star break, and would lead the major leagues in home runs that year with 49, setting the single-season rookie record. He appeared in six straight All-Star Games from 1987 to 1992 despite a brief career decline related to injuries. Another string of six consecutive All-Star appearances followed from 1995 to 2001. Each season from 1996 to 1999, he again led the major leagues in home runs.

A part of the 1998 Major League Baseball home run record chase of Roger Maris' 61 with the Cardinals, McGwire set the major league single-season home run record with 70,[1] which Barry Bonds broke three years later with 73.[2] McGwire also led the league in runs batted in, twice in bases on balls and on-base percentage, and four times in slugging percentage. Injuries significantly cut into his playing time in 2000 and 2001 before factoring into his retirement. He finished with 583 home runs, which was fifth all-time when he retired.

For his career, McGwire averaged a home run once every 10.61 at bats, the best at bats per home run ratio in baseball history (Babe Ruth is second at 11.76).[3] McGwire also holds the distinction of being the fastest player to hit 500 home runs, in only 5,487 at-bats.[4] In 2010, McGwire publicly admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during a large portion of his career.

Early years

McGwire was born in Pomona, California. His father was a dentist. He attended Damien High School in La Verne, California, where he played baseball, golf, and basketball. He played college baseball at the University of Southern California (where he was a teammate of Randy Johnson) under coach Rod Dedeaux.

Playing career (1984–2001)

Oakland Athletics (1984–1997)

After three years at Southern California and a stint on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team, the Oakland Athletics drafted McGwire tenth overall in the 1984 Major League Baseball Draft.

In a short cameo, McGwire debuted in the major leagues in August 1986, hitting three home runs and nine runs batted in in 18 games.

Rookie home run record and major league leader (1987)

Retaining his rookie status in 1987, McGwire took center stage in baseball with his home runs. He hit just four in the month of April, but followed in May with 15, and another nine in June. Before the All-Star break arrived, he totaled 33 HR and earned a spot on the American League (AL) All-Star team. On August 11, he broke Al Rosen's AL rookie record of 37 home runs.[5] Three days later, McGwire broke the major league record of 38, which Frank Robinson and Wally Berger jointly held. In September, McGwire hit nine more home runs while posting monthly personal bests of a .351 batting average, .419 on-base percentage (OBP) and 11 doubles (2B). With 49 HR and two games remaining in the regular season, he chose to sit them out with an opportunity for 50 home runs to be present for the birth of his first child. McGwire also totaled 118 runs batted in (RBI), .289 batting average, 97 runs scored, 28 doubles, a .618 slugging percentage and a .370 on-base percentage (OBP).

Not only did he lead the AL in home runs in 1987, but he tied for the major league lead with Chicago Cubs right fielder Andre Dawson. McGwire also led the major leagues in SLG, finished second in the AL in adjusted on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS+, 164) total bases (344), third in RBI and on-base plus slugging (OPS, .987). He was thus a unanimous choice for the AL Rookie of the Year Award and finished sixth overall in the AL Most Valuable Player Award voting.

More All-Star appearances (1988–91)

File:Mark McGwire 1989.jpg
McGwire with the A's, 1989

From 1988 to 1990, McGwire followed with 32, 33, and 39 home runs, respectively, becoming the first Major Leaguer to hit 30+ home runs in each of his first four full seasons.[6] On July 3 and 4, 1988, he hit game-winning home runs in the 16th inning of both games.[7][8] Through May 2009, McGwire was tied for third all-time with Joe DiMaggio in home runs over his first two calendar years in the major leagues (71), behind Chuck Klein (83) and Ryan Braun (79).[9]

McGwire's most famous home run with the A's was likely his game-winning solo shot in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 3 of the 1988 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers and former A's closer Jay Howell.[10] McGwire's game-winner brought the A's their only victory in the 1988 World Series, which they lost in five games. However, Big Mac and his fellow Bash Brother, José Canseco, played a large part in the 1989 championship club that defeated the San Francisco Giants in the famous "Earthquake Series".[11]

Working diligently on his defense at first base, McGwire bristled at the notion that he was a one-dimensional player. He was generally regarded as a good fielder in his early years, even winning a Gold Glove Award in 1990 – the only one that New York Yankees legend Don Mattingly would not win between 1985 and 1994. In later years, his mobility decreased and, with it, his defense.

However, McGwire's batting averages after his rookie season plummeted to .260, .231, and .235 from 1988–90. In 1991, he bottomed out with a .201 average and 22 homers. Manager Tony La Russa sat him out the final game of the season to avoid allowing his batting average to dip below .200. Despite the declining averages during this time of his career, his high bases on balls totals allowed him to maintain acceptable OBPs. In fact, when he hit .201, his OPS+ was 103, or just over league average.

McGwire stated in an interview with Sports Illustrated that 1991 was the "worst year" of his life, with his on-field performance and marriage difficulties, and that he "didn't lift a weight" that entire season. With all that behind him, McGwire re-dedicated himself to working out harder than ever and received visual therapy from a sports vision specialist.[12][13]

Career resurgence (1992–97)

The "new look" McGwire hit 42 homers and batted .268 in 1992, with an outstanding OPS+ of 175 (the highest of his career to that point), and put on a home run hitting show at the Home Run Derby during the 1992 All-Star break. His performance propelled the A's to the American League West Division title in 1992, their fourth in five seasons. The A's lost in the playoffs to the eventual World Series champion, the Toronto Blue Jays.

Foot injuries limited McGwire to a total of 74 games in 1993 and 1994, and just 9 home runs in each of the two seasons. He played just 104 games in 1995, but his proportional totals were much improved: 39 home runs in 317 at-bats. In 1996, McGwire belted a major league leading 52 homers in 423 at-bats. He also hit a career high .312 average, and led the league in both slugging percentage and on-base percentage.

McGwire's total of 363 home runs with the Athletics surpassed the previous franchise record. He was selected or voted to nine American League All-Star Teams while playing for the A's, including six consecutive appearances from 1987 through 1992. He was one of only four players to hit a ball over the roof in the left field of Tiger Stadium.[14]

St. Louis Cardinals (1997–2001)

File:Mark mcgwire.jpg
McGwire hitting a home run in St. Louis against the Tigers on July 14, 2001

On July 31, having already amassed 34 home runs to this point in the 1997 season, McGwire was traded from the Oakland Athletics to the St. Louis Cardinals, being the third member in just two seasons to go from Oakland to St. Louis (after La Russa and closer Dennis Eckersley). Despite playing just two-thirds of the season in the American League, he finished ninth in HR. With 24 more HR following his trade to the Cardinals, McGwire led the majors with 58 home runs in 1997. He also finished third in the major leagues in slugging percentage (.646), fourth in OPS (1.039), fifth in OPS+ (170), tenth in RBI (123), and ninth in walks (101). He placed 16th in the NL MVP voting.

It was the last year of his contract, so there was speculation that McGwire would play for the Cardinals only for the remainder of the season, then seek a long-term deal, possibly in Southern California, where he still lives. However, McGwire signed a contract to stay in St. Louis instead. It is also believed that McGwire later encouraged Jim Edmonds, another Southern California resident who was traded to St. Louis, to forgo free agency and sign a contract with the Cardinals in 2000.

Single-season home run record chase (1998)

As the 1998 season progressed, it became clear that McGwire, Seattle Mariners outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., and Chicago Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa were all on track to break Roger Maris' single-season home run record. The race to break the record first attracted media attention as the home run leader changed often throughout the season. On August 19, Sosa hit his 48th home run to move ahead of McGwire. However, later that day McGwire hit his 48th and 49th home runs to regain the lead.

On September 8, 1998, McGwire hit a pitch by the Cubs' Steve Trachsel over the left field wall for his record-breaking 62nd home run, setting off massive celebrations at Busch Stadium. The fact that the game was against the Cubs meant that Sosa was able to congratulate McGwire personally on his achievement. Members of Maris' family were also present at the game. The ball was freely, albeit controversially, given to McGwire in a ceremony on the field by the stadium worker who found it.

McGwire finished the 1998 season with 70 home runs (including five in his last three games), four ahead of Sosa's 66, a record that was broken three seasons later in 2001 by Barry Bonds with 73.

McGwire was honored with the inaugural Babe Ruth Home Run Award for leading MLB in home runs.[15] Although McGwire had the prestige of the home run record, Sammy Sosa (who had fewer HR but more RBI and stolen bases) won the 1998 NL MVP award, as his contributions helped propel the Cubs to the playoffs (the Cardinals in 1998 finished third in the NL Central). Many credited the Sosa-McGwire home run chase in 1998 with "saving baseball," by both bringing in new, younger fans and bringing back old fans soured by the 1994 Major League Baseball strike.[16]

Later playing career (1999–2001)

McGwire kept his high level of offensive production from 1998 going in 1999 while setting or extending several significant records. For the fourth consecutive season, he led MLB in HR with 65. It was also his fourth consecutive season with at least 50 HR, extending his own major league record. Sosa, who hit 63 HR in 1999, again trailed McGwire. Thus, they became the first – and still only – players in major league history to hit 60 or more home runs in consecutive seasons. McGwire also set a record from 1998 to 1999 for home runs in a two-season period with 135. Further, he owned the highest four-season HR total, with 245 from 1996 to 1999. In 1999, he drove in an NL-leading 147 runs while only having 145 hits, the highest RBI-per-hit tally for a season in baseball history.

Statistically in 2000 and 2001, McGwire's numbers declined relative to previous years as McGwire struggled to avoid injury (32 HR in 89 games, and 29 HR in 97 games, respectively). He retired after the 2001 season.[17]

Life away from baseball (2002–09)

To shield himself from the controversy connected with performance-enhancing drugs, McGwire generally abstained from public appearances until commencing a coaching career for the 2010 season.

Coaching career (2010–present)

After his playing career ended, McGwire demonstrated coaching ability, personally assisting players such as Matt Holliday, Bobby Crosby and Skip Schumaker before accepting an official role as hitting coach with a MLB team. On October 26, 2009, Tony LaRussa, then manager of the Cardinals, confirmed that McGwire would become the club's fifth hitting coach of his tenure with the Cardinals, replacing Hal McRae.[18] McGwire received a standing ovation prior to the Cardinals home opener on April 12, 2010.[19] In his three seasons as Cardinals hitting coach, they featured a prolific offense that led the National League in hitting and on-base percentage, and were second in runs.[20]

In early November, 2012, McGwire rejected a contract extension to return as Cardinals hitting coach for the 2013 season. Instead, he accepted an offer for the same position with the Los Angeles Dodgers,[21] in order to be closer to his wife and five children.[22]

On June 11, 2013, McGwire was ejected for the first time as a coach during a bench-clearing brawl with the Arizona Diamondbacks.[23] He was suspended for two games starting the next day.

On December 2, 2015, he was named the new bench coach for the San Diego Padres.

Honors, records and achievements

Probably best known as one of the top sluggers of his era, McGwire ended his career with 583 home runs, which was fifth-most in history when he retired. When he hit his 500th career home run in 1999, he did so in 5,487 career at bats, the fewest in major league history.[4] He led all MLB in home runs in five different seasons, including 1987 and each season from 1996 to 1999. Totaling 245 home runs from 1996−99, it was the highest four-season home run output in major league history. Further, in each of those four seasons, he exceeded 50 home runs, becoming the first player to do so. He was also the first player to hit 49 or more home runs five times, including his rookie-season record of 49 in 1987. With a career average of one home every 10.6 at-bats, he is the leader in major league history for frequency of home runs.[3]

As of 2015, McGwire owned three of the four lowest single-season AB/HR ratios in MLB history, which covered his 1996, 1998 and 1999 seasons. They were actually the top three seasons in MLB history until Bonds broke his single-season HR record in 2001. McGwire's 1997 season ranked 13th.[24] Considered one of the slowest running players in the game, McGwire had the fewest career triples (six) of any player with 5,000 or more at-bats, and had just 12 stolen bases while being caught stealing eight times.

Honors and distinctions

In 1999, The Sporting News released a list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, ranking McGwire at number 91. The list had been compiled during the 1998 season and included statistics through the 1997 season. That year, he was elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team (though he received fewer votes than any other selected player). In 2005, The Sporting News published an update of their list, and McGwire had been moved up to Number 84.

McGwire's performance in the Hall of Fame voting has experienced a regressive trend, however, since first becoming eligible in 2007. For election a player needs to be listed on 75% of ballots cast; falling under 5% removes a player from future consideration. Between 2007 and 2010 McGwire's performance held steady, receiving 128 votes (23.5%) in 2007, 128 votes (23.6%) in 2008, 118 votes (21.9%) in 2009, and 128 votes (23.7%) in 2010. The subsequent ballot in 2011 showed the first sub-20% total of 115 votes (19.8%). While McGwire's total has not reversed trend (112 votes (19.5%) in 2012, 96 votes (16.9%) in 2013, 63 votes (11.0%) in 2014, and 55 votes (10.0%) in 2015), he has continued to receive sufficient support and will return for his final time on the 2016 ballot.

A portion of Interstate 70 (see also: Interstate 70 in Missouri) in St. Louis and near Busch Stadium was named "Mark McGwire Highway" to honor his 70 home run achievement, along with his various good works for the city. In May 2010, St. Louis politicians succeeded in passing a state bill to change the name of "Mark McGwire Highway", a 5-mile stretch of Interstate 70, to "Mark Twain Highway".[25]

Pairings with Canseco, Sosa and Bonds

McGwire became famously paired with other prominent sluggers at different periods of his playing career, most notably with José Canseco, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds. As teammates with the Oakland Athletics, Canseco and McGwire, who played together from 1986 to until Canseco's trade to the Texas Rangers in 1992, became nationally publicized as the "Bash Brothers." Forming the power-hitting core of a potent Athletics lineup, they won back-to-back American Rookie of the Year Awards from 1986–87, combined for 11 All-Star appearances (McGwire six appearances, Canseco five), three major league home run titles (Canseco twice, McGwire once), and led the American League in slugging percentage three times (McGwire twice, Canseco once). They also combined for four 40-home run seasons, ten 30-HR seasons, eight 100-RBI seasons, five seasons with an OPS over .900, and seven with an OPS+ of 140 or higher.

Besides their outstanding home run power, they were even more dangerous with McGwire's strike zone discipline and Canseco's speed on the basepaths. In each full season from 1987 to 1992, McGwire walked no fewer than 71 times, including leading the major leagues with 110 in 1990. Meanwhile, Canseco famously became the first member of the 40–40 club in 1988, stealing 40 bases while hitting 42 home runs. He also garnered 15 or more stolen bases four other seasons in his years playing with McGwire. The A's appeared in three straight ALCS from 1988–90 and won four AL West division titles in all seasons with the pair on the team. They both won their first World Series rings in 1989 when the A's defeated the Giants.

Already staged by the historic Cubs–Cardinals rivalry, one of the greatest rivalries of individual hitters in major league history commenced in 1998 with Sosa's and McGwire's chase of Maris' home runs record. Along with the home run chase, they combined for several other notable major league records and achievements. Not only were McGwire and Sosa the top two National League home run hitters in both 1998 and 1999, but there were also top two in all Major League Baseball in those two years. Further, they put on the two greatest two-season and four-season home run outputs in major league history. In 1998 and 1999, McGwire hit 135 while Sosa had 129. Although McGwire hit 245 home runs from 1996 to 1999, Sosa's four-year total from 1998 to 2001 was closer at 243.

So far, McGwire and Sosa are the only hitters with four 50 home runs seasons, and also the only ones with five of 49 or more. Although McGwire has two 60-HR season, Sosa holds the distinction of being the only major leaguer with three (1998, 1999 and 2001). Sosa won the 1998 NL MVP in 1998 while McGwire finished runner-up. The offensive surges helped to translate to moderate playoff success for both clubs. The Cubs won the NL wild card in 1998 for their only appearance in that period. The Cardinals were more successful, appearing in the playoffs in 2000 and 2001, and advancing to the NLCS in 2000. However, neither club won the World Series in this time, and 2000–01 were also the last two seasons of McGwire's playing career. Due in part to injuries, he was much less effective than in years past.

Bonds' rivalry with McGwire was a two-part rivalry, but less directly competitive than was McGwire's rivalry with Sosa. It was more of formality when it commenced with Bonds signing as a free agent with the Giants prior to the 1993 season, thus joining the Bay Bridge rivaly involving the A's and the Giants. Both were considered the prime power hitters of their respective teams, and thus, of the Bay Area. Their Bay Area connection endured until McGwire was traded to the Cardinals in 1997. Four years later, the last season of McGwire's career, Bonds took center stage in the baseball world as he broke McGwire's single-season home run record. At this point, McGwire was unable to effectively participate in another home run chase due to injury and appeared in just 97 games. In spite of the 1989 World Series featuring the A's and Giants, McGwire's and Bonds' teams never faced each other in the playoffs, as Bonds played for the Pittsburgh Pirates that year. The closest playoff implication for the pair was in 2001 when the Cardinals finished three games ahead of the Giants for the NL wild card, eliminating the Giants from playoff contention just before the end of the season.


MLB and team records
Accomplishment Record Date(s) Refs
Major League Baseball records
Fewest at-bats to 500 career home runs 5,487 1999 [4]
Fewest career at bats per home run 10.6 [3]
Home runs in a four-season period 245 1996–1999
Consecutive 50-HR seasons 4
50-HR seasons 4
Consecutive 60-HR seasons 2 1998–1999
Home runs in a two-season period 135
Home runs in a rookie season 49 1987
Single-season highest RBI/H ratio 1.014 1999
Oakland Athletics records
Lowest career AB/HR ratio 12.1
Career HR 363
Lowest single-season AB/HR ratio 8.1 1995, 1996
St. Louis Cardinals records
Lowest career AB/HR ratio 7.9
Highest career OPS 1.222
Highest career OPS+ 180
Highest career SLG .683
Lowest single-season AB/HR ratio 7.3 1998
Most HR in a season 70
Most times on base in a season 320
Most bases on balls in a season 162

† - tied with Sammy Sosa

Playing career totals

In 16 seasons playing major league baseball (1986–2001), McGwire accumulated the following career totals:[6]

Steroid use

In a 1998 article by Associated Press writer Steve Wilstein, McGwire confessed to taking androstenedione,[26] an over-the-counter muscle enhancement product that had already been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, the NFL, and the IOC. At the time, however, use of the substance was not prohibited by Major League Baseball and it was not federally classified as an anabolic steroid in the United States until 2004.[27]

Jose Canseco released a book, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big, in 2005. In it, he wrote positively about steroids and made various claims—among them, that McGwire had used performance-enhancing drugs since the 1980s and that Canseco had personally injected him with them.

In 2005, McGwire and Canseco were among 11 baseball players and executives subpoenaed to testify at a congressional hearing on steroids. During his testimony on March 17, 2005, McGwire declined to answer questions under oath when he appeared before the House Government Reform Committee. In a tearful opening statement, McGwire said:

Asking me or any other player to answer questions about who took steroids in front of television cameras will not solve the problem. If a player answers 'No,' he simply will not be believed; if he answers 'Yes,' he risks public scorn and endless government investigations ... My lawyers have advised me that I cannot answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family, and myself. I will say, however, that it remains a fact in this country that a man, any man, should be regarded as innocent unless proven guilty.[28]

On January 11, 2010, McGwire admitted to using steroids on and off for a decade and said, "I wish I had never touched steroids. It was foolish and it was a mistake. I truly apologize. Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era."[29] He admitted using them in the 1989/90 offseason and then after he was injured in 1993. He admitted using them on occasion throughout the 1990s, including during the 1998 season. McGwire said that he used steroids to recover from injuries.[30]

McGwire's decision to admit using steroids was prompted by his decision to become hitting coach of the St. Louis Cardinals. According to McGwire, he took steroids for health reasons rather than to improve performance; however, a drug dealer who claimed to have provided steroids to McGwire asserted that his use was to improve his size and strength, rather than to just maintain his health.[31]

Personal life

McGwire's brother Dan McGwire was a quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks and Miami Dolphins of the NFL in the early 1990s, and was a first-round draft choice out of San Diego State University. He has another brother, Jay McGwire, who wrote a book in 2010 detailing their shared steroid use.[32]

McGwire married Stephanie Slemer — a former pharmaceutical sales representative from the St. Louis area — in Las Vegas on April 20, 2002. On June 1, 2010, their triplet girls were born: Monet Rose, Marlo Rose, and Monroe Rose. They join brothers Max and Mason. They reside in a gated community in Shady Canyon Irvine, California.[33] Together they created the Mark McGwire Foundation for Children to support agencies that help children who have been sexually and physically abused come to terms with a difficult childhood. Mark has a son, Matthew b.1987, from a previous marriage (1984–1990, divorced) to Kathleen Hughes.

Prior to admitting to using steroids, McGwire avoided the media and spent much of his free time playing golf.[34] He also worked as a hitting coach for Major League players Matt Holliday, Bobby Crosby, Chris Duncan and Skip Schumaker.[35]

McGwire appeared as himself in season 7, episode 13 of the sitcom Mad About You.[36]

McGwire provided his voice for an episode of The Simpsons titled "Brother's Little Helper", where he played himself.

See also


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  14. The Final Season, p.90, Tom Stanton, Thomas Dunne Books, An imprint of St. Martin's Press, New York, NY, 2001, ISBN 0-312-29156-6
  15. Harber, Paul (July 22, 2001). "A statue fit for a home run king". The Boston Globe. Retrieved November 8, 2011. The first award was given to Mark McGwire after his 70-home-run season in 1998.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>(subscription required)
  17. " McGwire stats". Retrieved November 7, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  19. [2];_ylt=AjP3IcZXdVWvfZt.c6hW8uYRvLYF?slug=ap-cardinals-mcgwire Archived July 1, 2015 at the Wayback Machine;_ylt=AjP3IcZXdVWvfZt.c6hW8uYRvLYF?slug=ap-cardinals-mcgwire
  20. Hernandez, Dylan (November 2, 2012). "Mark McGwire expected to be Dodgers' hitting coach". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 3, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  22. "Report: Mark McGwire close to joining Los Angeles Dodgers as hitting coach". Yahoo sports. November 2, 2012. Retrieved November 2, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "MLB Ejections 071, 072, 073, 074, 075, 076: Clint Fagan (3–8)." Close Call Sports/Umpire Ejection Fantasy League. June 12, 2013.
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  32. Mark and Me: Mark McGwire and the Truth Behind Baseball's Worst-Kept Secret
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Further reading

External links