Mark McGwire
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When Mark McGwire played at the Olympics

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Mark McGwire may be the most famous Olympic baseball player.

McGwire, then a 20-year-old who had yet to play a professional game (and 25 years before he admitted to steroid use in the 1990s), beat out Will Clark for the starting first base job on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team.

McGwire, Clark and Barry Larkin turned out to be the biggest MLB stars from those Los Angeles Olympics, where American players were recent collegians. Larkin remains the only MLB Hall of Famer with Olympic experience.

Tryouts included more than 3,000 candidates — from a 12-year-old girl to a 43-year-old man — scattered across 63 open one-day tryouts in fall 1983, according to Sports Illustrated.

McGwire, who went 4 for 21 in five Olympic games, and the U.S. lost in the final of that Olympic baseball tournament to Japan at Dodger Stadium.

“I don’t really remember,” much about the Olympics, McGwire said in 2014. “I remember I didn’t do very well.”

Though McGwire said in 2014 that he has a medal, baseball was merely a demonstration sport at those Games, hoping to join the official Olympic medal program.

“It was like a World Series atmosphere, for never being in a World Series at the time,” McGwire said of playing in front of a reported crowd of 55,235 in the night-time Olympic final. “Now I know what a World Series is like. But it was awesome, it really was. A packed house.”

The IOC approved baseball as a medal sport starting with the 1992 Barcelona Games and running through Beijing in 2008, but big leaguers never participated as MLB never took a break in its season.

Baseball returns to the Olympic program next year in Tokyo but will not be played at the 2024 Paris Games. It could be added for the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028.

“It was a great honor,” McGwire said. “Unfortunately, I wish I could say that I had a gold medal for it.”

MORE: ‘Derek Jeter of Japan’ set to star at Tokyo Olympics

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Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

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Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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