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It was a throwaway part of the story buried in the vivid description of the you've-got-to-kidding-me Mark McGwire testimony.

Understandably, Sports Illustrated focused on the blood, guts, and unintentional comedy of lines like "steroids is bad" in the St. Patrick's Day Massacre of 2005 in Washington, D.C.

But, there it was. A huge detail.

A few pages in.

And, all but completely overlooked and under read by the audience, but...it was there:

McGwire was going to talk on the day that the world saw him embarrass himself. He was going to acknowledge his steroid use. But, moments before sitting down in front of Congress, his attorneys advised him to keep his mouth shut...because the committee would not grant McGwire immunity. And, with that, the plan to come clean blew up...and the farce of "I'm not here to talk about the past" began in what looked like a performance advised by attorneys with the skill of John Laroquette and Markie Post.

I recall reading that only after it was pointed out by either a caller or a co-host in passing. And, it struck me, even back then, as incredibly important...and incredibly surprising that more people weren't talking about that. It was the great "What If."

What if the committee had granted McGwire immunity from prosecution that day?

When it gets down to it, the only thing that I feel like I *know* would've been different than it is now is that McGwire would have garnered much more than 24% of the baseball writers' votes for the Hall of Fame, because, if anything, his honesty and apology would have been admired...and been the first of its kind...as opposed to what baseball fans have gotten used to, which is the "I'm sorry, but..." that we've heard  from Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte, and whoever else has played this public relations game over the last few years.

The fact that he was going to talk in 2005 now is up there with the first few paragraphs of stories documenting McGwire's admission yesterday, but somehow, that fact flew under the radar in 2005.

But, this isn't an "I was going to tell you, but..." revisionist history on the part of McGwire. It's documented that he was going to do it, and now, nearly five years later, it's being reiterated.

I consider that important in how I, personally, as a fan and media member, look at this carnage. Why? Because if I were in his position in 2005, I would've done the exact same thing. I would've planned to be honest and use the moment to come clean...and the minute I heard I could be prosecuted for my honesty, I would've made an ass of myself and been elusive as well. I wouldn't have lied under oath, but I would've stumbled through questions with the tact of Admiral Stockdale's delivery in the 1992 Vice Presidential Debate...and I would've gotten the hell out of there and gone into hiding.

Just like McGwire did.

And, therefore, I can't condemn the St. Patrick's Day Massacre on McGwire's part, but I would like to know the logic of those involved in the decision to *not* grant McGwire immunity five years ago. If anything, in the isolated case of 2005, I do believe McGwire was going to do the right thing, and that, for me, is something I can take solace in. And, furthermore, I admire it.

But, that's about where the feel good portion of this stops.

Just because he appears undoubtedly remorseful now doesn't mean, for me anyway, "everything's cool," although I sense that's exactly what the Cardinals and Major League Baseball would like fans to do.

I mean...just because it's something many---if not damn near all---baseball fans had suspected for the last five years doesn't mean that it's confirmation should somehow be applauded. I don't get that. I really don't.

This admission is only being made because it *had* to be.

In other words, if McGwire wasn't coming back to the Cardinals as a hitting coach, do you really think this statement and the numerous interviews would have taken place?

I personally don't like the manner in which Bud Selig, Bill De Witt, John Mozeliak, and Tony La Russa are patting McGwire on the back for coming clean.

1998 was baseball's equivalent to the U.S. putting a man on the moon. It restored faith in something that, at the time, had been struggling, and it brought people together as millions of fans and non-fans cheered this man on. Now, we're told it was all bullshit.

If Neil Armstrong issued a statement that the moon landing was a hoax and that the whole thing was shot at some studio in Hollywood, I sure as hell wouldn't expect President Obama to pat him on the ass for coming clean.

I don't know about you, but I feel duped. I feel like a dumbshit for buying in 12 years ago. And, if I hadn't become such a cynic based on seeing behind the curtain of professional and collegiate athletics, I'd be mad.

I don't appreciate the commissioner, owner, GM, and manager praising the perpetrator for doing something that he *had* to do without being honest themselves and saying also what I am certain they all feel, which is, "I'm disappointed in that which Mark is apologizing for." January 11th, 2010 is not a good day for baseball or the St. Louis Cardinals, and the manner in which Selig, De Witt, Mozeliak, and La Russa sounded in their statements, you would think that it is.

I think it's good for them in that it's finally over...and that's why they're happy. But, for the fan, it sucks to now know with certainty that something so many of us got caught up in was as real as the Main Event at Wrestlemania.

Sitting on the floor in my office at home among a bunch of other things, there's a framed picture of the moment on September 8, 1998 that McGwire hit #62. It's a beautiful picture that I bought at Busch Stadium in 1999. I had it framed and hung it up in the living room of the hell hole that I lived in when working in Little Rock TV 10 years ago.

I hung it right over my couch, because it reminded me of a great moment in my hometown, and I could always look at it and feel good about what that moment meant.

I don't think I could hang it up now.

It doesn't mean the same anymore. And, if anything, I think people who'd see it would find it to be, perhaps, a bit of joke that it'd even be hanging on my walls if I were to put it up.

And, that's sad.

But, that was 12 years ago and McGwire doing what hundreds of others in the game did doesn't mean he should suffer some lifetime banishment or some faux condemnation from some self-appointed moral highground from clowns like me just because I've been lucky enough to have a podium from which to speak. If the public is willing to forgive so many other ballplayers, I have no problem with McGwire being granted the same second chance even if his apology is only all over TV, the radio, and the Internet today because of his new job. However, I do believe the sincerity level of his remorse is much higher than many of the other culprits from the Steroid Era. After all, he did plan to come clean in 2005...again, because he had to...but still...it's more than anyone else had done.

It's my belief McGwire is a good man who's absurdly shy. It's simple, I think: He loves the game of baseball, but he hates the bullshit that comes with it.

I guess you could say that about many of us, huh?

But, McGwire put much of this bullshit on himself. And, for that, I can't go into pat-on-the-ass mode.

I guess I'll have to finally, officially let September 8th, 1998 go now.

But, I'll hold on to the intent behind March 17th, 2005.

And, I'll hope good comes from January 11th, 2010.


Log-in to post your comments, or you can email me at
tmckernan@insidestl.com.

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afanger
# afanger
Tuesday, January 12, 2010 8:40 AM
Tim,
First of all, GREAT article. I think this is the best article you have ever written. It seems as if no one else caught or acknowledged what you have written about in this article, that BigMac had good intentions in 2005 and did what he had to in order to survive. I appreciate you catching this, and pointing it out for people to read. I know insidestl.com is a big player in STL, but I wish this article could be posted in a bigger forum, such as ESPN.com.
I am 29 years old. In my lifetime, NOTHING brought more excitement to me than the home run chase of 1998. Not the World Series, and not the Superbowl, although the Superbowl was a close second. I an 18 year old freshman in college when Big Mac broke the record. I was jumping up and down like a school girl when he hit 62. It was an incredible moment.
Mac doing steroids takes NOTHING away from his accomplishments. Steroids were rampant during this time. Players have always cheated, from cutting baseballs on the mound, spitballs, and even other drugs including Cocaine to enhance their play. Crucifying Mac and Bonds is unfair. If anything we all should be blaming that fucking moron Selig for not catching it, or even caring.
Big Mac HOF
Thanks,
Adam Fanger
PS - Please fire Tony Larussa
KMFP
# KMFP
Tuesday, January 12, 2010 9:07 AM
I wish everybody would get off this "feel duped" and "cheated" high horse about '98. Seriously? Were you entertained then? How can this change the genuine reaction you had back then? It can't, period. Baseball is a game and meant for entertainment, were the homeruns not entertaining? People forget that and take this moral fucking stance like these guys juicing made the homeruns less entertaining and "authentic", fucking please. Like now admitting you enjoyed them makes you some reprehensible soul, IT'S FUCKING BASEBALL!! They've been doing it in football for years and are your feelings hurt looking back and remembering all the Super Bowls and games you enjoyed? UUUUGGGGGHHHH!
Is baseball a game? YES
Is it entertainment? YES
Does/can knowing for a fact now that he was on steroids hitting those mammoth HR's possibly even change a genuine, gut reaction that you had to watching them come off the bat in '98, almost 12-years ago? FUCK NO
So quit that bullshit. If in the future you choose not to enjoy any HR that is hit and say to yourself, "that is not cool or entertaining in the least, and possibly tainted" because of what you now know, knock your fucking self out.
But you can't change emotions that already were, and saved the game, by the way.
Get the fuck over it and hang the picture.
And another thing. Let's take science & research, which are definitely not games and say this: While it is illegal to snort cocaine & hook a man's balls up to a car battery, if somehow they actually proved that it "enhanced his performance" and caused a particular scientist to be able to dig deeper in his mind and stay doing research for more hours and, in turn, cure cancer, I've got just 3-things to say: Red is positive, black is negative & here's a fucking razor & straw mother-fucker!!
afanger
# afanger
Tuesday, January 12, 2010 9:19 AM
PS - "In other words, if McGwire wasn't coming back to the Cardinals as a hitting coach, do you really think this statement and the numerous interviews would have taken place?"
YES!!!!! This whole thing is a ploy to get Mac into the HOF. Making Mac the hitting coach is just a conveniant way to put Mac back into the spotlight so he can come clean at "the right time". I guarentee to you that TLR has been trying to figure out a way to salvage Macs rep for years. Everything that both of these guys say points to this.
Cobra Kai
# Cobra Kai
Tuesday, January 12, 2010 9:22 AM
Great article, Tim.

First of all, Big Mac coming clean on steroids, is the equivalent of
Ellen DeGeneres coming out and announcing she's gay.

I believe the King (Slaten) has been talking about the fact that he didn't get immunity for a few years now - thereby stating the obvious, that he did in fact use steroids. (Why else would he want immunity unless he was guilty of something?)

I, for one, don't feel duped at all. It was pretty obvious to me that he was juiced, along with just about every other baseball player at the time. Hell, I remember Brady Anderson hitting 50, Luis Gonzalez hitting 50. The thing is, it was so damn much fun watching that chase, that I didn't give a shit. I was at the game that he hit the ball off the Post-Dispatch sign in deep center (that they then put a giant band-aid over - and I thought it was the coolest thing ever).

Now that I look back, the people I feel the worse for are the Maris family. I think deep down, they probably knew too, but what the hell could they do?

I think LaRussa is a liar. I can't stand the guy. He comes off as saying he had no idea, when all of this happened under his watch. And now, he, along with GM, owner, etc. are portraying McGwire as some kind of hero for stating the obvious.

Mac could've also done a better job in the Costas interview last night. Saying that it didn't affect his 'performance' and help him hit more home runs is absurd. Anyway, it's good he finally admitted it - hopefully it'll start the string of others of doing the same so everyone can move on...
Chud
# Chud
Tuesday, January 12, 2010 10:44 AM
T-Mac- The Night Court reference was freaking hilarious, dude!!! What a great show that was. Markie Post was a little fox back then.

KMFP - Awesome post, man. Everything you said was spot-on. The best thing you said was about people taking 'roids in football for years, yet you don't hear people bitching and moaning about tainted football records and Super Bowl wins. Ridiculous.

Another thing that I have NEVER heard mentioned - Who the fuck knows if Cal Ripken didn't take steroids? It's like people are ashamed to even ask the question about him. Sure, he can deny it just like everybody else, but Ripken is brought up in so many arguments about steriod users - "Well, Cal didn't have to do it to play 8 million games in a row, so why did assholes like McGwire and A-Rod take them?" Has anyone ever thought that maybe Ripken's ass DID take them? Wouldn't that explain possibly how Ripken was able to play so many games in a row? I mean sure, maybe, and perhaps probably, he didn't take them, but he would have no reason to own up to anything now. I'm sure I could be barking up the wrong tree, but I just get sick of having Ripken's name used in the rants against 'roid users, when no one has ever seemed to acknowledge that he may have been a roid user himself. Ok, now everyone call me an idiot.
ITXSUX
# ITXSUX
Tuesday, January 12, 2010 12:17 PM
Chud...I'm willing to believe that Lou Gehrig didn't take steroids to play as many games in a row as he did so I'm willing to believe the same for Cal Ripken. Although everyone is suspect of taking them during Cal's time I feel pretty safe in my belief that he didn't. T-Mac the night court reference was Dennis Milleresq. Loved it....Baseball is all about the numbers. Everything about baseball revolves around some number and those numbers are sacred to the "religion" of baseball. Tainting those numbers, especially the holy trinity of , homeruns in a season, career homeruns, and career base hits, is like commiting a high crime of treason or mortal sin. That is why it is more difficult to completly forgive McGwire for using steriods. The 70 homeruns he hit are fraudulent. I believe everyone knows in their heart at the time they do something the know what they are about to do is either wrong or right. We make those decisions every day and McGwire knew that "taking steroids is bad" at the time he did it. No excuses. I can forgive McGwire for doing what he did but I can't forget it.
KMFP
# KMFP
Tuesday, January 12, 2010 1:47 PM
"Everything about baseball revolves around some number and those numbers are sacred to the "religion" of baseball. Tainting those numbers, especially the holy trinity of , homeruns in a season, career homeruns, and career base hits, is like commiting a high crime of treason or mortal sin."

FUCKING please!! I'm seriously laughing my ass off at my computer right now. There are a few more pressing things in this world than the "religion" of baseball and your holy goddamned trinity of stats. Oh shit, I just vomitted all over my fucking desk.

The 70 HR's were "fraudulent"...and fucking GLORIOUS and EXCITING as hell, and you're a goddamned liar if you say you didn't enjoy them at the time! So knock it the fuck off and hurry to the radio so you can call in and stroke Carpe Douchebag's ego with this bullshit at 2:00.
Bryan
# Bryan
Tuesday, January 12, 2010 1:57 PM
Is an apology orchestrated by Ari Fleischer, undoubtedly rehearsed time and again, only done because one was coming "back to the game" really an apology?
BigDog
# BigDog
Tuesday, January 12, 2010 3:37 PM
KFMP

LMAO great post all these BB gods crying about stats get over it assholes it is just a game
Liv Blanche
# Liv Blanche
Tuesday, January 12, 2010 4:08 PM
“1998 was baseball's equivalent to the U.S. putting a man on the moon. It restored faith in something that, at the time, had been struggling, and it brought people together as millions of fans and non-fans cheered this man on. Now, we're told it was all bullshit.”

I think he clarified a very important point of the article here. Yeah, NOW it’s just a game but AT THE TIME and because of numerous previous circumstances, is was a tad bit more than "just a game".

Well written.
Normal Jay
# Normal Jay
Tuesday, January 12, 2010 5:13 PM
How many other players do you think were using steroids before McGwire? He talked about wishing he hadn't played in the "steroid era", but didn't he start it? He was certainly using before Caminiti, Giambi, Bonds, Palmeiro, Gonzales and A-Rod.
mbarlow
# mbarlow
Tuesday, January 12, 2010 7:38 PM
Nice job, Tim. This may be better than the Rick Ankiel article you wrote a few years ago.
cheezhed
# cheezhed
Tuesday, January 12, 2010 10:43 PM
I think it's time to stop talking about the past and get over yourselves demanding that Mac bow down before us in front of Busch Stadium to beg forgiveness. We knew he was juiced. So was everyone else. Fuck it. I've had back, shoulder, and knee injuries. I would have, in a second, done whatever I could to heal and perform sooner and better than to have people think I couldn't handle my job. Let it go. If Skip, Holiday, Pujols, and the rest of the '10 Cards go out and hit for high averages and put up rediculous homerun numbers, are you going to care about the past then? My guess is no. But if you really think that Mac is not worthy of your respect for the good and bad things he's done, and you want to villilfy him, then you will not only lose the good feelings you had in '98 when you stood up, cheered, bragged and celebrated, but you will lose the good feelings of this upcoming year when he can make these guys better hitters and give us what we all want which is a winning Cardinal team.
coowguy
# coowguy
Thursday, January 14, 2010 3:51 PM
The article was good but the Admiral Stockdale reference was GOLD!
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