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When Dan McGwire first came out of Claremont High School in Southern California in 1986 and signed on as a quarterback with the University of Iowa, the chief curiosity was that, at 6-foot-8, he was the tallest starting quarterback in NCAA Div. I history.

Then, along came the summer of 1987, and the subject changed. A rookie named Mark McGwire was doing something never before done in the history of major league baseball. Namely, bashing 49 home runs for the Oakland A's. Now, the chief curiosity surrounding Dan McGwire was if they were related.Well, yes, said Dan.

Mark is his little brother.

Mark is older than Dan, by four years, but, still, he is littler. He is 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds. At 6-8 and 235, Dan is bigger than the basher.

Anyway, it's obvious that Dan McGwire has never had a problem drawing attention to himself. Anonymity has always avoided him. He ducks through doorways with a household surname.

The only thing that has avoided him as he strives to make his own way in sports is a smooth road on the college level. Troubled by the coaches' thinking at Iowa - they thought he should be second string - he stayed there just two seasons. Impressed by San Diego State when the pass-oriented Aztecs almost beat his Iowa Hawkeyes in the 1986 Holiday Bowl, he transferred to San Diego after the 1987 season. Then, to satisfy NCAA requirements, he sat out the 1988 season, during which the Aztecs slipped to a 3-8 record that got head coach Denny Stolz fired.

That brought McGwire into the Aztecs' active lineup this year accompanied by a new coach (Al Luginbill) and a need to rebuild. To date, they're 0-2-1.

For a decorated L.A.-area high school quarterback who was recruited by most of the free world after losing just three games in his prep career, and who went to Iowa and the Big Ten with the avowed intent of returning to the Rose Bowl at least a couple of times, things haven't turned out exactly as programmed.

But, then, who ever expected Mark to hit those 49 home runs, either?

"I didn't," says Dan. "He just came out of nowhere. He did something never before done in major league baseball. It was amazing."

Prior to that phenomenal rookie season in '87, Mark McGwire had quietly climbed through baseball's ladder rungs. He played for USC for a couple of years, then played for Modesto, Huntsville (Ala.), and Tacoma in the minors, hitting a grand total of 48 home runs in three seasons. Oakland called him up for the '87 season expecting to nurture him along, hiding him behind Jose Canseco. Then, by midseason, they were running out of baseballs.

Naturally, a lot of people have since assumed that Dan didn't go into baseball so he could escape his brother's shadow, and make his own mark.

Actually, they went their separate baseball-football ways long before the production of any Bash Bros. posters.

Dan only played organized baseball through Little League, as a pitcher, and then gave it up. At the time, Mark was playing American Legion baseball.

Dan was introduced to football as a high school freshman. As a reformed pitcher, he shifted naturally to quarterback, and a star was born. He threw for 6,559 yards while at Claremont, leading his teams to a combined record of 36-3. He also excelled at basketball - enough to attract scholarship offers in that sport as well - and by the time he graduated, he was one of America's hottest recruits.

"I could still probably play baseball," he says. "But I don't find it that much fun. The reason I chose football is because there's more action, the quarterback's at the forefront, he throws the ball, he's in control. In baseball you're not moving around enough."

Dan says he and his famous brother talk often. For sure they talk after every Aztec game. They talk of the A's chances of getting into another World Series, and of the Aztecs' chances of finally nailing down a win. Tonight in Rice Stadium, McGwire and the Aztecs will try again against the University of Utah, a team also looking to right a few wrongs.

The game not only features two of the top total offense players in the nation (McGwire ranks third currently, Utah's Scott Mitchell eighth), but also figures to make history with the tallest starting quarterback pair in NCAA history. Mitchell's 6-6 and McGwire's 6-8 combines for a world record 13-foot-2. Now there's something to talk about. Not to mention that Dan McGwire is related to that guy who plays first base in Oakland.